Posted April 15, 2014

News For Apr. 15, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon BOE Holds Special Meeting

Mt. Vernon Board of Education held a special meeting last night to give a report on the progress of the new high school.  Updates were given on construction documents, the athletic complex, and VE items, as well as the scope of work for independent lab testing and McCarthy Services.  The members then went into closed session for the evening.

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New bridge yet to reach traffic projections

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A study by the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates traffic on a new bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis isn't at projected traffic levels. The Belleville News-Democrat reports The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge was expected to carry about 40,000 vehicles a day. Transportation Department figures released Monday show the bridge has averaged about 31,100 a day since it opened in early February. IDOT engineer Tiffany Brase says the lagging number is a temporary circumstance and not an indication the $700 million bridge is a bust. The bridge carries Interstate 70 traffic across the Mississippi River between Illinois and St. Louis. Brase said the numbers are close to what the department would expect them to be with the bridge being open for only a short time.

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Ill. teacher faces sexual assault charges

TROY, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois teacher is facing charges after authorities say he sexually assaulted two children. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that 36-year-old Jason E. Ehlers of Bethalto was charged with two counts of predatory sexual assault and two counts of criminal sexual assault in Madison County Circuit Court. Court officials say Monday that he has not yet entered a plea and does not yet have an attorney. Authorities say the alleged assaults occurred in 2010 and 2011. The children were not Ehlers' students. School officials say Ehlers is now on administrative leave from his job as a teacher at Silver Creek Elementary School in Troy. The town is 20 miles east of St. Louis. Ehlers has been jailed on $250,000 bond.

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Three Regional Cities Ranked Among Top Ten Safest In The State

(Monticello, IL)  --  A national security firm has ranked the safest cities in Illinois.  The report put together by Utah-based SafeWise focuses on violent and property crimes. Chester ranked 7th on the list, with Pinckneyville 8th and Waterloo 10th. Monticello, which has a population of just over five-thousand, was the smallest city on the list.  Chicago suburb Forest Park was the largest with more than 19-thousand people. Round Lake Park ranked 1st overall on the list due to having only 8 incidents of property crimes and no violent crimes in 2012.

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Ameren Illinois Electric Modernization Plan on Track

Collinsville, Ill. (April 14, 2014) – Ameren Illinois announced that it exceeded its yearly reliability performance goals required by the state’s Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA). In 2012, the company embarked on an ambitious plan to invest billions of dollars in improving electric service reliability. Since then, implementation of advanced technology such as intelligent switches and smart sensors is increasing electric system performance throughout the Ameren Illinois territory. Ameren Illinois is hardening its system by installing larger poles that can withstand stronger storms, installing smart sensors and switches to reduce outages, resizing transformers to meet future capacity needs for customers and constructing new overhead and underground lines. These upgrades resulted in a 20% average improvement in system reliability compared to the average reliability from 2001 to 2010. Using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Interruption Cost Estimate Calculator (ICE), the improvements have saved residential and small commercial customers an estimated $57 million a year since 2012. Investments in modernizing the grid are also generating new jobs.  Since January 3, 2012, Ameren Illinois has added 250 employees, and an additional 1,000 contract workers have been deployed to work on Ameren Illinois projects.  The added wages and benefits are providing a needed boost to economies in downstate Illinois.  The company also plans to install new meters at customer locations beginning in the summer of 2014. Over time these upgrades will improve service reliability by helping Ameren Illinois detect and isolate outages faster. Customers will also have more information and new tools and programs to better manage energy costs. Additional information about the Ameren Illinois infrastructure upgrade plan is available at AmerenIllinois.com/focus.

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Trial begins in 2007 southern Illinois killing

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A trial has begun for a man who's accused of a slaying that took place more than seven years ago in southern Illinois. Opening statements began Monday in the case of 29-year-old Elijah Lacy, who's charged with murder for the death of a Marion mother in 2007. Jackson County authorities say 21-year-old Falon Taylor died after Lacy broke into a Carbondale home and fired shots into a bedroom where the Marion woman was sleeping. The legal case involving Lacy has been delayed by years because of litigation over whether prosecutors unconstitutionally delayed proceedings. Lacy has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer says there's no DNA evidence to prove he was ever in the home.

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STATE
Simon, husband report $208,000 in Illinois income

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon and her husband earned $208,000 during 2013 and paid $44,000 in state and federal taxes. The candidate for state comptroller released her tax return and a statement of financial interest Monday. Simon reported $134,000 from her salary as lieutenant governor and $9,000 from textbook royalties. Her husband, Perry Knop, earned $85,000 as a professor at John A. Logan College. The couple contributed $3,300 to charity. They reported a net worth of $675,000. The Democrat has been lieutenant governor since 2011. She has released her tax returns since she served on the Carbondale City Council. Simon called on her opponent in the fall election, Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, to do the same. Topinka spokesman Brad Hahn says Topinka will release her tax return on Tuesday.

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Poll: Governor Quinn Trails Rauner By Three Points

(Undated)  --  Early poll results show the incumbent governor in a slight uphill battle in his re-election bid,  The Rasmussen Reports poll has Republican challenger Bruce Rauner ahead of Pat Quinn 43 percent of the vote to 40 percent.  Six percent of the 750 people polled say they would prefer a different candidate than Rauner or Quinn, while ten percent were undecided.  The general election is November 4th.

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IDOT changes work zone signs as speed limit climbs

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois transportation officials say they're adding extra safety precautions to work zones around the state after the speed limit was increased on some rural highways. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports motorists are being warned of construction projects with extra signs, including speed indicators. The signs are also being placed further away from work zones to give drivers an earlier warning. The Illinois Department of Transportation opposed legislation raising the speed limit from 65 mph to 70 mph on some roads. The higher speed limit went into effect in January. Priscilla Tobias is the department's state safety engineer. She says it takes drivers 470 feet to come to a safe spot if they're traveling 70 mph. The speed limit is lower in work zones.

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Quinn tours the state to tout housing program

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is touring the state to highlight his program aimed at helping first-time homebuyers. Quinn plans to discuss his "Welcome Home Illinois" program during appearances on Monday in Chicago, Rockford, Moline and Bartonville. The program offers homebuyers help with down payments and interest rates as low as 3.75 percent for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. The Chicago Democrat's office has billed the initiative as "new" and "major" ever since it announced it several days ago. But Republicans have criticized the initiative as just a rehash as an old idea.

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Rain, cold slow Illinois corn planting

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State agriculture officials say wet, cold weather has kept Illinois farmers out of their fields this spring. Only 1 percent of the corn crop has been planted. The Illinois Department of Agriculture contends Monday in its weekly crop report that typically about 10 percent of the statewide corn crop would be in the fields by mid-April. Farmers, last year, also had a slow start planting corn. At this same point in April, 1 percent of the crop was in the field. Much of the state received heavy rainfall last week. Illinois is usually one of the top two corn-producing states in the country, alongside Iowa. The two states are also usually the top soybean producers in the country. That crop typically planted later in the year.

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Steely Dan Added To State Fair Lineup

(Springfield, IL) -- Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steely Dan is slated to rock the grandstand at the 2014 Illinois State Fair. The Grammy Award-winning band has sold more than 40-million albums worldwide. They're bringing the "Jamalot Ever After" Tour to the fair Friday, August 15th. Steely Dan released a string of Top 20 hit songs in the 1970s including classic rock staples "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," "Do It Again," and "Deacon Blues." Tickets for the show range from 29-to-54-bucks. They'll go on sale through Ticketmaster on May 3rd at 10:00 a.m.

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Egg Prices Up

This weekend is Easter and many still boil eggs to decorate for hiding.  But, according to Mike Anderson, economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the price of eggs is up at this time of the year. He says the price should come down for the summer as the Mexican production is recovering and he expects production to rise and so exports should level off to Mexico.

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Unemployment Benefactors Remained Out of Work After Benefit Loss

State unemployment officials say that 87 percent of all the people in Illinois who lost their long-term federal unemployment benefits in December remained out of work a month later.  The Department of Employment Security said Monday that 74,000 people in Illinois lost their benefits when federal long-term unemployment benefits expired.  About 64,000 remained out of work a month later.  Department Director Jay Rowell believes the numbers undermine arguments that unemployment benefits discourage people from getting jobs.  He would like to see long-term benefits restored.  The U.S. Senate recently voted to restore long-term unemployment benefits.  So far no vote has been scheduled in the House.

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NATIONAL
Storm overturns RVs in MS

GAUTIER, Miss. (AP) — The National Weather Service says it doesn't think a tornado struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but Monday night's storm downed trees and power lines and did some damage at a Mississippi RV park. The storm damaged or destroyed up to 30 RV trailers at the campground in Gautier (goh-SHAY'). TV station WLOX is reporting that two people at the park sustained minor injuries.

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Blood Moon Draws Sky Gazers

(Undated)  --  The deep orange moon is fading back to gray.  A "blood moon" was visible in North and South America during the early morning hours as the earth's shadow passed over it.  Crowds gathered across the country last night to witness the first in what should be a stunning series of lunar eclipses.  The next total lunar eclipse is expected on October 8th.

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Sex Offenders Charged With Murder Of Four Women

(Santa Ana, CA)  --  Two registered sex offenders are charged with murder for allegedly killing four women who disappeared in Southern California recently.  Franc Cano and Steven Dean Gordon both have prior convictions and served time behind bars for sex crimes involving children.  The pair were arrested last Friday in Anaheim, near where the body of one of the victims was found at a trash-sorting facility. 

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WWE Honors Ultimate Warrior

(Undated)  --  The WWE is paying tribute to the Ultimate Warrior.  Superstars gathered on stage to open Monday Night Raw with a memorial video for the late wrestling legend.  Warrior masks were given out to the audience and the bell was rung ten times in his memory.  The Ultimate Warrior died last week after signing a multi-year deal to become an ambassador for WWE.  The 54-year-old reportedly died of a heart attack.

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Google Glass On Sale Today Only

(Undated)  --  It's a big day for Google Glass fans.  The company is selling spots in its Explorer program for one day only and that day is today.  Any adult in the U.S. has a shot at getting their hands on Glass for 15-hundred-dollars starting at 9 a.m. Eastern time.  Google says the move is a way to get more consumer feedback on how it can make Glass better. 

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It's Tax Day!

If you’re one of the people who wait until the last minute, well it’s the last minute. Income tax returns are due today and extensions can still be filed online for those unable to meet the deadline. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) anticipates receiving 135 million tax returns this year by the filing deadline. The IRS website, http://www.irs.gov, has multiple links to companies offering free electronic filing of tax returns. Because most people file electronically, most post offices no longer stay open late on April 15. The IRS urges taxpayers to file even if they can’t pay the full amount due, and those having trouble paying their taxes may qualify for payment plans.

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Tributes planned to mark Boston Marathon bombing

BOSTON (AP) — The anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings has started with a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the explosions. The ceremony Tuesday morning was attended by the families of the three bombing victims as well as relatives of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer killed in the blasts' aftermath. Gov. Deval Patrick, Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley were among those who attended the solemn ceremony held in a light rain amid the music of bagpipes. O'Malley offered a prayer. It was the first of what promises to be a day of tributes to those who died, the more than 260 people who were injured, and the first responders, doctors and nurses who helped them. Vice President Joe Biden will be among the dignitaries expected to honor the victims later Tuesday.

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Holder urges approval of $15M for shooter training

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder is urging Congress to approve $15 million for training law enforcement officers in handling shooting rampages. Holder's comments follow the recent shootings at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas and at Fort Hood, Texas. In a video message posted on the Justice Department website Tuesday, the attorney general says training is critical since patrol officers who arrive first on the scene are increasingly being relied on to respond directly to shooters rather than waiting for SWAT teams. The Justice Department and the FBI have provided this special training to 50,000 front-line officers in the past decade.

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Yellen says Fed examining additional bank rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says recent initiatives by the Fed and other regulators to help banks make it through periods of financial stress are important, but they may still need to be strengthened. Yellen believes current rules governing how much capital banks must hold in case of losses do not address all threats. She said that the Federal Reserve staff is actively considering what additional measures may be needed. Bank regulators need to focus on this area, Yellen says, since bank runs generated at shaky firms were the primary engine that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. Yellen's comments Tuesday came in an address delivered by video to a financial markets conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve's regional bank in Atlanta.

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US consumer prices rose just 0.2 percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lower U.S. gasoline prices kept consumer inflation in check last month, helping offset higher costs for food and clothing. The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in March, after scant 0.1 percent increases the previous two months. Prices have risen just 1.5 percent year over year. That remains well below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target for inflation. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices increased 0.2 percent in March and 1.7 percent in the past year. Prices at the gas pump tumbled 1.7 percent in March, lowering costs for the entire energy category. But food prices jumped 0.4 percent, led by increases in eggs, milk, butter, oranges, pork chops, ground beef and poultry. Prices for clothing, used cars and cable television also rose.

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5 accused in NC abduction to have bond hearing

ATLANTA (AP) — Five people accused in the abduction of a North Carolina man last week are due in federal court in Atlanta Tuesday for a bond hearing. Frank Arthur Janssen was taken from his home in Wake Forest, N.C., on April 5 and was rescued five days later when FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment. Charged with kidnapping were: 21-year-old Jenna Paulin Martin; 30-year-old Tiana Maynard; 20-year-old Jevante "Flame" Price; 21-year-old Michael "Hot" Montreal Gooden; and 29-year-old Clifton James Roberts. Officials say they're all from the metro Atlanta area. Authorities have said the abduction was an act of retaliation related to Janssen's daughter's prosecution of North Carolina inmate Kelvin Melton, who has also been charged in the kidnapping. Authorities have described Melton as a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.

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INTERNATIONAL
Insurgents dig in; Ukraine tanks seen in the east

HORLIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian insurgents are digging in across eastern Ukraine, fortifying their positions around seized buildings and erecting fresh barricades even as Ukrainian tanks take up positions outside the eastern city of Slovyansk. In Kiev, Ukraine's acting president announced an "anti-terrorist operation" to root out the separatists today, but it's unclear how that measure differs from the one announced yesterday. That resulted in no visible action. Slovyansk is located 100 miles from the Russian border. Pro-Russian gunmen took it over on Saturday and have been securing their control since. The city appears calms despite mounting fears of a possible assault by Ukrainian troops. An Associated Press reporter today spotted at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, one helicopter and military trucks stationed 24 miles north of the city. Other heavy military equipment appears to be parked in a nearby area that's off limits to journalists.

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Deep water thwarts robot sub's first search for jet

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The robotic submarine hunting for the missing Malaysian jet has had its first mission cut short. The U.S. Navy and search coordinators say a built-in safety feature aborted what was supposed to have been a 16-hour mission to create a sonar map of the ocean floor after only six hours. The Bluefin 21 is programmed to hover 100 feet above the seabed, creating a three-dimensional sonar map. But the sub entered an area that was deeper than its maximum depth of 15,000 feet and automatically headed back to the surface. Officials say it was not damaged. The Navy says the data the Bluefin managed to collect has been analyzed and shows no sign of the missing plane. Crews are shifting the Bluefin's search area away from the deepest water and hope to send it back on another mission later today. Meanwhile, a sample from an oil slick about 3 and a-half miles from the area where the last underwater sounds were detected is being analyzed. Search officials say it does not appear to be from any of the ships in the area, but caution against jumping to conclusions about its source.

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Minister: 75 dead in blast at Nigerian bus station

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria's health minister says three wounded victims have died, raising the toll to 75 dead in the massive blast at a busy bus station in Nigeria's capital. Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu visited some of the wounded in hospitals Tuesday, and put their number at 141. He said the previous figure of 164 wounded had counted some patients twice. Chukwu said the death toll will likely increase as pathologists determine how many victims were blown apart. President Goodluck Jonathan has blamed Islamic extremists for Monday's blast during morning rush hour. The explosion just miles from Nigeria's seat of government is increasing doubts about the military's ability to contain an Islamic uprising that has killed more than 1,500 people this year. The extremist group's leader had threatened to attack Abuja and neighboring Cameroon.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 4, Milwaukee 0

NBA

Chicago 108, Orlando 95

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

St. Louis at Milwaukee 7:10 p.m. (94.1 FM WMIX, pregame at 6:15 p.m.)
Chicago Cubs at New York Yankees 6:05 p.m.
Boston at Chicago White Sox 7:10 p.m.

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Cardinals Fans Rated Most Loyal In Major League

(St. Louis, MO)  --  Cardinal fans stick by their team no matter what and have the math to prove it.  Consumer loyalty consultants Brand Keys studied all the Major League teams' fan bases and ranked them in categories like authenticity, history, and tradition.  St. Louis topped the list, edging out the Phillies.  The Cards were ranked fourth last year.  Fans of the Red Sox, Braves, and Giants rounded out the top five with the Astros in last place.

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Former St. Louis catcher passes away

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) — Former major leaguer Hal Smith has died. Smith was a native of Barling, Ark., who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a catcher in 1949. He played for the Cardinals from 1956-61 and was named to three National League All-Star teams. He later played briefly for Pittsburgh in 1965 before becoming a scout and coach for several teams.

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Guess Rams' Schedule, Win $100K

ESPN reports that the St. Louis Rams announced Monday afternoon that any person who can guess their 2014 schedule with 100 percent accuracy wins $100,000. To win the prize, the participant must correctly hit on all facets of the schedule, including each game's opponent, location, the exact date of the game and guess the team's bye week. In other words, it's not as simple as simply guessing which team the Rams will play in a given week. With so many moving parts, like predicting which games might fall on a Thursday or Monday night, the contest has better odds than something as extensive as the NCAA tournament but still figures to offer longshot odds, at best. In the even more unlikely event that more than one person accurately predicts the schedule, the Rams will hold a trivia contest as a tiebreaker. The contest is limited to those 18 or older with a limit of one entry per person. Those that want to participate can enter at the team's website, stlouisrams.com/guessourgames. Although the NFL has yet to reveal when it will announce this year's regular-season schedule, it's expected to come sometime next week. The Rams set a deadline of April 21 at 5:59 ET for entries.

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News For Apr. 14, 2014

LOCAL
Three In Custody In Carbondale Shooting

Police have three people in custody in connection to an early Friday morning shooting in Carbondale. Robert Glass and Ternell Albritton of Carbondale and Darrion Jake of Cape Girardeau, Missouri were arrested Friday night. A little before 1 a.m. Friday, one person was shot in the stomach along the strip in Carbondale. Jake is the accused shooter and is facing charges including aggravated battery with a firearm and mob action. Albritton and Glass were booked on mob action charges.

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Sheriff: Woman brought cocaine into Illinois jail

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A Mississippi woman is facing charges for allegedly bringing cocaine into an Illinois county jail. Kelsey Elizabeth Lewis is a 24-year-old woman from Vicksburg, Miss. Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz says Lewis was charged Friday with bringing contraband into a penal institution and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Police say they placed Lewis in a holding cell at the Madison County Jail on Thursday night, prior to her formal processing. Police say a jail deputy allegedly noticed Lewis acting suspiciously, entered the cell and found a small package containing cocaine allegedly belonging to Lewis. Lewis remains in custody at the county jail in Edwardsville, the Belleville News Democrat reports.

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Days of regular air shows at Scott likely over

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AP) — Regularly scheduled air shows are unlikely to return to Scott Air Force Base in southwestern Illinois because of deep Pentagon spending cuts. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the base is looking to host an air show in 2017 to mark its 100th anniversary. But it's unlikely there will be a revival of what was once a yearly summer staple in the area. In years past, the Airpower Over the Midwest Air Show drew crowds of more than 100,000 people to the base outside Mascoutah. Military air shows were halted nationwide last year because of automatic, across-the-board government spending cuts. The Air Force lifted the moratorium in December but put in place stricter criteria that mean fewer bases are chosen to host the events.

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Illinois inmates help in pre-emptive sandbagging

DU QUOIN, Ill. (AP) — With flood season approaching, Illinois prison inmates are helping restock the supply of sandbags for makeshift levees. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that Du Quoin-based prisoners convicted of non-violent offenses have stuffed about 126 tons of sand into about 12,000 sandbags. It is part of a collaboration between the state Department of Corrections, the Du Quoin State Fair and Nikki's Place. That video gaming business with 13 southern Illinois sites donated the sand and the bags, and the fair will provide the covered storage. As superintendent of the Du Quoin boot camp, Clem Campanella says the sandbags are available to anyone requesting them and can be accessed through local emergency services or emergency management agencies.

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Prison-bound ex-Ill. judge agrees to disbarment

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A disgraced southwestern Illinois judge has agreed to be disbarred after he was sentenced to federal prison on heroin and gun convictions. The Belleville News-Democrat reports former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook filed the agreement Thursday with the Illinois Supreme Court. Justices are to rule on the matter during their May term. If Cook unsuccessfully challenged his disbarment, he would have had to wait five years before reapplying for a law license. With the agreement, he can reapply in three years. Cook was at the center of a courthouse drug scandal that included a fellow judge's cocaine death. Cook resigned last year. He pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced last month to two years in federal prison. He's to begin serving that sentence next month.

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Jefferson County Tentative Multiplier Announced

SPRINGFIELD, IL, - Jefferson County has been issued a tentative property assessment equalization factor of 1.0287, according to Brian Hamer, Director of the Illinois Department of Revenue. The property assessment equalization factor, often called the “multiplier”, is the method used to achieve uniform property assessments among counties, as required by law.  This equalization is particularly important because some of the state’s 6,600 local taxing districts overlap into two or more counties (e.g. school districts, junior college districts, fire protection districts).  If there were no equalization among counties, substantial inequities among taxpayers with comparable properties would result. State law requires property in Illinois to be assessed at one-third (1/3) of its market value.  Farm property is assessed differently, with farm homesites and dwellings subject to regular assessing and equalization procedures, but with farmland and farm buildings assessed according to standards based on productivity. The equalization factor is determined annually for each county by comparing the sales price of individual properties sold over the past three years to the assessed value placed on those properties by the county supervisor of assessments/county assessor.

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Simon: Ill. farmers markets should accept LINK

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is encouraging farmers markets to accept debit-style food-stamp cards with wireless technology provided by the state. The Democrat visited the Carbondale Community Farmers Market on Saturday to promote increased availability of local and healthy foods. She met with vendors and customers with her message that farmers markets should accept LINK cards. The Carbondale market is the first in Illinois to receive a free wireless point-of-sale terminal through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Xerox, MerchantSource and Total Merchant Services. The partnership promotes the acceptance of LINK for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Simon says the program can help consumers get fresh fruits and vegetables and increase local-business revenue. Simon encourages all farmers markets to "open their stands to all residents."

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Police Officer Injured Chasing Burglary Suspect

(Mascoutah, IL) -- A Mascoutah police officer is recovering from an injured foot that allowed a suspect to get away early Saturday morning. The cop spotted someone breaking into a car near Maple Park around 1:30 a.m. Saturday according to the "Belleville News-Democrat." When the suspect ran away, the officer chased him, but pulled up lame and had to stop. The officer had been patrolling the area because of an increased number of car break-ins lately.

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Church Moves Into Former Walmart

(Marion, IL)  --  A local Marion church is now in their new home, a former Walmart. The Cornerstone Church held its first Sunday morning service with close to 200 people in attendance.  For the last decade, the  congregation met in a renovated pole barn.  The new building has a dual-level worship center, an arcade, and an closed-in play area for kids.  Pastor Michael Nave says next week they're installing new carpet to complete their transition.

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STATE
Lawmakers Seek Regulation Of E-Cigarette Liquids

(Springfield, IL)  --  Illinois lawmakers are pushing for legislation that childproofs electronic cigarettes.  State Representative Robyn Gabel proposed the bill.   Her measure would allow the Illinois Department of Public Health to set standards for the packaging of e-cigarette liquid, or e-liquid, refills, which contain concentrations of nicotine in liquid form.   It can cause acute nicotine poisoning if ingested, inhaled or absorbed into the skin or eyes.    The Senate is expected to consider the measure by the end of the month.

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Ill. gas station owners oppose fuel tax hike plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois gas station owners are speaking out against proposals for a fuel tax hike being floated in Springfield this year. Retail gas station leaders will announce their opposition to such a plan at a news conference on Monday afternoon in the state Capitol. They say increasing the gas tax in a tough economy would hurt drivers and businesses owners. Two weeks ago, a state transportation group unveiled their plan for funding road construction and public transit. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition's proposal included increasing the gas tax by 4 cents. They also called for higher vehicle registration fees and ending the ethanol credit for gasoline. Funding from the state's five-year capital construction program is set to run out this year. The state gas tax hasn't been increased since 1990.

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Illinois awards $52M for bike, walking paths

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials say more than $52 million in federal funds will be invested in local alternative transportation projects. Gov. Pat Quinn said Saturday the money will pay for 71 projects across the state, including bike paths, walking trails, historic preservation and streetscape beautification. The money comes from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program — federal money that is doled out competitively and encourages transportation-related projects. Quinn says the projects will support more than 400 jobs. The program is designed to encourage alternative transportation options, including bike and pedestrian trails and streetscape upgrades. Local matching funds are required. The current round of applications to the Illinois Department of Transportation included 232 applications requesting funding totaling nearly $261 million.

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Illinois Farmers Could Use A Break From Rain

(Springfield, IL) -- Illinois has no areas in drought for the first time since last August, but for many farmers, the rains are a little too much of a good thing. The rains of the past few weeks have helped with soil moisture and the flow of streams, but they've also put Spring planting on hold. The average precipitation for the past week was nearly fifty-percent above normal, and nearly 20-percent of the state's topsoil is rated as saturated. The 30-day forecast calls for above-normal rain and below-normal temperatures, the same conditions that delayed planting last spring.

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Lt. Gov. Simon to raise sex assault awareness

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is travelling to Peoria to raise awareness on sexual assault and domestic violence. Simon will visit the Center for Prevention of Abuse on Saturday. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Simon is scheduled to announce the expansion of two domestic violence agencies to serve 18 counties. The Virtual Legal Clinics provide free legal assistance to violence survivors in central Illinois. The lieutenant governor helped created the first clinic in 2011. Simon says sexual assault awareness should not be limited to one month per year. She says the state is taking a strong stand against violence by opening legal clinics and passing victim's rights measures. Last year, lawmakers passed a measure to collect fees from strip clubs to fund grants for community-based sexual assault programs.

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Broadcaster Samuelson named to Ill. Racing Board

CHICAGO (AP) — Legendary farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson has been appointed to the Illinois Racing Board. Gov. Pat Quinn announced the six-year appointment on Friday. The Racing Board regulates horse racing in the state, including issuing licenses, setting racing days and rules. The raising and breeding of horses for the industry is considered important agricultural work in the state. Samuelson is heard six days a week on WGN Radio in Chicago, where he has been agribusiness director since 1960. He is heard daily on his syndicated National Farm Report and "Samuelson Sez" commentary programs. He is the first farm broadcaster to be named to the National Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The post pays $12,527. The Senate must consent to the appointment.

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NATIONAL
Ex-KKK 'grand dragon' accused in Kansas shootings

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The family of a doctor and his 14-year-old grandson say they were two of three people killed Sunday when a man opened fire outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement complex. Authorities have behind bars a 73-year-old man identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who had once been the subject of a nationwide manhunt.

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Severe Storms Hitting Nation's Midsection

(Undated)  --  Powerful thunderstorms are pounding the central U.S. from Texas up to Kansas.  Illinois and central Michigan also are the target of damaging winds, hail and heavy rain that could cause flooding.  People in the east Texas town of Lovelady will be assessing the damage today from a tornado that touched down late Sunday.  Authorities say one person was injured and the tornado damaged more than a half-dozen buildings. 

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Sebelius: Obamacare Rollout Was Bumpy, Will Get Better

(Washington, DC)  --  Outgoing health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius says she has no regrets about Obamacare.  Sebelius told NBC's "Meet The Press" the rocky rollout of the Healthcare.gov is still a sore point.  However, she's proud that millions now have health coverage.  Sebelius also said she chose to leave.  President Obama has nominated U.S. Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius.

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Teachers returning to school where 22 were stabbed

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Teachers are returning to work today at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh, following last week's stabbing rampage that left 21 students and a security guard wounded. Classes will resume Wednesday. Authorities say 16-year-old Alex Hribal attacked his fellow students at the school with a pair of kitchen knives. Four students remain hospitalized in critical condition.

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Judge set to issue key Ohio gay marriage ruling

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal judge is expected today to issue what could be the most sweeping ruling yet for gay marriage in Ohio. Judge Timothy Black indicated in court on April 4 that he plans to order Ohio to recognize the marriages of gay couples who wed legally in other states. His ruling would allow gay couples in Ohio to obtain the same benefits as any other married couple in the state. The ruling would not directly impact any other state but Ohio.

---------------------------------------------

Mysterious baby deaths

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (AP) — Utah police are desperately seeking answers from the family of the mother of seven dead babies found in cardboard boxes in her garage. Thirty-nine-year-old Megan Huntsman allegedly gave birth to the children between 1996 and 2006. Authorities say Huntsman's estranged husband made the discovery while cleaning out the garage after recently getting out of prison. Huntsman has three daughters — one teenager and two young adults — who've lived at the house.

------------------------------------

Re-examining safety rules

RED BLUFF, Calif. (AP) — Federal investigators are re-examining bus safety rules in the wake of last week's fiery crash that killed 10 in California. National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind says his agency is revisiting proposals to enhance fire and passenger safety in light of the tragedy. On Thursday, a FedEx truck careened across a median on Interstate 5 and slammed into a bus carrying high school students headed to a college tour. Dozens of students escaped.

----------------------------------

Obama remembers Kansas shooting victims

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is remembering those killed at a Jewish community center and retirement complex, saying no one should have to worry about their security while gathering with their fellow believers. Obama is speaking at an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House. He says the fact that Sunday's attack in Kansas came as Jews prepare to celebrate Passover and Christians prepare for Easter makes the tragedy "all the more painful." The man accused of killing three people Sunday is a well-known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt. The president also recalled his meeting at the Vatican last month with Pope Francis. He says the pope has inspired people around the world with his "simple, yet profound" actions.

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US retail sales up strong 1.1 percent in March

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales in March rose by the largest amount in 18 months, led by strong gains in sales of autos, furniture and a number of other products. The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales rose 1.1 percent in March, the best showing since September 2012. The government also revised February to a 0.7 percent gain, more than double its previous estimate. Sales had fallen in January and December. Sales of autos climbed 3.1 percent while sales at general merchandise stores, a category that covers retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target and department stores, increased 1.9 percent, the strongest one-month gain since March 2007, before the country went through the recession. The strong March gain was evidence that the economy is emerging from a harsh winter with some momentum.

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Hearing set for man accused in Fla. day care crash

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A man accused in a crash that killed a 4-year-old girl and injured 14 people at a central Florida daycare center is expected back in court for a bond hearing. A judge ruled Friday that 28-year-old Robert Corchado should be jailed until a hearing to decide whether he's a flight risk. He turned himself in to authorities on Thursday, a day after they say his vehicle crashed into a convertible, sending it spinning into a KinderCare building in Winter Park. Bail was initially set at $100,000, but prosecutor Austin Price told the judge he fears Corchado will flee if he's released on bond. Corchado already was out on bond in neighboring Seminole County. If released on bail in Orlando, he'd likely be arrested on those charges and returned to jail.

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Ukraine asks for UN peacekeepers

HORLIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping troops in the east of the country, where pro-Russian insurgents have occupied buildings in nearly 10 cities. In a telephone conversation with Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Turchynov suggested that an "anti-terrorist operation" could be conducted jointly by Ukrainian security forces and UN peacekeepers, according to the presidential web site.

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Pro-Russian separatists seize another building in Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Deadlines and threats of anti-terror operations by the Ukraine government haven't stopped pro-Russian separatists from seizing another police building in Russian-leaning eastern Ukraine. A deadline on other separatists holding buildings has passed. There's been no comment from Kiev on that but Interfax news agency reports a Ukraine operation has begun. Dozens of angry men hurled rocks, smashed the windows and broke into a police station in the city of Horlivka not far from the border with Russia.

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EU officials looking for exit from Ukraine crisis

LUXEMBOURG (AP) — European Union foreign ministers are deploring what they say is more Russian interference in Ukraine, but hoping an end to the crisis can still be peacefully negotiated. The 28 ministers, meeting Monday in Luxembourg, could add more names to a list of Russian officials whose assets in EU member nations have been frozen. But a dramatic ratcheting up of the trade bloc's sanctions against Russia isn't expected. Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters: "I think it would be too early today. But I think we need to be well prepared." British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the well-coordinated actions of armed pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine during the previous 48 hours left no real doubt "this is something that is being planned and brought about by Russia."

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Sub search begins

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Crews searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane have sent a robotic submarine deep into the Indian Ocean for the first time today after failing to pick up any possible pings from the plane's black boxes for six days. The autonomous sub can create a three-dimensional sonar map of any debris on the seafloor. Meanwhile, officials are investigating an oil slick not far from the area where the last underwater sounds were detected. Crews have collected a sample of the oil and are sending it back to Australia for analysis, a process that will take several days. The oil does not appear to be from any of the ships in the area.

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Dozens dead in Nigeria blast

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Police in Nigeria say at least 71 people are dead and 124 wounded in an explosion that tripped through a busy commuter bus station today near Nigeria's capital, Abuja. The blast blew a hole 4 feet deep in the ground in an area where taxis pick up passengers. Secondary explosions were set off when vehicle fuel tanks ignited and burned. There's been no claim of responsibility, but Islamic extremists have been threatening to attack parts of the country.

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527 DNA tests in school rape: 'Choice is simple'

PARIS (AP) — The prosecutor in a western French city says it was an easy decision to order DNA tests for 527 people in the rape of a 16-year-old girl who was attacked at school. The DNA dragnet started Monday in La Rochelle, and prosecutor Isabelle Pagenelle says so far no one has refused. The testing of 527 male students, faculty and staff at Fenelon-Notre Dame high school is expected to last through Wednesday. Pagenelle said investigators exhausted all other leads in the rape last fall. "The choice is simple for me," she said. Either I file it away and wait for a match in what could be several years, or I go looking for the match myself." Pagenelle had said anyone who refuses the test could be considered a suspect and taken into custody.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 10, Chicago Cubs 4
Cleveland 12, Chicago White Sox 6

NHL

Nashville 7, Chicago 5

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

New York 100, Chicago 89

MLB

Chicago White Sox 4, Cleveland 3
St. Louis 6, Chicago Cubs 4

NHL

Detroit 3, St. Louis 0

PGA
------
The Masters  (at Augusta, GA)

1. Bubba Watson (-8)
T2. Jonas Blixt (-5)
T2. Jordan Spieth (-5)
4. Miguel Jimenez (-4)

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Orlando at Chicago, 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m. (94.1 FM WMIX, pregame at 6:20 p.m.)

---------------------------------------

Cubs recall RHP Blake Parker

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Chicago Cubs recalled right-hander Blake Parker from Triple-A Iowa on Sunday. Parker did not allow a run in three outings with Iowa. He recorded one save. Chicago sent down left-hander Chris Rusin, who allowed one run in five innings. Parker was 1-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 49 appearances last season with Chicago.

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News For Apr. 11, 2014

LOCAL
Authorities Investigate SIU Shooting

Authorities in Carbondale are investigating an early morning shooting involving an SIU student. The incident reportedly occurred around 12:30 this morning on the strip in Carbondale. The victim in the case had to be transported to a hospital.

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Prosecutors review case of SIU student's death

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Prosecutors are reviewing the case of a Southern Illinois University student found dead two months ago in a wooded area near the school. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports the Jackson County State's Attorney's Office review comes amid disagreement over toxicology test results involving 19-year-old Pravin Varughese. The coroner, Thomas Kupferer, has said there's no evidence of foul play in the February death of Varughese. Kupferer says the criminal justice major from suburban Chicago likely died of exposure to the cold. His body was found nearly a week after he went missing after a dispute with an acquaintance. Varughese's family insists lab tests showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in his system. Carbondale Police Chief Jody O'Guinn calls that "not completely accurate."

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Selva to assume new post at Scott air base

MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois military operation that manages the armed force's shipping and transportation needs will have a new commander. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the U.S. Senate has signed off on Gen. Paul Selva's transition to lead the U.S. Transportation Command based at Scott Air Force Base. Selva already heads the Air Mobility Command, which also is based at Scott near Mascoutah. Selva will begin his new post on May 6, when he will succeed retiring Gen. William Fraser III. Fraser had been in that position since October 2011. Lt. Gen. Darren McDew already will replace Selva as chief of the Air Mobility Command.

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ISP District 12 Releases March Figures

Effingham, IL- Illinois State Police District 12 Commander, Captain Kelly Hodge, Thursday announced activity and enforcement figures for the month of March. Troopers in District 12, which includes Clark, Clay, Crawford, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Lawrence, Marion, and Richland Counties, answered 330 calls for service and initiated 1,701 incidents in the field during the month. In addition, enforcement figures totaled 1,031 citations and 1,050 written warnings, including 498 speeding citations, 26 DUIs, 170 seatbelt citations, 12 child restraint citations, 245 written warnings for speeding, and 38 criminal arrests. Troopers also assisted 240 motorists, conducted 469 Motor Carrier Inspections, and investigated 91 traffic crashes. No fatal traffic crashes were investigated by District 12 during March. During the month, 647 citations and 279 written warnings were issued for ‘Fatal Four’ violations. These violations are most associated with fatal traffic crashes and include Speeding, DUI, Failure to Wear a Seatbelt, and Distracted Driving.

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Ex-East St. Louis cop's drug sentencing delayed

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — The sentencing of a former East St. Louis police detective on cocaine-related drug charges has been delayed until next month. Forty-two-year-old Orlando Ward pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and to possessing the drug with plans to deal it. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that a judge has rescheduled Ward's sentencing, originally to take place Thursday, for May 9. A federal prosecutor has described Ward in court as a corrupt police officer who for $5,000 a month was willing to provide information, police protection and resources to the drug conspiracy. Ward resigned from the East St. Louis Police Department in May of last year after a dozen years on the police force. He is free on bond.

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Child Abduction Suspect Arrested In Belleville

(Belleville, IL)  --  A man suspected of abducting a child in the Metro East is behind bars this morning.  KMOV-TV reports the child was reported kidnapped from a location in Belleville Thursday night.  Police later received a tip the suspect was headed to a Walmart store, where the unidentified man was arrested.  Further details surrounded the incident haven't been released.

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Students Represent Tri-County Electric Coop At State Youth Day

SPRINGFIELD – Sen. David Luechtefeld, Rep. John Cavaletto and Rep. Charlie Meier met with students representing Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Inc. during the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day on Wednesday, April 2 in Springfield. More than 200 students from downstate Illinois had an opportunity to visit the State Capitol, view state government in action and question their legislators on key issues. They also were invited into the office of Secretary of State Jesse White. The day was sponsored by the AIEC and is designed to introduce young rural leaders to state government. There were 24 co-ops from across the state represented at the event. Tri-County Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone EnergyÒ — an alliance of 750 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Tri-County Electric is committed to providing superior service based on four core principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. The co-op serves more than 16,084 meters over 3,385 miles of line in parts of Franklin, Jefferson, Marion, Perry and Washington counties. For more information visit www.tricountycoop.com.

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STATE
Quinn, Rauner to make first 2014 joint appearance

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn and his GOP rival, Bruce Rauner, are scheduled to appear together for the first time in the 2014 campaign for Illinois governor. Quinn and Rauner are to discuss education policy during a Friday meeting of the Illinois Education Association in Chicago. Quinn is a Chicago Democrat seeking his second full term as governor. Rauner is a Winnetka businessman making his first bid for public office. He defeated three other candidates to win the GOP nomination last month. Education already has been a major campaign issue. Quinn wants to make Illinois' temporary income tax hike permanent to invest more money in schools. Rauner and his wife have donated millions for charter schools and teacher merit pay. He's ripped Quinn for cutting school funding in recent years.

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Lawmakers Take Aim At Police Quotas

(Springfield, IL) -- Lawmakers are cracking down on the idea of police officers hitting the pavement at the end of the month in order to meet their ticket quotas. Senator Andy Manar says officers may not always use good judgment if they're trying to meet a certain goal.  The state senate has cleared a bill that would prohibit a local government or county from issuing quotas. Supporters make it clear that a police officer's job performance can't be judged based on how many tickets he or she issues. The bill is now headed to the House.

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Plan Requires Illinois To Buy American-Made Cars

(Springfield, IL) -- The state of Illinois could soon be restricted on what kind of cars it can purchase, rent, or lease. State Representative Mike Smiddy says only cars made in America should be included in the state fleet. The state would not be required to get rid of any foreign cars that are currently in its fleet if this bill becomes law. Opponents argue the plan could hurt both the state's international trade options and local economies. It cleared the House and is headed to the Senate.

----------------------------------------

Budget cuts may prompt closure of historic sites

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois preservationists say almost 18 percent of the state's historic sites might close because of potential budget cuts. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports 10 historic sites might have to close starting in July if lawmakers don't make a temporary tax increase permanent. The sites haven't been identified. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make the tax increase permanent. Amy Martin is executive director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. She says lowering the income tax rate from 5 percent to 3.75 percent means the agency's budget would fall to levels not seen in decades. Martin says that "would be a step backwards in every way." Illinois oversees 56 historic sites, ranging from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield to smaller operations.

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IKEA buying Ill. wind-energy project

HOOPESTON, Ill. (AP) — IKEA's U.S. subsidiary is buying a long-planned wind-energy project in eastern Illinois as part of the company's initiative to offset its power use with renewable energy generation. Rob Olson is chief financial officer of the Swedish furniture retailer's U.S. business. He says IKEA plans to have Hoopeston Wind up and running by 2015. The company says the 98-megawatt wind farm should generate enough electricity to offset all of its U.S. power use. IKEA and many other companies such as Google and Walmart have announced plans in recent years to use more renewable energy. IKEA won't say what it is paying for the Hoopeston project. It is buying it from Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy. That company will operate the wind farm. IKEA becomes the yet-to-be-built project's third owner.

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Oberweis backs Ill. minimum wage 'compromise'

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Sen. Jim Oberweis is introducing legislation to raise the minimum wage in Illinois for some workers. The Sugar Grove Republican's proposal would gradually increase the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour by 2017. But the changes would only apply to workers who are 26 and older. Oberweis is running against U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who has backed a federal Democratic effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Republicans have generally opposed the federal increase pushed by the president. In a statement, Oberweis says his legislation is a compromise that wouldn't tax business owners. But he acknowledges reaction so far has been "mixed." Durbin's office tells the Chicago Sun-Times that the proposal doesn't help enough people since it excludes younger workers.

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Pregnancy Bill Passes In The House, Moves To Senate

(Springfield, IL)  --  Legislation providing pregnant Illinois women with new workplace rights will now be considered by the state Senate.  The measure passed in the House yesterday by a vote of 65-to-35.  The sponsor of the bill state Representative Mary Flowers says "women who are pregnant deserve to be respected."  Just a few things that her bill covers, include employers required to allow frequent bathroom breaks, water breaks, help with manual labor, and time off to recover from childbirth.

--------------------------------------------

NATIONAL
Students face horror on bus

ORLAND, Calif. (AP) —One 18-year-old says more than 40 students on board a fiery bus were able to escape through a window that someone had kicked open. But others weren't as fortunate. Authorities in Northern California say a FedEx truck crossed a grassy median on Interstate 5 near Orland yesterday and crashed into a bus carrying the high school students on a trip to Humboldt State University. The driver of the FedEx truck and at least eight people on the bus were killed.

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Kathleen Sebelius resigning from top HHS post

WASHINGTON (AP) —Later today, President Barack Obama plans to announce the resignation of his Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius has been a lightning rod for critics of Obama's health care law. The resignation announcement comes just over a week after health care sign-ups closed for the first year of insurance coverage.

--------------------------------------------

Report: No missed opportunities in Boston attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — A review of how the government's intelligence agencies handled information they had before the Boston Marathon bombings last year concluded that it was impossible to know whether anything could have been done differently to prevent the attack. Whether information withheld by Russia until after the bombings could have made a difference was not addressed in the unclassified version of the report. Three people died and more than 200 others were injured in two explosions during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Two ethnic Chechen brothers are accused of carrying out the attacks. The oldest died in a police chase and his brother has pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

---------------------------------------------

Fleeing hostage mistakenly shot by LA deputies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County Sheriff John Scott says his deputies have experienced "a police officer's greatest nightmare" — gunning down an innocent person. Monday night, deputies responding to a hostage situation fired at a wounded, bloody man rushing out of a West Hollywood apartment and the man running behind him. They turned out to be escaping hostages. The man killed was 30-year-old John Winkler, an aspiring TV producer. The other hostage was shot in the leg and is in stable condition.

--------------------------------------

More than 100 get virus on California cruise

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Princess Cruises says it has no plans to end early a tour on which more than 100 passengers have become ill. The dozens of passengers and 25 crewmembers on the Crown Princess have contracted the highly contagious norovirus while touring the California coast. A company spokeswoman says 50 people have been quarantined in their cabins.

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Shoe thrown at Hillary Clinton during speech

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A woman in Las Vegas has been taken into federal custody after throwing a show at Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton was on stage giving a speech when she ducked the shoe Thursday, cracked a couple of jokes that drew applause and continued her keynote speech. Secret Service says the woman who threw the black and orange athletic shoe is being questioned and will face criminal charges.

-----------------------------------

Carter, Dole wives to aid White House troop effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama and Jill Biden are bringing relief to millions of people who care for wounded service members and veterans. They're being joined today at the White House by former first lady Rosalynn Carter and former Sen. Elizabeth Dole to announce new private and public sector pledges to help the country's 5.5 million military caregivers. The figure comes from a report commissioned by Dole's foundation and made public last week. Mrs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife began a nationwide effort in 2011 to support military families. Dole is married to former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who was seriously wounded in World War II. Carter is the wife of former Democratic President Jimmy Carter. She has a longstanding interest in family caregiving and mental health.

------------------------------------------

Judge to rule on Detroit swaps deal with 2 banks

DETROIT (AP) — A ruling is expected today on bankrupt Detroit's plan to settle a bad multi-million dollar pension debt deal with two banks. A court spokesman says federal Judge Steven Rhodes will render his decision on the city's agreement to pay $85 million to UBS and Bank of America. Rhodes has denied earlier proposals for $220 million and $165 million settlements. Detroit had pledged casino tax revenue in 2009 as collateral to avoid defaulting on pension debt payments, which allowed the city to get fixed interest rates on pension bonds with the banks. But the deal became too costly when interest rates plunged. The swaps deal is key to Orr's plan to restructure Detroit's debt. The two banks have said they will support Orr's plan.

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US agency closes probe into Ford pickup trucks

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators have decided against seeking a recall of Ford F-150 pickup trucks after investigating complaints about EcoBoost engines losing power. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it closed a probe started in May. It covered nearly 360,000 trucks with 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engines from the 2011 through 2013 model years. The agency began investigating after getting complaints that the trucks could lose power during hard acceleration. Tests by Ford and the government traced the problem to condensation in an air cooler. Water could be pulled into the engine, causing cylinders to misfire. But the tests showed that trucks with the condition would maintain speed and accelerate. The agency determined that a Ford Motor Co. service bulletin to dealers took care of the problem, so it's not pursuing a recall.

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Man with 1st name 'God' sues credit rating agency

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City man claims that a credit reporting agency falsely reported he had no financial history because his first name is God. According to the New York Post God Gazarov of Brooklyn says in a lawsuit that Equifax has refused to correct its system to recognize his name as legitimate. He says an Equifax customer service representative even suggested that he change his name to resolve the issue. Gazarov is a Russian native who is named after his grandfather. The 26-year-old owns a Brighton Beach jewelry store and is a graduate of Brooklyn College. He says he has high scores with two other major credit agencies. The Post says Equifax did not return calls or emails seeking comment.

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IBM To Purchase Software Company

(Undated)  --  IBM says it will purchase software company Silverpop, which provides digital marketing tools.  The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.  IBM says the acquisition will allow the company to extend its client base and marketing capabilities.  The Atlanta-based Silverpop is used by a number of companies including Mazda and Stonyfield Farm to engage customers. 

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Nirvana, Kiss, E Street Band Among Rock Hall Honorees

(Brooklyn, NY)  --  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is in.  The Hall welcomed its latest batch of inductees Thursday night with a star-studded ceremony at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.  They are Nirvana, Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Kiss, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens, and Linda Ronstadt.  Also inducted as non-performers are the late Beatles' manager Brian Epstein and the original manager for the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham.

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INTERNATIONAL
NATO's chief: Russia's actions are illegitimate

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has urged Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine's borders and enter a dialogue respecting Ukraine's sovereignty. The alliance's chief said Russia's attempts to draw new dividing lines in Europe by force, to limit the sovereignty of Ukraine, and to recreate a new sphere of influence over other countries run contrary to international norms. After meeting Friday with Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, he said NATO is taking steps to deal with the instability created by Russia's "illegitimate" actions. Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia border the Black Sea. Rasmussen called for a political solution for the crisis, saying the alliance was not discussing military action over Ukraine. He also urged a halt to the decline in defense budgets. On Thursday he visited the Czech Republic.

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Australian PM confident sounds are from Flight 370

PERTH, Australia (AP) —Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says crews hunting for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have zeroed in on a more targeted area in the Indian Ocean in their search for the source of sounds they believe could be coming from the plane's black boxes. Abbott says search crews are getting into the stage where signals coming from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are starting to fade. But Abbott says "we are very confident" the signals are coming from Flight 370's black boxes.

----------------------------------------

Prosecutor: Pistorius shot lover as they talked

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecutor in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial is accusing the world-famous athlete of fatally shooting his girlfriend through a bathroom door as they were talking. Chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel insists that Pistorius intentionally killed Reeva Steenkamp. During cross-examination of the double-amputee Olympian today, the prosecutor said "she was standing behind the toilet door talking to you when you shot her." Pistorius denied Nel's claim, saying "that's not true" in a dramatic exchange to end the first week of the runner's testimony at his trial. Nel says the "only reasonable explanation" for the shooting last year is that Pistorius killed the model after a fight. Pistorius claims he shot Steenkamp by mistake thinking she was a nighttime intruder behind a toilet door in his bathroom.

----------------------------

Iraq's deputy PM escapes assassination attempt

BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi lawmaker says the country's deputy prime minister escaped an assassination attempt in which militants dressed as soldiers opened fire at his convoy west of Baghdad. Lawmaker Talal al-Zobaie says he accompanied Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and several other officials on a visit to villages in the Abu Graib area on Friday. Al-Zobaie says attackers in military uniform and driving military vehicles opened fire at their convoy, triggering a shootout with guards and soldiers protecting al-Mutlaq. Three of al-Mutlaq's guards were wounded in the shootout. The attackers fled the scene. The officials were inspecting flood damages after militants who control the nearby city of Fallujah shut off a water dam. The attack was the latest in Iraq as the country heads toward crucial parliamentary elections on April 30.

----------------------------------------------------

SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Pittsburgh 5, Chicago Cubs 4
Chicago White Sox 7, Cleveland 3

NHL

Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis 7:15 p.m. (94.1 WMIX, pregame at 6:20 p.m.)
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox 7:10 p.m.

NBA

Detroit at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

Chicago at Washington 6 p.m.
St. Louis at Dallas 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis 1:15 p.m. (94.1 WMIX, pregame at 12:20 p.m.)
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox 1:10 p.m.

NHL

Chicago at Nashville 7 p.m.

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis 1:15 p.m. (94.1 WMIX, pregame at 12:20 p.m.)
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox 1:10 p.m.

NBA

Chicago at New York 6:30 p.m.

NHL

Detroit at St. Louis 11:30 p.m.

------------------------------------

White Sox lose Garcia for the season

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season because of a tear in his left shoulder. An MRI taken Thursday revealed the torn labrum. Garcia is scheduled to have surgery next week. He was hurt while trying to make a diving catch in Wednesday's loss at Colorado.

--------------------------------------

News For Apr. 10, 2014

LOCAL
Vigil Planned Fort Hood Soldier

(Effingham, IL) -- People in Effingham are gearing up to remember Army Sergeant Timothy Owens. He was killed when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Hood military base in Texas last week. Owens was raised in Effingham and his mother still lives there. His family and friends will hold a candlelight vigil this Friday at 7:00 p.m. on the County Courthouse Museum lawn.

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Services set for teen killed in Ill. house fire

BROOKPORT, Ill. (AP) — Services are scheduled for a 13-year-old boy who authorities say was killed in a fire at his family's southern Illinois mobile home. William Elmore died Monday at a hospital of injuries sustained Sunday night at his home near Brookport in Massac County. Authorities said Elmore was alone at the time the blaze began. Authorities have yet to reveal the cause of the fire. Services for Elmore will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Aikins-Farmer Funeral Home in Brookport.

------------------------------

SIUE Students Face Kidnapping, Robbery Charges


(Edwardsville, IL) -- Two SIU Edwardsville students are facing kidnapping charges after allegedly snatching up a fellow student. Police say Jabreel Watson and Shantel Rogers grabbed the student from the Prairie Hall parking lot last week, forced him into their car and blindfolded him. They then drove around for two hours before taking the victim to an ATM and making him withdraw all the money from his bank account. The victim was not injured. A third suspect is on the loose.

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Illinois State Police District 19 Releases Results from Occupant Restraint Enforcement Patrol

Carmi, IL - Illinois State Police (ISP) District 19 has released enforcement figures from the Occupant Restraint Enforcement Patrols (O.R.E.P.) conducted in Edwards County on Tuesday, 03/25/14 and  in Hamilton County on Friday, 03/28/14.  In Edwards County, there were 14 total citations and 6 total warnings given including 10 safety belt citations. In Hamilton County, there were 20 total citations and 6 total warnings given including 16 safety belt citations. Most motorists have learned that safety belts save lives, but some ignore their safety and that of their families by neglecting to use safety belts and child restraint devices.  These patrols reinforce the occupant protection message by targeting those who choose to ignore the law.  Lives can be saved if people simply buckle up!  This project was funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.

----------------------------

ISP District 19 Announces March Activity and Enforcement

Carmi, IL – Illinois State Police District 19 Commander, Captain Kelly Hodge, announced today activity and enforcement figures for the month of March.  Troopers in District 19, which includes Wabash, Edwards, Wayne, White, Hamilton, Saline, and Gallatin Counties, answered 396 calls for service and initiated 1,558 incidents in the field during the month.  In addition, enforcement figures totaled 595 citations and 1,009 written warnings, including 173 speeding citations, 10 DUIs, 144 seatbelt citations, 6 child restraint citations, 249 written warnings for speeding, and 39 criminal arrests. Troopers also assisted 87 motorists, conducted 390 Motor Carrier Inspections, and investigated 31 traffic crashes.  There were two fatal traffic crashes, resulting in two fatalities, investigated by District 19 during March. During the month, 354 citations and 376 written warnings were issued for “Fatal Four” violations.  These violations are most associated with fatal traffic crashes and include Speeding, DUI, Failure to Wear a Seatbelt, and Distracted Driving.

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Head of struggling Ill. airport gets raise, bonus

MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) — The director of a southwestern Illinois airport that has never turned a profit since opening with great fanfare 16 years ago has gotten a pay raise as well as a bonus of more than $13,000. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Tim Cantwell oversees MidAmerica St. Louis Airport near Mascoutah. His earnings jumped nearly 5 percent last year to roughly $128,000. The newspaper says Cantwell got his bonus in January for meeting unspecified goals. St. Clair County owns the airport, and Cantwell oversees its 14 employees and manages a $5.5 million budget. MidAmerica has struggled since opening in 1998, and critics persistently have labeled it a $330 million boondoggle. A message left Wednesday for Cantwell by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

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Ill. man commits suicide days before murder trial

CAHOKIA, Ill. (AP) — Police say a 58-year-old southwestern Illinois man committed suicide, days before he was set to stand trial for the 2012 death of his wife. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Ovie Sumpter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was set to stand trial on April 21 after being charged with first-degree murder for the death of his 53-year-old wife, Tina Sumpter. He was also charged with aggravated battery with a firearm in connection with the shooting of his son. Those incidents took place in Cahokia. Authorities say the Millstadt man's body was found Friday.

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Illinois troopers seize heroin during traffic stop

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State Police say troopers seized vacuum-sealed bags of heroin with a possible street value of $250,000 during a traffic stop on Interstate 55 in Madison County. The traffic stop last Friday morning led to the arrest of 46-year-old Rodolfo Hernandez-Flores of Tijuana, Mexico. Troopers had pulled over his sport utility vehicle for improperly displaying a license plate. Flores' nervous behavior caused troopers to call for a bilingual trooper to provide Spanish interpretation and a K-9 unit. The dog sniffed out heroin hidden in the vehicle's engine compartment. Investigators say the drugs originated in Tijuana and were destined for Columbus, Ohio. It was not immediately clear if Flores has an attorney. He was being held in the Madison County Jail and faces drug charges.

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Students Representing Wayne-White Electric Coop Meet With State Senators

SPRINGFIELD – Sen. Dale Righter and Rep. David Reis met with students representing Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative during the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day on Wednesday, April 2 in Springfield. More than 200 students from downstate Illinois had an opportunity to visit the State Capitol, view state government in action and question their legislators on key issues. They also were invited into the office of Secretary of State Jesse White.
During breakfast, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon addressed students and chaperones and challenged them to take an interest in the political process and encouraged them to talk to their state senators and representatives about issues that interest them. While in Springfield, the students also visited the Illinois State Museum, Old State Capitol and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. The day was sponsored by the AIEC and is designed to introduce young rural leaders to state government. There were 24 co-ops from across the state represented at the event. Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone EnergyÒ — an alliance of 750 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Wayne-White Counties Electric is committed to providing superior service based on four core principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community. The cooperative serves more than 13,639 meters over 3,195 miles of line in parts of Clay, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Marion, Richland, Wabash, Wayne and White counties. For more information visit WayneWhiteCoop.com.

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STATE
Bill helps districts fill teaching vacancies

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Legislation helping southern Illinois school districts fill teaching vacancies with recently retired teachers is advancing in the state Legislature. The legislation sponsored by state Sen. John Rushville passed the Senate by a 51-0 vote Wednesday. The bill would allow retired teachers who are still certified to teach while still maintaining their eligibility for retirement. Retirees would be exempt from making contributions or receiving any new pension benefits. Schools must have advertised the position for three months prior to the beginning of the school term and offer vacancies to teachers' whose positions have been eliminated by the district. The legislation now moves to the House.

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Task Force Looking For New Ways To Fight Heroin

(Springfield, IL) -- Now that the Illinois House has voted to declare a "heroin state of emergency," a task force on heroin is planning several public hearings across the state. State Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored the resolution says, "It's clear what we're doing now is failing." The panel aims to develop a series of new laws to address the growing problem of heroin addiction. The first hearing will be next Tuesday in Chicago.

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Credit agency: Ill. budget at 'pivotal' juncture

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Another major credit-rating house says the next 50 days of Illinois state budget-making will be "pivotal" to the state's financial health. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services issued the statement Wednesday. Lawmakers must approve a budget for the coming year by the end of May. Gov. Pat Quinn proposed a budget last month that relies on making a temporary income tax increase permanent to avoid a $1.8 billion revenue hole. S&P says the plan could help the state's finances by preventing sharp spending reductions. But it noted the budget still leans on non-recurring revenue such as an inter-fund loan and reliance on Medicaid reform and other cost-containment. Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings issued similar outlooks last week.

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Poll: Voters Overwhelmingly Back Term Limits

(Undated)  --  A new study shows that very few Illinoisans will get in the way of term limits in the state.  The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute says 61-percent of those polled are in favor of term limits for legislators.  Meanwhile, only 17-percent are in opposition.

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Governor Unveils His Construction Program

(Springfield, IL)  --  Governor Quinn says he wants to construct and upgrade infrastructure statewide to the tune of 14-billion dollars.  Yesterday, he announced his new public works construction plan.  Eight-million dollars are designated for roadwork.  One of the projects is the repair of I-55 at Sherman, which includes a new multi-million dollar bridge deck.  Quinn's plan also calls for one-point-nine-billion in spending on mass transit, three-billion on rail and 800-million for airports. Governor Quinn is planning to pump hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars into improving roads in the metro-east.  At least one dozen construction projects are in the works, but one of the biggest includes a 43-million-dollar overhaul of the Poplar Street Bridge.  Crews are expected to widen the bridge, repair the deck, and add an overlay.  The work is expected to get underway sometime next year. 

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Madigan Dropping Plan To Tax Millionaires

(Springfield, IL)  --  A tax proposal that would affect Illinoisans with incomes over one-million dollars a year is no longer in existence.  House Speaker Michael Madigan withdrew his plan to tax millionaires an extra three percent on their personal income tax.  It would've generated about a billion-dollars a year had it gone into effect, and that money would've reportedly gone towards education.  Republicans strongly opposed the measure.  They say they're relieved the plan has been pulled back because it would've ultimately hurt families and cost jobs. 

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AARP backs changes to Ill. redistricting process

CHICAGO (AP) — AARP Illinois is the latest organization to back a proposal that would change the way Illinois' House and Senate districts are drawn. The organization, which represents 1.7 million members age 50 and older, announced its support Wednesday. Merri Dee is the AARP state president. Dee says the once-a-decade process known as redistricting "must be transparent, independent and non-partisan." A coalition known as Yes for Independent Maps is driving the effort to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to change the redistricting process. Currently, new maps must get the OK from the House, Senate and the governor. Because Democrats control all three, the current maps are Democrat-friendly. The Yes for Independent Maps campaign would create a commission made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents to draw the maps.

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Illinois Ranks Fourth In The Nation As Tax Complainers

(Undated)  --  People who live in Illinois are not pleased with the amount of taxes they pay.  A Gallup poll shows that 71 percent of those questioned about taxes in the Land of Lincoln say they pay too much.  Illinois ranks fourth among 50 states. There's  a tie for top tax complainers between New York and New Jersey.

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NATIONAL
House panel to hold contempt vote on IRS official

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee is scheduled to vote today on whether to cite a former Internal Revenue Service official for contempt of Congress. Lois Lerner had refused to answer questions at a pair of hearings about IRS agents improperly singling out tea party tax exemption applications for extra scrutiny.

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FBI: Team has rescued NC kidnap victim in Atlanta

ATLANTA (AP) — The FBI says its elite Hostage Rescue Team has safely rescued a North Carolina man in Atlanta missing for days in a kidnapping plot. The FBI says Frank Arthur Janssen had been abducted but is now safe after the team rescued him minutes before noon Wednesday from an apartment complex where he was held in southeast Atlanta. Janssen was reported missing April 5 from his Wake Forest, N.C., home. An FBI spokeswoman says she doesn't yet have details about the rescue operation and how it was carried out, a possible abduction motive or whether anyone has been arrested. She says Janssen is being reunited with his family.

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Man charged in 9 deaths claims he killed dozens

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A man is being held for allegedly carrying out nine contract killings in Central California, but he claims he's killed more than 40 people. Prosecutors say 51-year-old Jose Manuel Martinez has told investigators he carried out the crimes working as an enforcer for a drug cartel. Martinez is set to go to trial in June for an Alabama murder.

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House set for vote on Ryan budget with big cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are marching ahead with an election-year budget that promises to balance the government's books through wide-ranging cuts in programs like food stamps and government-paid health care. That's even though they may be checkmated by President Barack Obama and Democrats controlling the Senate. The plan by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan is a nonbinding framework aimed more at engaging GOP voters than rival Democrats. It paints a picture of what Republicans would try to do if they claim the Senate this fall and the White House in 2016. Its cuts to programs like food stamps and government-paid health care for the poor and working class would be difficult to pass even if Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. A House vote is expected today.

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SAC Capital to be sentenced in $1.8B fraud deal

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge is expected later this morning to sentence Connecticut-based hedge fund SAC Capital for wire fraud and securities fraud. SAC Capital LP and three related entities reached a plea agreement in a $1.8 billion deal with the government. The government says in a presentencing memorandum that the majority of money managed by the defendants during a decade-long fraud belonged to the hedge fund's owner and founder, Steven A. Cohen. Eight employees were convicted of insider trading.

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AP-GfK Poll: Tax filing not tough for most

WASHINGTON (AP) — Struggling to figure out your federal tax return? You might be in the minority. The majority of Americans who answered an Associated Press-GfK poll think completing a federal tax return is easy. Only 7 percent of those surveyed say they would be willing to pay more in federal taxes if the process of filling out a tax return were easier. Some 90 percent say "no, thanks." Small business owner Sara Thornton of East Granby, Conn. says, "If you've got the equivalent of a high school degree and you know how to do math, it's very simple."

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Lawyer: Evaluate stabbing suspect's mental health

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — The attorney for a 16-year-old charged in a stabbing spree at his Pittsburgh-area high school says he wants to have a mental health expert evaluate the boy. The attorney also says he's hoping to move the criminal charges against Alex Hribal to juvenile court. For now, Hribal is charged as an adult with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and a weapons charge in Wednesday's attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Twenty-two people were injured. In an interview Thursday with ABC's "Good Morning America," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey acknowledged that Hribal stabbed the victims and said he didn't know what motivated him. He said Hribal is remorseful but didn't appear to appreciate the gravity of his actions. And he said Hribal's parents were "horrified" by the attack.

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School where stabbings occurred may reopen Monday

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Officials say a western Pennsylvania high school where 21 students and a security guard were stabbed or slashed by a student is no longer being treated as a crime scene and will likely reopen Monday. Murrsysville police Chief Thomas Seefeld and Superintendent Gennaro Piraino (pih-RAH'-no) announced those developments at a pre-dawn media briefing outside Franklin Regional High School on Thursday. Seefeld said the "crime scene was quite bloody with clothes and personal belongings." But investigators have finished processing it, meaning the school district can hire a company that the superintendent says will "clean and restore our building to pre-incident condition." Piraino also said, "We're looking to have students back in our building Monday."

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Hospital: 1 child still critical after Fla. crash

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One child injured when a car crashed into a Florida day care center remains in critical condition at an Orlando hospital. Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children spokeswoman Katie Dagenais provided an update Thursday on the eight patients brought there after the Wednesday crash at a KinderCare. One girl died after arriving. In addition to the one child in critical condition, three others are in serious condition. One is in fair condition. Two were discharged. Authorities say five additional victims were taken to other Orlando-area hospitals. Two others were treated and released at the scene. The Florida Highway Patrol is searching for 26-year-old Robert Alex Corchado. The agency says he was driving a Dodge Durango that struck a convertible, which jumped a curb and smashed into the day care building.

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GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has put two engineers on paid leave as an outside attorney investigates why the company took more than a decade to recall millions of small cars for an ignition switch problem. The company says in a statement Thursday that the action was taken after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. He's been hired to figure out why GM was so slow to recall the cars. The engineers were not identified in the statement. CEO Mary Barra says the move is an interim step as GM tries to find out what happened. GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the ignition switch problem. The company is recalling 2.6 million cars to replace the switches.

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Washington-wide 911 outage

SEATTLE (AP) — CenturyLink technicians are scrambling to get 911 emergency phone service restored in Washington state after the service went out early Thursday morning. Spokeswoman Kerry Zimmer says the problem began about 1:30 a.m. Thursday at Sheridan, Ore., and Oregon was affected for a time. It has since been restored in Oregon, but service remains out in Washington. Another spokeswoman, Jan Kampbell, says technicians are working to solve the problem. CenturyLink provides the service statewide because the dispatch centers are all tied together. Until service is restored, Zimmer recommends that people with an emergency try a 911 call from a cell phone, which sometimes works better than a land line. Alternatively, people could go to their nearest fire station for help.

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Dartmouth receives anonymous $100M donation

HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — Dartmouth College has received an anonymous gift of $100 million, the largest single donation in its 244-year history. College officials say half of the amount will support the "Cluster Initiative" proposed by President Philip Hanlon, which includes adding 30 to 40 new faculty positions over the next decade. Professors have been hired by specific departments. Under the new program, professors would be hired under multidisciplinary clusters, such as sustainable energy and financial markets. Part of the donation is being called a challenge grant, with a goal of raising an additional $100 million in donations.

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INTERNATIONAL
New signal

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Teams looking for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 are trying to narrow the 500-square-mile search zone in the Indian Ocean before sending a robotic submarine down to create a sonar map of the seabed in hopes of finding a debris field. Today, an Australian aircraft detected a fifth signal that could be coming from one of the plane's black boxes. The Australian air force has been dropping sonar buoys into the water near where four earlier sounds were heard. Officials say the signals need further analysis before anything can be confirmed.

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Putin warns Europe about Ukraine gas debt

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Vladimir Putin is telling European leaders that Ukraine's growing gas debts to Moscow can threaten supplies to Europe. According to his spokesman, Putin "expressed his utmost concern" to European leaders about the growing gas debts of Ukraine, which Moscow says owes Russia over $16 billion. The spokesman did not otherwise discuss Putin's message, but said it contained "urgent measures, as the situation requires no delay." The move is designed to exert economic pressure on Europe, which receive a large portion of its gas from Russia through Ukraine. Putin has tightened the economic screws on the cash-strapped Kiev government since it came to power in February, when its Russia-leaning president fled the country after months of protest.

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Activists: Rebel infighting in Syria kills 24

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say fierce infighting between rival Islamic rebel groups in northeastern Syria along the border with Iraq has killed at least 24 fighters. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the 24 died in rebel-on-rebel fighting on Thursday in the oil-rich province of Deir el Zour. The Observatory says Thursday's battle was focused around the town of Bukmal, near the Iraq border. Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committee, also reported the infighting. The fighting is between rebels from the al-Qaida breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq, and fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. The two have for months battled each other over territory they previously captured together from President Bashar Assad's forces.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Cincinnati 4, St. Louis 0
Chicago Cubs 7, Pittsburgh 5
Colorado 10, Chicago White Sox 4

NBA

Chicago 102, Minnesota 87

NHL

Chicago 3, Montreal 2 (OT)

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs 1:20 p.m.
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox 7:10 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Minnesota 7 p.m.

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Kane to return for postseason

CHICAGO (AP) — Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane says he will rejoin the team for the NHL playoffs next week, despite wearing a brace on his injured left knee. Kane was hurt in a game on March 19 and went to the sidelines as the team's leading scorer.

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News For Apr. 9, 2014

LOCAL
Authorities Look Into Mt. Vernon Dollar General Robbery

Authorities in Jefferson County are investigating a Monday armed robbery at a Mount Vernon store. The incident at the Dollar General store along south 10th street occurred around 9:30 Monday evening. Reports say a white male, believed to be in his early 40’s, entered the store armed with a handgun. No injuries were reported in the incident.

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Woman Pleads Guilty To Home Invasion

(Pinckneyville, IL)  --  A Perry County woman will face sentencing next month after pleading guilty to her role in the 2010 murder of her step-sister.  Authorities say 21-year-old Dakota Wall pled guilty on Tuesday to a home invasion charge.  Records show that Wall left a door unlocked at the home she shared with Sidnee Stephens.  That allowed three co-defendants to enter the home to strangle and shoot Stephens to death.

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Investigator: Teen dies after southern Ill. fire

BROOKPORT, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a teenager died in a house fire near the far southern Illinois town of Brookport. Massac County Sheriff's Department investigator Chad Kaylor tells KFVS-TV that the 13-year-old victim was home alone when the fire broke out Sunday night. The teenager died Monday at a hospital in Paducah, Ky. Kaylor says the cause of the fire is being investigated, though preliminary indications that electrical issues may have sparked the blaze. The victim's name has not been released.

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Ill. woman gets 5 years in child pornography case

MARION, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois woman has been ordered to spend five years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. A spokesman for the Williamson County State's Attorney's Office says 45-year-old Monique Leonard of Carterville was sentenced Monday. In exchange for pleading guilty to two child pornography counts, prosecutors dropped sexual assault charges against her. Authorities said the alleged misconduct took place in October 2009. Leonard was arrested in 2011, after federal investigators found evidence of the illegal acts online. Authorities alleged the acts took place during online interaction with a Detroit man. The man, Stephen Demink, has been sentenced to a life sentence in federal prison for persuading mothers in several states to sexually exploit their children.

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Menard Prison Still On Lockdown

(Chester, IL) -- The lockdown at Menard Correctional Center is expected to last all week. A DOC Spokesman says they’re still trying to get answers about who made the homemade hooch and shanks that were found last Friday. Most of the 13 weapons found in two cells in North One cell house. The hooch was found in a sanitation area. The items were discovered during a routine search. Inmates aren’t allowed to have visitors, take classes, or work during the lockdown.

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Water Main Break Creates 35-Foot Geyser

(Belleville, IL) -- A broken water main in Belleville is fixed. A geyser burst through the sidewalk on East Main Street in Belleville around 10:00 Tuesday morning. The water shot up higher than the two-story building it was beside, reaching heights of around 35 feet. Workers shut down water to the area briefly for repairs.

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Second Trial, Same Result In Case Tied To Disgraced Judge

(Belleville, IL) -- A murder trial that had to be done over because the first judge was found to be a drug user has ended with the same result, a guilty verdict. Fifty-five-year-old Gregory Muse was convicted in a bench trial of murder because his partner in an armed robbery was shot and killed by the store owner. Muse had to be tried again after the judge in his original trial, Michael Cook, was shown to have been under investigation for drug and gun crimes at the time. Cook pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to two years in prison. Another of his murder trials will also have to be redone.

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Trial set for Monday in 2007 southern Ill. killing

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A trial for a man accused in a southern Illinois killing more than seven years ago is scheduled to begin next week. Online court records show that the proceedings involving 29-year-old Elijah Lacy are scheduled to start Monday in Jackson County. Prosecutors allege Lacy broke into a Carbondale home on Jan. 6, 2007, and fired shots into the bedroom where Falon Taylor of Marion was sleeping, striking the 21-year-old mother. The legal case involving Lacy have been delayed by years of litigation over whether prosecutors unconstitutionally delayed proceedings. Lacy has pleaded not guilty.

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Carlyle Lake Main Dam Bridge Deck Closure

CARLYLE LAKE – On Monday, April 14, 2014, the Carlyle Lake Main Dam bridge deck will be closed for maintenance work.  The work is a continuation from prior structural repairs and painting performed in 2006.  Repairs will include sandblasting and repainting the four tainter gates at the Carlyle Lake Main Dam.  These repairs will ensure the integrity and increase the longevity of the structure.  The repairs are expected to last through the entire recreation season and work is scheduled to be completed in September 2014.  The schedule of work is contingent upon weather and lake level, and may be adjusted. Many visitors use the existing Main Dam Road for recreational opportunities. During this time frame, pedestrian traffic will be restricted across the Main Dam bridge deck.  The East and West Main Dam service roads will remain open for visitors wishing to enjoy walking, running or bike riding.  Visitors should also consider using the Carlyle Lake Bike Trail located around the lake and through the City of Carlyle. For more information about Carlyle Lake, contact the Carlyle Lake Project Office at (618) 594-2484 or email at carlylelake@usace.army.mil.

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Sesser Man Pleads Guilty For False Allegations Of A Terrorist Plot To Disrupt Election Day 2012

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced that Ray Allen Flener, 25, of Sesser, Illinois, pled guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he made a false statement to a federal officer and that he conveyed a false threat. Sentencing is set for July 31, 2014.  At the change of plea hearing, Flener admitted that on November 2, 2012, as a detainee at the Franklin County Jail in Benton, he told a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he had knowledge of a plan by a group called “the New World Order” to disrupt Election Day on November 6, 2012, by using weapons and explosives. Specifically, Flener told and showed the FBI agent the area in which the weapons and explosives allegedly had been stored in August of 2012. Flener’s representations were false because, as Flener knew, he had no such knowledge of weapons and explosives having been stored at that location.  Flener also admitted that on November 1, 2012, he did intentionally convey false and misleading information, under circumstances where such information may reasonably have been believed. Specifically, Flener told law enforcement officers from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI that he had personal knowledge of a plan by a group called “the New World Order” to disrupt Election Day, November 6, 2012, by using weapons and explosives.  The first charge of making a false statement carries a maximum penalty of 8 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to 3 years of supervised release. The second charge of conveying a false threat carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to 3 years of supervised release.  The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Corrections, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Sheriff’s Offices of Franklin County, Williamson County, Saline County and Jackson County, and the Police Departments of Marion, West Frankfort, and Johnston City. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Coonan.

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KC Receives Grant For Dental Assisting, Radiology Clubs

Kaskaskia College is proud to announce that its Dental Assisting and Radiology Clubs have received a $1,250 grant from the South Central Illinois Area Health Education Center.  SCI-AHEC exposes the area youth to the many rewarding health care career opportunities that are available.  These opportunities are introduced through classroom presentations, science fairs, school-based health career clubs, junior volunteer programs, career fairs, rural health career camps, job shadowing, internships and career resources. It is the mission of the South Central Illinois Area Health Education Centers (SCI-AHEC) to inspire, train, recruit and retain a diverse and broad range of health professionals to practice in rural communities, where the need is greatest. It is the plan for the SCI-AHEC to help develop an interest in health professions, support them through their educational experience, recruit them back to work in the local communities and retain them for a lifetime. The Awards may be used for any club activity that will enrich or enhance undergraduate curriculum in the area of health professions.  All winners must arrange and provide a 30 minute health career presentation to a SCI-AJHEC area junior or high school class, club or camp. The Dental Assisting Club will use the grant money to help pay travel expenses to Chicago for the Chicago Midwinter Dental Meeting where the club will visit the dental exhibit hall to learn about dental products and attend a seminar training course, just for dental assistants, that gives them hands on experience on new dental products.

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STATE
Bruce Rauner Getting Cold Reception In Springfield

(Springfield, IL)  --  Bruce Rauner is getting a not so friendly welcome in Springfield.  He’s expected to make a stop in the capital city later tonight, but he’ll be met by a group of protestors.  The Alliance for Retired Americans doesn’t like the idea that Rauner wants to eliminate the defined benefits pension plan and that he’s open to the idea of taxing retirement income.  They say he has a bad rap when it comes to protecting senior citizens.  They point to several cases out of  Florida, where people died as a result of neglect in nursing homes that were tied to Rauner’s company. 

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Rauner Leads Quinn In Latest Poll

(Springfield, IL)  --  Governor Quinn may need to amp up his efforts if he wants to keep his job.  A new poll puts Bruce Rauner eight points ahead of him right now.  Gravis Marketing conducted the automated telephone poll and 43-percent of the respondents say they’re backing Rauner.  Thirty-five-percent say they’d vote for Quinn if the election were today.  But there’s no way to make the final analysis so soon, partly because more than 20-percent of the respondents still don’t know who they’re supporting.   

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Ill. Senate OKs proposal lowering probation time

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Legislation that would decrease a criminal's time on probation if they pursued further education is moving through the Illinois Legislature. The Senate passed the proposal with a 47-0 vote on Monday. The measure would offer an offender time credits for attaining higher levels of education. Offenders receiving a high school diploma or GED would take three months off their probation. Those receiving an associate's degree or vocational certificate would take four months off their probation. Those receiving a bachelor's degree would take six months off their probation. Under the proposal, an offender would lose their education credits if they violated probation conditions. State Sen. Bill Haine is sponsoring the measure. The Alton Democrat says it will encourage offenders to get an education.

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Madigan Sues Payday Loan Businesses

(Chicago, IL)  --  Attorney General Lisa Madigan is targeting payday lenders that are operating illegally.  She's filed five lawsuits against unlicensed, online lenders and a loan lead generator for offering predatory loans that trap Illinois borrowers in excessive debt loads.  Four out of the five lenders operate exclusively online, selling payday loans racked with fees that are double the amount allowed under state law.  They also allow borrowers to take out more than one loan at a time.  Madigan's lawsuits ask the court to permanently ban the defendants from the payday loan business in Illinois.

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Illinois considering east-west Amtrak route

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State lawmakers are backing the creation of an east-west passenger rail corridor across Illinois. The Illinois House unanimously approved a non-binding resolution Monday endorsing a possible Amtrak route from the Quad Cities in the west to Danville in the east. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports that the route would include stops in Galesburg, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana. No cost estimate was discussed. Republican state Rep. Don Moffitt of Gilson is sponsoring the proposal. He says the route could be an important link for college students and would offer more residents of the state an alternative to driving. The state's current Amtrak lines run from northern Illinois to southern and southwestern parts of the state between Chicago and the cities of Quincy, St. Louis and Carbondale.

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Ill. receives $22 million for wildlife restoration

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois is set to receive millions of dollars from a federal agency for fish and wildlife conservation efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that it's giving $22 million to the state. Nationwide, they're distributing more than $1 billion. Officials say the funds help improve conservation and education on fishing and hunting in the Midwest. The money comes from tax revenues on fishers, hunters, and boaters. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says they will use the money to fund current projects, including research on deer and catfish. Since 2002, deer in Illinois have been found to have diseases affecting population. The state has been taking efforts to limit the spread of the diseases. The state is also monitoring the sustainability of catfish in the Wabash River.

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Work on U of I solar field could start this year

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois officials hope work could begin later this year on a field of solar panels that will supply about 2 percent of the school's electricity. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the nearly 21-acre "solar farm" is a key part of the university's renewable energy efforts. The project had been delayed because of concerns from state officials who questioned the public-private partnership between the school and Phoenix Solar Inc. But the newspaper reports state procurement officers have signed off on the complex financial arrangement. Phoenix Solar will design, build and operate the farm for the first 10 years. After that, it will be turned over to the school. The Champaign school will spend about $1.5 million a year to buy the power that's generated from the panels.

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NATIONAL
Obama to grieve at Fort Hood

WASHINGTON (AP) — This afternoon will make two occasions now that President Barack Obama will have traveled to Fort Hood, Texas to mourn with families who've lost loved ones in a shooting at the post. Investigators are still trying to piece together why a soldier last week opened fire on his fellow soldiers, killing three people and wounding 16. In 2009, an Army psychiatrist shot and killed 13 people and wounded dozens of others.

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Report: Charges reduced for minivan in ocean case

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors in Daytona Beach say they've filed attempted second-degree murder and child abuse charges against a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove a minivan carrying her three small children into the Atlantic surf. Volusia County Sheriff's deputies initially arrested 32-year-old Ebony Wilkerson on three counts each of first-degree murder and child abuse charges following the March 4 incident. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports prosecutors wouldn't say why charges were reduced. Public Defender James Purdy said in a statement that he plans to enter not guilty pleas at Wilkerson's arraignment Thursday. He says he believes the evidence will show Wilkerson never intended to harm the children — ages 3, 9 and 10 — or herself. Beachgoers helped pull the screaming children and Wilkerson from the surf that day.

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Sentencing pending in Texas shoe stabbing trial

HOUSTON (AP) — The punishment phase begins today in the trial of a woman convicted of fatally stabbing her boyfriend with the 5 ½-inch stiletto heel of her shoe. A Texas jury is to hear further testimony before deciding her punishment. The same jury took just two hours to convict Ana Trujillo.

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Police: 1 hurt in Iowa State crowd disturbance

Authorities say an Iowa State University student was seriously injured after a crowd overturned cars and toppled light poles near the campus. It happened during an annual university celebration. Police say the crowd began gathering last night in Ames and started pelting rocks and beer cans when officers showed up. Some in the crowd overturned at least two cars and knocked down two light poles, one of which struck the person who was injured.

----------------------------------------

Presidents Honor LBJ, Civil Rights Act

(Austin, TX)  --  President Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter are honoring the late President Lyndon Johnson.  They're all speaking at this week's LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  On Tuesday, Carter said he believes the U.S. has fallen short when it comes to civil rights.  The 39th President said in his speech that there's still a "gross disparity" between white and black employment and the quality of education.  Clinton is scheduled to address the summit today.

------------------------------

Marine Sentry Shot And Killed At Camp Lejeune

(Camp Lejeune, NC)  --  Military authorities are investigating the shooting death of a Marine standing guard at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  A sentry at the camp's main gate reportedly shot and killed another Marine guard Tuesday evening.  The base says the incident is not being considered a terrorist act.  The shooting comes less than a week after a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas.

----------------------------

Popular Pro Wrestler Ultimate Warrior Dies

(Undated)  --  One of the most popular stars in professional wrestling history is dead.  World Wrestling Entertainment announced The Ultimate Warrior's death late Tuesday, just 24 hours after he appeared on WWE's "Monday Night Raw" telecast.  Last week he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  The wrestler, who was born James Brian Hellwig, retired back in 1998, but made a brief comeback in 2008.  He leaves behind a wife and two daughters.  The Ultimate Warrior was 54 years old.

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Dems call GOP-led Benghazi probe 'witch hunt'

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats say a Republican-led investigation into the deadly attack against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, is a partisan "witch hunt," and they're demanding that it end. Two congressmen — Adam Smith of Washington state and Elijah Cummings of Maryland — tell reporters that multiple inquiries and reports have answered the questions surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, assault. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. Smith says Republicans continue to press ahead in a partisan attempt to embarrass the Obama administration. Cummings says the GOP is engaged in a game of "political gotcha." Republicans, who control the House, insist there are unresolved issues and they have a responsibility to fulfill their oversight role.

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Doc: 'Life-threatening' wounds in school stabbings

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A doctor says some victims of a multiple stabbing at a high school near Pittsburgh have suffered injuries classified as life-threatening, though all are expected to survive. Dr. Chris Kaufman says two victims were in the operating room and one was awaiting surgery at Forbes Regional Medical Center, a few miles from Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Officials say four students were believed to be the most seriously injured Wednesday morning by a fellow student who stabbed or slashed others, injuring as many as 20. Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens says not all of the 20 injured were cut by the knife, though most were. Some suffered scrapes and cuts in the mayhem that ensued. The suspect, a male student, was taken into custody and being questioned.

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DHS secretary reevaluating deportation priorities

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he's re-evaluating the Obama administration's deportation priorities to make sure they're focused on national security, public safety and border security. Johnson spoke Wednesday after a closed-door meeting with Latino members of Congress who've been pressuring the administration to scale back the high number of deportations since President Barack Obama took office. Activists contend many people deported pose no threat. With comprehensive immigration legislation stalled in the House, Obama announced last month that Johnson would be conducting a review to see if deportation practices can be more humane. Johnson's meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was to discuss that review and hear the group's recommendations. The lawmakers want Obama to shield certain low-risk groups of immigrants from deportation, such as parents of U.S. citizen children.

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Obama to attend NYC Sharpton conference

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Al Sharpton is holding his annual civil rights conference after revelations about his cooperation with the FBI in the 1980s. Sharpton has admitted that he helped the FBI investigate New York Mafia figures. He even made secret recordings that appeared to help bring down a mob boss. But he says he didn't consider himself to be an informant. That admission came a day before Wednesday's launch of the annual National Action Network conference in Manhattan. This year's event is drawing President Barack Obama, who is slated to speak Friday. Attorney General Eric Holder is appearing Wednesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio opened the conference Wednesday by saying he was "proud to stand with" Sharpton. He says that Sharpton's work gets more powerful with time.

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UMass basketball player Gordon comes out as gay

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon says in a televised interview that he is gay. Gordon made the announcement on ESPN on Wednesday, becoming the first openly gay player in Division I men's basketball. The guard was the Minutemen's fourth-leading scorer with 9.4 points per game last season, when UMass reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. A transfer from Western Kentucky, Gordon played at high school powerhouse St. Patrick in New Jersey. Gordon says he was inspired by NBA player Jason Collins and NFL prospect Michael Sam, who came out within the past year. He says: "I want to be myself. I don't want to hide and be someone I'm not."

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INTERNATINOAL

Pistorius urged to look at photo of dead lover

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial has urged the athlete to "take responsibility" for fatally shooting his girlfriend, pushing him to look at a police photograph of Reeva Steenkamp's bloodied head that was displayed in court. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Wednesday that Steenkamp's head "exploded" when it was struck by one of four bullets that Pistorius fired through a closed toilet door in his home last year. The photograph showed a sideview of Steenkamp's head, with a mass of blood and human tissue on the back and upper parts. Her eyes were closed. Nel said: "It's time that you look at it." Pistorius appeared distraught, saying he didn't have to look because he was at the scene when Steenkamp died.

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Russia threatens Ukraine on gas supply

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin has threatened that Russia's state-owned gas company could ask Ukraine to pay for gas in advance, according to Russian state news agencies. In a meeting Wednesday with government ministers, Putin said that asking for advance payments "corresponded with the contract" between Ukraine and Russia, but asked that state energy giant Gazprom refrain from such drastic measures until "additional consultations" between both sides. Russia has tightened the economic screws on Ukraine since its Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power in February after months of street protests. Last week, Gazprom said it would be scrapping all discounts on gas to Ukraine, meaning a 70 percent price hike that will add to Ukraine's $2.2 billion in gas arrears.

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Official says vote was successful, but not free of fraud

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan election official says national elections held last weekend were a success in terms of turnout and enthusiasm but he cautions that the amount of fraud was not insignificant. Wednesday's announcement came as ballots are still being counted. Millions of Afghans voted for a new president and provincial councils in what promises to be the country's first democratic transfer of power. Abdul Satar Sadaat, of the electoral complaints commission, said Wednesday that "election fraud did take place and it might not have been a small amount." He says the commission received more than 3,000 complaints of possible fraud and promises to invalidate all votes cast irregularly. Widespread fraud marred the 2009 presidential elections and authorities took precautions to prevent that from reoccurring.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 7, Cincinnati 5
Pittsburgh 7, Chicago Cubs 6
Chicago White Sox 15, Colorado 3

NHL

Washington 4, St. Louis 1

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Cincinnati at St. Louis 12:45 p.m. (94.1 FM WMIX, pre-game at 11:50 a.m.)
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs 7:05 p.m.
Chicago White Sox at Colorado 2:10 p.m.

NBA

Chicago at Minnesota 7 p.m.

NHL

Montreal at Chicago 6:30 p.m.

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News For Apr. 8, 2014

LOCAL
Train Fire In Kell

Kell Firefighters were called Monday morning to a report of a locomotive on fire. According to Kell Fire Chief Lonnie McDaneld, firefighters responded to a Union Pacific locomotive crossing at Kell Road. McDaneld says the train suffered extensive damage when an motor caught fire in the locomotive’s engine compartment. The call came in at 6:38 Monday morning, and firefighters remained on the scene for approximately one hour.

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Mt. Vernon City Council Meets

Mt. Vernon City Council met last night.  Among the items on the agenda, the Council approved a low bid of $19,415.00 for a uniform/floor mats contract from Clean Uniform Company.  The City Attorney gave a second reading on an ordinance rezoning property located at 1714 North Street from the zoning classification R-3 to I-1 for Jefferson County Habitat For Humanity, which was approved, as well as a resolution reclassifying certain public utilities and sanitation accounts for accounting purposes, which was also approved.  Mayor Chesley signed a proclamation for National Telecommunicator's Week and presented for the re-appointment of Sherry Meadows to the Mt. Venon City Housing Authority Board, which was approved by the Council.

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Perry County Man Sentenced For Methamphetamine Conspiracy

On April 3, 2014, Ty W. Dusch, 50, of DuQuoin, was sentenced in United States District Court in Benton on a one-count indictment charging conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, announced Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Dusch, who had previously pled guilty to the methamphetamine offense, was sentenced to 96 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and fined $200. The offense occurred between 2011 and June 2013 in Jackson and Perry Counties. Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings established that Dusch and others were obtaining pseudoephedrine for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. When officers executed a search warrant at a Murphysboro residence where Dusch was staying, they located methamphetamine and methamphetamine-making materials. At sentencing, the district court found that Dusch was responsible for 371.26 grams of pseudoephedrine. The district court increased Dusch’s sentence because Dusch violated the terms of his pre-trial bond. The investigation was conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Murphysboro Police Department, and Drug Enforcement Administration. The DuQuoin Police Department also assisted in the investigation. The case was assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Amanda A. Robertson for prosecution.

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Moments Of Silence For Slain Fort Hood Soldier

(Springfield, IL) -- State lawmakers are calling Army Sergeant Timothy Owens a hero. He was killed when a gunman opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas last week. He grew up in Effingham, which is in Representative David Reis‘s district. Lawmakers held a moment of silence for Owens today and flags are flying at half-staff across the state in his honor. Owens had been in the Army for ten years. He just got married last August. He’ll be laid to rest in Effingham later this week.

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Disgraced Illinois judge awaits prison assignment

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A disgraced Illinois judge at the center of a courthouse drug scandal is getting time to square away things before serving a two-year sentence on heroin and gun convictions. But exactly where Michael Cook will spend his time behind bars remains murky. A filing by U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade shows the former St. Clair County judge must surrender by May 28 to whatever lockup the Federal Bureau of Prisons slots for him. McDade also recommends that Cook be placed in a prison in Florida, Alabama or South Carolina. Cook was sentenced last month. He resigned last year. He was charged after the cocaine-overdose death of a fellow judge while the two were at the Cook family's hunting cabin.

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Four Charged In Meth Probe

(Effingham, IL)  --  Four people are facing criminal charges following a drug investigation.  Effingham County authorities say the suspects were arraigned on Monday and are all being held on bail.  The arrests happened shortly after deputies picked up meth making material from a residence in rural Shumway.

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East St. Louis Man Sentenced For Firearm Offense

Phillip S. Miller, 23, of East St. Louis, Illinois, was sentenced on April 4, 2014, in federal district court, in East St. Louis, Illinois, on one count of possession of a stolen firearm, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today.  Miller was sentenced to 8 months in prison, two years supervised release, fined $500, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. Miller pled guilty on November 15, 2013. A parole compliance check conducted by law enforcement officials at Miller’s home on January 15, 2013, led to the discovery of a Glock, model 22, .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol in a bedroom he occupied. Miller admitted to purchasing the firearm from a drug addict off the streets. The gun was reported stolen out of Clinton County in April 2012.  This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Special Assistant United States Attorney Neal C. Hong prosecuted the case.

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Illinois State Police District 13 Announces Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Detail

DuQuoin -- Illinois State Police (ISP), District 13, will conduct commercial motor vehicle
(CMV) enforcement patrols in Jefferson and Williamson Counties through today. Statewide, the ISP has been focused on aggressive enforcement and public awareness campaigns to educate drivers and motorists on Scott's Law and CMV driver safety. The ISP is working in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to reduce commercial motor vehicle related crashes and fatalities on Illinois highways. Fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicles are often attributed to fatigued or unqualified drivers operating in an unsafe manner. The ISP will check for moving violations, logbook hours of service compliance and vehicle equipment safety. Additionally, officers will strictly enforce Scott’s Law (Move Over Law), which requires drivers to move over and slow down when approaching emergency vehicle. “Public safety is our number one goal during this enforcement detail,” said Lieutenant Brad Lacey. “ISP and IDOT are working together to raise awareness and reduce the number of fatalities statewide.” Officials also stressed that fines have increased to $120.00 for failing to move over for an emergency vehicle.

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Benton man Arrested For Felony Drug Charges

A Benton man is facing felony drug charges following a weekend arrest in Franklin County.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputies were serving arrest warrants around 7 Saturday evening, and in the process, found 22 year old Bradley Murphy to allegedly be in possession of a controlled substance. Murphy was taken to the Franklin County Jail.

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Gov. Quinn Gives To Downstate Counties For Construction

As the spring thaw begins, Governor Pat Quinn announced $100 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! construction program to repair municipal and township infrastructure throughout the state.  The funding will help communities throughout Illinois combat potholes and make other critical infrastructure repairs following the historic winter weather Illinois faced.  The announcement includes approximately $4.6 million for local governments in Bond, Clinton, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, Saint Clair and Washington Counties.  Jefferson County will receive $85,588.  Townships within the county will receive a total of $200,713 and municipalities will share a total of $96, 289.

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STATE
Rauner campaign blasts Quinn, Vallas over new job

CHICAGO (AP) — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is taking heat over his running mate's new job. Paul Vallas is joining DSI Civic Financial Restructuring, a Chicago-based firm specializing in government restructuring and reorganization. The company's CEO is Bill Brandt, whom Quinn re-appointed chairman of the Illinois Finance Authority. State records show Brandt gave Quinn's campaign $100,000 in December. John Filan, who was budget director under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is the company's vice president. Mike Schrimpf is spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. He called the hire a "Blagojevich-style move" — a reference to now-imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play politics. But Brandt told the Chicago Sun-Times he's never spoken to Quinn or his staff about Vallas. Quinn said Monday if Brandt and Vallas want to work together "that's up to them."

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Illinois Senate passes sexual assault proposal

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers have advanced legislation changing the statute of limitations for prosecuting some sexual assaults. The proposal passed the state Senate on Monday without opposition. Under the measure, the amount of time it takes for a DNA evidence kit to be entered into a state police database would not count against the timeframe for prosecuting sexual assaults. Currently, sexual assaults must be prosecuted within 10 years after being reported. But that deadline could be extended if rape kits aren't immediately submitted for testing. State Sen. Michael Noland sponsored the bill after the discovery of years-old, untested rape kits in a suburban Chicago police station. Opponents argue the proposal would lessen the incentive for police to test kits quickly. The proposal now moves to the House.

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Ill. Senate OKs adding animals to protected list

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State lawmakers have approved a proposal that would add three animals to the list of protected species in Illinois. The Senate on Monday passed a measure to include black bears, gray wolves and mountain lions on a 47-0 vote. State Sen. Linda Holmes is sponsoring the legislation. The Democrat from Aurora says it would protect these species and the farmers who could be affected as these animals return to their natural habitat in Illinois. The bill warns that the animals could be killed if they threatened a landowners' property or livestock. Researchers at Southern Illinois University say about seven gray wolves, four mountain lions and two black bears have been spotted in the state since 2000. The measure moves to the House for further consideration.

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Study:  State Income Tax Cut Won't Benefit Small Business

(Springfield, IL)  --  An area group says that if the temporary state income tax increase expires small businesses will be devastated.  The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, which backs a progressive income tax, released a study that shows property taxes are a bigger stumbling block for businesses than income taxes.  CTBA director Ralph Martire says the group's study shows that corporate income taxes add up to just eight percent of the business tax burden in Illinois.  Meanwhile, property taxes account for nearly 40 percent of the taxes paid by businesses.

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Illinois residents warned about ATM scam

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois attorney general is warning residents about hackers gaining unauthorized access to bank accounts and illegally withdrawing money from ATMS. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the warning follows a report by federal banking regulators that there has been an increase in the number of illegal withdrawals from banks. Authorities say criminals are engaged in sophisticated scams that involve obtaining bank employee login information. They then create fraudulent ATM cards and delete or alter systems that alert banks to unusual ATM activity. Madigan's office says residents should monitor bank and credit card accounts daily and report any unauthorized charges or other activity.

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Quinn Open To Gambling Expansion

(Chicago, IL)  --  Governor Quinn seems to be a bit more open to the idea of gambling expansion this year. He says he’ll strongly consider signing a bill that has some fundamental principles. Quinn has vetoed expansion bills twice in the past few years.  But he says he and lawmakers have made some lee-way on their major points of contention, which really stems round ownership of the Chicago casino.  The current gambling bill would allow a state-owned casino in Chicago plus others in Rockford, Danville, Lake County and a south suburb of Chicago.  It would also allow gaming at most horse racing tracks.  

-----------------------------------

U of I Professor Not Surprised By Term Limits Poll

(Springfield, IL)  --  A new poll reveals nearly 80-percent of Illinois voters want lawmakers to be limited in how much time they can serve in Springfield.  University of Illinois political science professor Chris Mooney says he’s not surprised by that number. Mooney says term limits may not live up to what voters think it might be.  For example, he says it won’t necessarily deliver a citizen legislature, if that’s what they’re hoping for.  And in fact, he says term limits could make lobbyists or governors much stronger. 

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NATIONAL
American imprisoned in Cuba begins hunger strike

WASHINGTON (AP) — An American imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years is on a hunger strike. Alan Gross has released a statement through his attorney saying he began fasting to protest his treatment by the governments of Cuba and the United States. Gross was arrested in Cuba in 2009 while working quietly to set up Internet access for the island's small Jewish community. At the time, Gross was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government's U.S. Agency for International Development.

-----------------------------------

USAID chief to face questions on 'Cuban Twitter'

WASHINGTON (AP) — The administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development will appear on Capitol Hill today to answer questions about his agency's secret "Cuban Twitter." An Association Press investigation revealed last week that USAID oversaw the creation of a social media network to stir unrest in the communist nation. Lawmakers want to know if the program endangered its users by hiding that the U.S. government was behind the program.

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Unemployment benefits bill headed to House

WASHINGTON (AP) — Election-year legislation to resume long-term jobless benefits is headed to the House, where a small band of dissident Republicans wants Speaker John Boehner to permit a vote on resuming aid to more than 2 million victims of the Great Recession. The outlook remains cloudy, though, for legislation that took three months to move through the Senate before it passed Monday, 59-38. The White House-backed measure would retroactively restore benefits that were cut off in late December, and maintain them through the end of May. As many as 2.3 million jobless workers have been denied assistance since the law expired. If renewed, the aid would total about $256 weekly, and in most cases go to men and women who have been off the job for longer than six months.

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Railroads stress safety after deaths up in 2013

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — "See Tracks? Think Train." That's what railroads are trying to hammer into people. With the number of trespassing deaths on train tracks up 11 percent last year and the number of deaths from accidents up 8 percent, railroads have launched Operation Lifesaver, to highlight the dangers of being near train tracks. The campaign's Joyce Rose says she thinks the increase might be a reflection of how distracted Americans can be because of smartphones and other electronic devices.

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Obama, Senate Democrats take aim at gender pay gap

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress are making a concerted election-year push to draw attention to women's wages. They are linking Obama's executive actions with pending Senate legislation aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men. Today, Obama plans to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay. He also was to direct the Labor Department to issue new rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data that includes a breakdown by race and gender. The Democratic-controlled Senate this week planned to take up legislation that would make it easier for workers to sue companies for paying women less than men because of gender. Republicans were expected to block the vote, which will likely be on Wednesday.

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Only 2 midsize SUVs get top rating in crash tests

DETROIT (AP) — Only two of nine midsize SUVs got the highest rating in crash tests done by an insurance industry group. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says General Motors' Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain received its highest, or "good," rating. The Toyota Highlander got the second-best "acceptable" rating in tests of 2014 models. The institute says the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer got "marginal" ratings, while the Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9 and Honda Pilot all were rated "poor." The SUVs generally performed well on six crash tests done by the institute, but only the Equinox and Terrain got "good" ratings in a front overlap crash. That test mimics what happens when a car's front corner collides with another vehicle or an object like a utility pole.

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FDNY: 8 injured by falling shelves at dollar store

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Fire Department says eight people were injured, seven seriously, when packed shelving units collapsed at a Bronx dollar store. It happened around 3:45 p.m. Monday at Discount Outlet in the Melrose neighborhood. Fire officials say the collapsing shelves created a cascading effect, burying people under piles of merchandise. Firefighters had to remove the goods by hand and cart them onto the sidewalk. A fire department spokesman says there was no structural damage to the building. He says none of the injuries, which included broken bones, is considered life-threatening. The injured were taken to Lincoln Hospital in stable condition. More than 60 firefighters responded to the scene. The fire department says the cause of the shelving collapse is under investigation.

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IMF: World economy is stronger but faces threats

WASHINGTON (AP) — The global economy is strengthening but faces threats from super-low inflation and outflows of capital from emerging economies, the International Monetary Fund warns. The lending organization expects the global economy to grow 3.6 percent this year and 3.9 percent in 2015, up from 3 percent last year. Those figures are one-tenth of a percentage point below the IMF's previous forecasts in January. The IMF, in its World Economic Outlook report, makes no changes to its forecasts for U.S. growth, which it estimates at 2.8 percent this year and 3 percent in 2015. The 188-nation IMF and its sister organization, the World Bank, will hold their spring meetings in Washington this weekend. Finance ministers and central bank governors from the Group of 20 leading economic powers will meet on Thursday.

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Volkswagen expansion talks at standstill in Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Expansion talks at Volkswagen's lone U.S. plant have ground to a halt amid disagreements about the role of organized labor at the Tennessee factory. An acrimonious vote at the Chattanooga plant in February was a narrow defeat for the United Auto Workers union. Since then, the union has challenged the outcome of the vote with the National Labor Relations Board; a top labor representative on Volkswagen's supervisory board has denounced the actions of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam; and the governor has suggested the state has been unable to negotiate incentives with a VW official with final decision-making power. State incentives for expanding the plant would have to be approved by the state Legislature, which is preparing to adjourn for the year in the next few weeks.

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American, US Airways tweak fees, mileage rules

DALLAS (AP) — If you use miles to get a free ticket on American Airlines, you may have to pay to check your suitcase. American and US Airways announced changes Tuesday to their policies on checked-bag fees and redeeming miles for free flights. Passengers traveling on American on miles they earned or who paid full price for an economy seat won't get to check two bags for free anymore. Some elite-level frequent fliers on both airlines will get one less free bag than before. As for redeeming miles for free flights, US Airways is ending blackout days. American will change the number of miles to get an unrestricted free flight — more on popular travel days, fewer on less-busy ones. The two carriers merged in December and formed American Airlines Group Inc.

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INTERNATIONAL
Pistorius gives his account of the shooting

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — It's been an emotional day on the witness stand for Oscar Pistorius at his trial in South Africa in the shooting death of his girlfriend. The double-amputee track star broke down in sobs and howls while testifying today, forcing the court to adjourn. Pistorius was describing the moments he said he first realized that he had shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door in his home last year. He has said he mistook her for an intruder. Prosecutors say he shot her deliberately after an argument. Pistorius testified today that he heard a window open in his bathroom in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2013, causing him to believe intruders had entered his house. He said "that's the moment when everything changed."

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No sounds since the weekend

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Faint sounds heard deep in the Indian Ocean, possibly from the missing Malaysian jetliner's black boxes, have faded the past two days. One worry is that the boxes' batteries have run down. Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who is heading the search, says it'll go on for a few more days before an autonomous submarine is deployed to search for a debris field.

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Afghan suspect in AP shootings sent to Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A senior Afghan official says the policeman who opened fire on two Associated Press journalists, killing one and seriously wounding the other, has been transferred to Kabul as Afghan authorities step up the investigation. The police chief of Khost province, where the shootings occurred, says the Interior Ministry sent two helicopters on Tuesday to take the suspect, identified as a unit commander named Naqibullah, to the Afghan capital. Police chief Faizullah Ghyrat says he was in the car that took Naqibullah, whose hands and feet were bound by chains, to the Khost airport. AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus died instantly on Friday. AP reporter Kathy Gannon, who was with her, was wounded and has been moved to Germany for further medical evaluation. The police officer surrendered to colleagues after the shootings.

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Syria: Iran sends 30,000 tons of food

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian state media say Iran has sent 30,000 tons of food supplies to help President Bashar Assad's government deal with shortages amid civil war. State TV said Tuesday that the massive shipment has arrived at a port on the Mediterranean Sea. The aid is part of Iran's broader support for Assad as he prepares to run for a third presidential term while his troops fight rebels trying to oust him. Iran has been Assad's major backer, lending Damascus military support through its proxy Hezbollah group and advising the government on strategy to fight the opposition. Tehran has also been pumping funds into Syria to save the country's battered economy from collapsing. Last May, Iran opened a credit line of $3.6 billion for Syria, enabling Assad's government to buy oil products.

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Israel prevents Olympic runner from leaving Gaza for marathon

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's high court has upheld a decision by the military to prevent a Gaza Olympian from leaving the coastal strip to participate in a marathon in the West Bank. Israel has severely restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas took control there in 2007. The closure policy is also enforced by Gaza's neighbor Egypt. Tuesday's ruling ends hopes of 34-year-old Nader Masri to participate in Friday's marathon in biblical Bethlehem. Masri, who participated in the 2008 Olympics, says he is disappointed because he hoped to compete against runners outside Gaza. Israel says only humanitarian hardship cases are allowed to leave Gaza. The judges say they cannot interfere in the military's decisions but that it should consider easing the travel ban.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 5, Cincinnati 3
Colorado 8, Chicago White Sox 1

NASCAR

Duck Commander 500  (at Fort Worth, TX)

1. Joey Logano
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Kyle Busch

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Cincinnati at St. Louis 7:15 p.m. (94.1 FM WMIX, pregame at 6:20 p.m.)
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs 7:05 pm.
Chicago White Sox at Colorado 7:40 p.m.

NHL

Washington at St. Louis 7 p.m.

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Illinois House OKs IHSA hearings

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House has narrowly approved legislative hearings looking into how the Illinois High School Association operates. The House on Monday approved legislation 55-51 from state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia. The non-profit association organizes high school sports championships statewide. Chapa LaVia says she wants to question the IHSA about sponsorship contracts and other financial issues because it receives taxpayer money. The Aurora Democrat says she doesn't want the state to take over the association. She says she wants accountability and transparency. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a statement that the association will cooperate. He says the IHSA has been a "model of transparency" and the measure has unfairly cast the association in a "negative light."

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News For Apr. 7, 2014

LOCAL
Air Force: Illinois air base to lose 99 jobs

MASCOUTAH, Ill. (AP) — The Air Force says roughly 100 jobs are being phased out in a unit that provides technical services at a southwestern Illinois air base. The Air Force Network Integration Center cuts at Scott Air Force Base involve 99 positions. Fifty-three of them are civilian jobs. Air Force spokesman Andy Roake says the eliminations expected to take place through 2015 are due to budget constraints. The jobs include middle-level management, staff and policy consultation positions. The Air Force recently announced plans to cut 22,500 positions this year. The Scott base is about 25 miles east of St. Louis.

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Illinois prison lock down to continue amid search

CHESTER, Ill. (AP) — A state prison spokesman says the lockdown of Illinois' largest maximum security prison will continue "for days" after a cache of crude weapons and homemade alcohol was found there. Tom Shaer said Sunday that the lockdown won't be lifted until a thorough search is completed of the Menard Correctional Center southeast of St. Louis. The prison has been on lockdown since Friday's discovery of more than a dozen weapons along with gallons of homemade alcohol and juice and sugar used to make liquor. Shaer says besides the search, investigators are trying to determine how the inmates managed to hoard the items. Shaer says there is no indication any weapons have been used recently at the prison or that inmates have been drinking homemade liquor.

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Man accused in woman's death returned to Illinois

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A man accused of killing a Missouri woman has been returned to southern Illinois to face charges of first-degree murder. WSIL-TV reports that 28-year-old Brandon Banks is jailed in Jackson County after challenging extradition from St. Louis. That's where he was arrested in January two days after the body of 40-year-old Marsha Ann Brown was found in tall weeds on a small embankment near Makanda. Banks and the victim are both from Cape Girardeau, Mo. Banks was returned to Illinois on Friday. He is jailed on $1 million bond. Online court records do not show whether Banks has an attorney.

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Fayette County towns still recovering from tornado

ST. ELMO, Ill. (AP) — A lot has been said about towns having lost much during the November tornadoes. However, there have been a lot more towns indicating that cleanup and repairs are still going on five months after those tornadoes struck. Fayette County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator Kendra Cray says debris removal has been the biggest challenge in Brownstown and St. Elmo. Tornadoes struck the towns in November. Cray tells the Effingham Daily News that her office has been working to educate residents as tornado seasons returns. She says they're starting efforts with children because "if we can prepare them, they prepare the parents." St. Elmo has about 1,400 residents and Brownstown has about 750 residents. The towns are about 80 miles southeast of Springfield.

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Ex-Ill. casino boat fetches $600,000 at auction

WOOD RIVER, Ill. (AP) — The former riverboat that once served as the Casino Queen along East St. Louis' riverfront is under new ownership. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that federal marshals on Friday auctioned off the vessel called White Star One for $600,000. There were 14 bids during the sale that lasted just five minutes and opened with a $200,000 bid. Gerald Smallwood was one of the three bidders and represented a Florida man who had the winning offer. It's not immediately clear what that buyer — a former shipyard owner who owns riverfront properties in Kentucky — plans to do with the vessel. The White Star has languished since the Casino Queen operation moved inland a few years ago.

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State of Illinois Spends To Improve Parks

The state of Illinois will spend $16.5 million for improvements to local parks and open space projects.  Governor Pat Quinn announced the funding Saturday during an event in Chicago.  It's funded through the state's real estate transfer tax, which is imposed on every Illinois property sale.  The $16.5 million will go toward projects in 21 Illinois counties.  This includes Mount Vernon receiving $400,000 for Lincoln Park and Belleville receiving $298,600 for Bicentennial Park improvements.  Local governments must contribute at least half of the project's total cost.  Quinn says parks help make Illinois a great place to live.  He also says the money will allow more families to get outdoors and promote healthy lifestyles.

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Protest Held Against Anti-Gay Billboard

(Herrin, IL)  --  A civil right group plans to conduct more protests of an anti-gay billboard that recently went up in Herrin.  Officials with Crusaders for Equality held a demonstration on Saturday.  They say the message on the sign is degrading to the gay community, and also to single mothers and fathers.  The billboard is sponsored by Herrin-based Church Without Walls.  A spokesman says the billboards aren't focused on hate or an attack on the gay community, but supports biblical principles.

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STATE
Quinn's running mate takes new consulting job


CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois lieutenant governor candidate Paul Vallas has taken a new job with a Chicago-based consulting firm. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn selected Vallas as his 2014 running mate last year. At the time, Vallas was school superintendent in Bridgeport, Conn. He left that job earlier this year after a two-year tenure in which critics pushed for his ouster. Izabela Miltko is spokeswoman for the Quinn campaign. She confirmed Saturday Vallas has taken a part-time consulting job with DSI Civic Financial Restructuring. The company specializes in government and municipal restructuring and reorganization. Its vice president is John Filan, Illinois' former chief operating officer. Vallas is the former Chicago Public Schools CEO. Quinn and Vallas face Republican Bruce Rauner and running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti in the November general election.

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Study: Illinois shouldn't force consolidation

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A commission concludes Illinois lawmakers should make it easier to reduce local government boards and agencies but shouldn't force communities to do so if they don't want to. The Illinois Legislature created the Local Government Consolidation Commission to examine whether it's necessary for the state to have nearly 7,000 units of local government. That's more than any state in the country. Many critics have long said reducing the number of local government units would cut property taxes. But the commission doesn't conclude that. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that the commission found that Illinois might want to follow the lead of other states where local government units cooperate with each other and share resources.

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Ill. House OKs lower-cost hunting bill for seniors

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A proposal that would lower the cost of fishing and hunting licenses for seniors is moving through the Illinois Legislature. The House passed a measure on Friday that would lower the cost of licenses by $1 for those 75 and older. Those hoping to save a little money must also be enrolled in the Benefits Access Program with the Illinois Department on Aging. The proposal also eliminates the fee to receive pheasant, furbearer, and habitat or migratory fowl stamps for hunters. For fishermen, the fees for inland trout and salmon stamps are eliminated. Marengo Democratic Rep. Jack Franks is sponsoring the legislation that he says will ensure seniors can enjoy the state's outdoors. The proposal now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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Firefighters Battle Three Blazes Within One Hour

(Springfield, IL)  --  Springfield Fire Department officials are resting after battling three weekend fires that took place within the span of one hour. Fire Chief Ken Fustin told the "State Journal Register" that 40 of the 49 firefighters on staff  worked the multiple blazes on Sunday afternoon. The first fire happened at the home of a realtor, who was doing some refinishing work in the kitchen. Fumes reportedly got into an ignition source, which caused a flash fire.  No one was hurt.  The second fire was ruled arson and two suspects have been charged. The third fire is under investigation.

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Growth Remains Slow In Illinois

The growth remains slow, says the author of the University of Illinois Flash Index. Economics professor Fred Giertz says the measure of the state's economy, considering personal income, consumer spending, and corporate earnings, shows growth continues to outpace contraction, though the index has slipped from 106.8 in February to 106.5 in March. “The winter, obviously, was pretty harsh,” he said, “and it may be that there will be some pick-up after the spring starts. The decline might be just a weather-related sort of thing, but it’s not a major decline to begin with.” Giertz points out Illinois’ unemployment remains stubbornly above the national rate by about 2 percentage points.

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Bill Would Close Schools That Host Polling Places On Election Days

Lawmakers in Springfield want schools that double as polling places to close on election days. The House of Representatives passed a bill encouraging schools to schedule a teacher in-service day on Election Day. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) sponsored the bill and says it should be an easy decision for school boards. “Schools schedule these in-service days years in advance, elections are clearly scheduled years in advance,” said Cassidy. “[So] there is no problem with making clear that, when you know you are going to be scheduled as a polling place, one of your many in-service days can be scheduled on that Tuesday.” Cassidy says the measure keeps kids safe by keeping them at home and protects the rights of voters who were being asked to show ID to enter some schools. That may be school policy but it is also against election law. The measure now moves to the Illinois Senate.

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New Scott's Law Measure Has More Stringent Penalties

(Springfield, IL)  --  Illinois lawmakers are working to increase the penalty for motorist who violate Scott's Law.  The legislation requires drivers to yield to emergency vehicles that have their flashers going. State Representative Mike Bost says he supports a bill that will increase fines from a maximum of one thousand to ten thousand dollars.  If the violation results in a death, the driver could be charged with a felony and serve jail time. The bill passed in the Illinois House unanimously on Friday and now is headed for the Senate.

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NATIONAL
Senate Expected To Approve Jobless Aid Extension

(Washington, DC)  --  The Senate is expected to pass an extension of longterm unemployment benefits today.  However, the bipartisan measure faces a rocky road in the House.  The Senate bill extends longterm jobless aid for more than two-million Americans for several months.  Longterm benefits expired in late December.  Republican House Speaker John Boehner [[ BAY-nur ]] has said he will oppose any extension of longterm jobless aid unless it includes incentives for more job creation.

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McCaskill: GM Covered Up

(Jefferson City, MO)  --  One U.S. senator says General Motors covered up ignition-switch problems.  Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri also hinted to ABC's "This Week" about possible criminal proceedings in the future.  Last week GM CEO Mary Barra apologized at a Senate hearing for the company not taking action on faulty ignition switches.  GM has recalled over two-million vehicles for ignition-switch problems.

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California College Party Turns Into A Riot, 100 Arrested

(Isla Vista, CA)  --  Up to 100 people could be facing charges following a Saturday riot during a Southern California street party.  Authorities say some members of the crowd threw bottles, bricks and rocks at police, injuring three officers.  Dozens of party-goers were taken to the hospital.  The annual party known as Deltopia drew an estimated 15-thousand people to the beach community of Isla Vista near Santa Barbara.

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Survey: Health insurance gains pick up

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major new survey finds that a growing percentage of Americans gained health insurance as sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law drew to a close. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index finds that the share of adults without health insurance dropped from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent for the first three months of 2014. That would translate roughly to more than 3.5 million uninsured people gaining coverage. The trend accelerated in March, as the enrollment deadline loomed. The polling firm says the results indicate that the health care law appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the share of Americans with health insurance. Gallup surveyed more than 43,500 adults from January 2 to March 31.

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Air travel: Late flights are up, complaints down

DALLAS (AP) — Researchers say airline performance is getting worse but consumer complaints to the government are falling just the same. Academics who study the airline industry say carriers are falling behind schedule more often and mishandling more bags but in spite of that, consumer complaints last year dropped 15 percent. Most of the worst grades were earned by smaller regional airlines.

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Obama tests work policies on federal contractors

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is using the federal government's vast array of contractors and subcontractors as a labor policy incubator. He is sidestepping Congress to set workplace rules on wages, pay disparities and hiring in a segment of the private sector that gets taxpayer money and falls under his control. Obama plans this week to issue an order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay and will direct the Labor Department to issue new rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data that includes a breakdown by race and gender. The Senate this week is scheduled to take up gender pay equity legislation that would affect all employers, but the White House-backed bill doesn't have enough Republican support to overcome procedural obstacles.

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Mickey Rooney dies at age 93

LOS ANGELES (AP) — His career spanned more than 80 years, from silent comedies to TV and Broadway theater. Mickey Rooney died Sunday at his home in North Hollywood. He was 93. Rooney started his career in his parents' vaudeville act while still a toddler, and he broke into movies before age 10. Rooney won two special Academy Awards for his film achievements. He was married eight times, including to the glamorous Ava Gardner.

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High court rejects new campaign finance case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to century-old bans on campaign contributions by corporations. The justices turned away an appeal without comment Monday from Iowa Right to Life, less than a week after they struck down overall limits in federal law on contributions from the wealthiest donors to candidates for president and Congress, as well as political parties. Iowa Right to Life asked the court to hold that corporations have the same constitutional free speech rights as individuals to make campaign contributions.

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Court rejects early appeal of surveillance ruling

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined an early look at a constitutional challenge to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records. Conservative lawyer Larry Klayman persuaded a federal judge in December to rule that the agency's activities likely violate the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. The justices on Monday rejected Klayman's unusual request to bypass the traditional appeals process and hear the case immediately. Klayman says the case is too important to wait for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reach a decision. The district court judge granted an injunction against the NSA, but put it on hold pending a government appeal. The Obama administration has defended the NSA program as a crucial tool against terrorism.

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High Court declines appeal over NM gay bias case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a commercial photography business in New Mexico that objects to taking pictures of same-sex wedding ceremonies. The justices on Monday left in place a state Supreme Court ruling that said Elane Photography violated a state anti-discrimination law when it refused to work for a same-sex couple who wanted pictures of their commitment ceremony. Elane Photography co-owner Elaine Huguenin said taking the photos would violate her religious beliefs. She said she also has a right of artistic expression under the First Amendment that allows her to choose what pictures to take, or refrain from taking.

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Scattered flooding as storms drench the Southeast

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Authorities say severe thunderstorms punching across the Southeast have forced the evacuation of an Alabama mobile home park as heavy rains cause scattered flooding and power outages and snarl rush hour commutes. The vast storm system swept across Mississippi and central Alabama early Monday and then rolled into Georgia. In Alabama's Shelby County, sheriff's deputies say they helped evacuate residents of the mobile home park because of rising waters. Some roads in Birmingham became impassable due to heavy rainfall, and WBMA-TV reports that firefighters helped a motorist stranded in rising water. In Mississippi, emergency officials say a 9-year-old girl is missing in the Yazoo City area after apparently being swept away by floodwaters. The National Weather Service has issued flash flood and severe thunderstorm warnings around the region.

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Connecticut, Kentucky meet for the title

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Kentucky and Connecticut each had their final practice of the season as they prepared for the NCAA men's basketball title game tonight near Dallas. The Wildcats advanced with Saturday's 74-73 win over Wisconsin after the Huskies ended Florida's 30-game winning streak, 63-53. The title game appears evenly matched, with both teams shooting around 45 percent for the season and outscoring their opponents by 8 ½ points.

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INTERNATIONAL
Malaysia says 'cautiously hopeful'

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — An Australian official is calling it the "most promising lead" since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8. The joint agency coordinating the search for the plane says U.S. Navy equipment on an Australian navy ship has twice detected sounds from the southern Indian Ocean that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's data recorders. Officials say it could take days to make a confirmation. The batteries in the black boxes run out after about 30 days, and the plane vanished March 8, so searchers are in a race against time to locate the devices.

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US: Israelis, Palestinians meet to revive talks

JERUSALEM (AP) — The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem says Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met to try and overcome a "crisis" in the troubled peace talks. A statement from the mission says the two sides met late Sunday and asked the U.S. to arrange another meeting Monday. The consulate says the meeting was "serious and constructive." Last week, U.S. efforts to extend the talks past a late April deadline were shattered after Israel failed to carry out a planned prisoner release and the Palestinians revived a charged campaign for international recognition of the "state of Palestine." After the breakdown, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry — who was instrumental in reviving the talks last July after a five-year impasse — expressed impatience with both sides, saying the U.S. would re-evaluate its mediator role.

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Suicide bomber hits foreign troops in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says a suicide bomber in a minivan has targeted a convoy of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan. Local government spokesman Dawkhan Menapal says no serious casualties have been reported in the attack. Menapal says the bomber detonated his explosives on Monday in front of the convoy carrying troops with the U.S.-led coalition in the Maywand district of Kandahar province. The international alliance says it's aware of an incident but has not provided any details.

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Pistorius takes the stand

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — An emotional Oscar Pistorius says he sometimes wakes up in terror because of the trauma of shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, last year. Testifying in his own defense today, Pistorius, who claims the shooting was accidental, apologized to members of Steenkamp's family. With a shaking voice, Pistorius said, "There hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family." The double-amputee athlete said he wanted to protect Steenkamp. He has said he killed her by mistake; prosecutors say he killed her after an argument.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 6, Pittsburgh 1
Philadelphia 2, Chicago Cubs 0
Kansas City 4, Chicago White Sox 3

NBA

Chicago 96, Washington 78

NHL

Colorado 4, St. Louis 0

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Pittsburgh 2, St. Louis 1
Chicago Cubs 9, Philadelphia8
Chicago White Sox 5, Kansas City 1

NHL

Chicago 4, St. Louis 2

NASCAR
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Duck Commander 500  (at Fort Worth, TX) (Postponed, Rain)

PGA
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Shell Houston Open  (at Humble, TX)

1. Matt Jones (-15)*
2. Matt Kuchar (-15)
3. Sergio Garcia (-13)

*Won in playoff

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Cincinnati at St. Louis 3:15 p.m. (94.1 FM, pregame at 2:20 p.m.)
Chicago White Sox at Colorado

NASCAR

Duck Commander 500 (at Fort Worth, TX) 11 a.m.

 

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Illini work with Nike to design new look

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The University of Illinois plans an unveiling of its work with Nike to rebrand the school's athletic teams. The school plans to debut the designs April 16 at the 2,000-seat Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The News-Gazette reports that donors, fans and alumni have been invited to the fashion show-like event. Athletes will wear the new jerseys, shoes and other apparel next month. Assistant athletic director Marty Kaufmann says the last time Illini sports redesigned its image was in the 1990s. He says the process included looking at the school's visual identity, including logos, colors, fonts and uniforms. He calls it a "clean-up" of the brand. Nike has a 10-year contract to be the Illini's exclusive shoe and apparel provider. It runs through June 2015.

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Coaches May Have To Take Training For Concussions Under New Bill

The Illinois legislature is trying to take a step for safety in youth sports by requiring coaches to take online training about concussions and other head injuries. “The IHSA will be drafting a mandatory concussion certification,” said the sponsor, State Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills).  “There will be no charge to member schools.” This comes as scores of former football players are telling stories of the lifelong effects of what their sports have done to them. State Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago), himself a football coach, says he was won over after learning the bill applies to all sports. Lawmakers speaking out against the idea say it’s another way Illinois is becoming a nanny state that thinks government is better at protecting kids than their own parents are. H.B. 5431 passed the House, 102-11.

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News For Apr. 4, 2014

LOCAL
Illinois Native Killed At Fort Hood

(Effingham, IL) -- An Illinois native is among those killed on a military base in Texas. Timothy Owens grew up in Effingham and attended South Side School before his family moved to Rolla, Missouri. Owens was a ten-year Army veteran who was working as a counselor at Fort Hood. He’d just gotten married last year. Owens was gunned down yesterday when a soldier opened fire. Owens was one of four people — including the gunman — killed during the Wednesday attack at the U.S. Army base in central Texas. Another 16 were wounded. Glen Welton of Effingham is Owens' cousin. Welton says he learned of Owens' death Wednesday in a telephone call from Owens' wife, Billie Owens. Welton was not familiar with details of Sgt. Owens' death. Owens' mother, 77-year-old Mary Muntean of Effingham, said she had learned of her son's death in a phone call with her daughter-in-law, too.

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SIUE Student Reports Being Kidnapped, Robbed

(Edwardsville, IL)  --  Police are looking into a report from an SIU-Edwardsville student who claims he was kidnapped and robbed Wednesday night.  He told police he'd been forced into a car at gunpoint where three people blindfolded him and drove him to an ATM.  He was ordered to withdraw all the money from his account and was dumped on Lewis Road.  Investigators believe the suspects knew the victim and the crime wasn't random.

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Propane Truck Flips In Metro East

(Highland, IL) -- After a scare along a road near Highland, a propane truck is back on its wheels. A little after 11 Thursday morning, a propane tanker flipped onto its side on Lower Marine Road at Route 143. Marine Fire Department officials told the "Belleville News-Democrat" it's not clear what caused the accident, but rain may have played a part. Nothing leaked from the truck, but traffic was shut down on Lower Marine while the accident was cleared.

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New Commander for Districts 12 and 19

EFFINGHAM, IL - Illinois State Police District 12 announce the promotion of Captain Kelly Hodge from Interim Commander of Zone 7 Investigations to the position of Commander over Districts 12 (Effingham) and 19 (Carmi) Patrol.  Captain Hodge began his career with the Illinois State Police in June 1994 and was assigned to District 18, Litchfield upon graduation from the ISP training academy.  He later transferred to District 12, Effingham Patrol.  In 1998 Hodge transitioned to Zone 7 Investigations as a Special Agent, where he remained until 2005.  At that time, Hodge became a Sergeant for the South Eastern Illinois Drug Task Force, until 2008.  During the following years, he received promotions to Master Sergeant and then Lieutenant for Zone 7 Investigations; also serving as South Eastern Illinois Drug Task Force Commander.  Most recently, Hodge served as Interim Commander of Zone 7 Investigations. Among many others, Captain Hodge has extensive experience in the areas of Homicide, Meth Response, Interrogation, Sexual Abuse, Advanced Computer Crimes, Identity Theft, and Narcotics Investigation.  Captain Hodge holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Illinois University – Carbondale.  Prior to his appointment to the Illinois State Police, Hodge served active duty with the United States Army National Guard Counterdrug Task Force.

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Southwestern Ill. man gets 9 years in baby beating

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois man has been ordered to spend nine years in prison for the debilitating 2011 beating of a baby. The (Alton) Telegraph reports that 26-year-old Matthew Fields of Hartford was sentenced this week after pleading guilty to a count of aggravated battery of a child. Prosecutors say Fields was alone with the then-9-week-old baby in October 2011 when he allegedly shook and squeezed the child. Authorities say the baby sustained head trauma and developmental delays. Fields will have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and must register as a violent offender for 10 years.

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US Senate to take up Illinois judgeship nominee

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — A nominee for a federal judgeship in southern Illinois has cleared one hurdle toward confirmation. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says the Senate Judiciary Committee on which he sits has approved Staci Yandle for a U.S. District Court seat in Benton. Her nomination now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Yandle of Carlyle has had her own private practice in O'Fallon since 2007, after having worked at two other law firms for a combined 20 years. She serves on the Illinois Bar Foundation's board and has been an adjunct professor at Saint Louis University's law school. She's a University of Illinois graduate, with a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

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Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois EPA Director Lisa Bonnett Thursday, as part of the Agency’s Earth Month activities, announced household hazardous waste collections have been scheduled in eight communities for spring 2014.  Through household hazardous waste collections, citizens are given the opportunity to safely dispose of unused or leftover household products commonly found in homes, basements and garages.  Thursday’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to protect our natural resources and ensure a clean and healthy environment for future generations. “The Illinois EPA is pleased to work with community partners to offer this important service to Illinois residents,” said Director Bonnett. “These community household hazardous waste collections are essential in ensuring that hazardous materials are disposed of properly.” The one-day collections are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays for April 5 in Shawneetown at Town Square on Posey Ave., and on May 31 in Wood River at the Wood River Refinery on IL Rt. 111. Through the collections, residents are encouraged to bring oil-based paints, thinners, chemical cleaners, unwanted pharmaceuticals, mercury and mercury-containing items, antifreeze, motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, weed killers, insecticides, pesticides, adhesives, hobby chemicals, household batteries and similar products. Fluorescent and other high-intensity discharge lamps may also be brought to the collections. The public is encouraged to find alternative uses for latex paint since it is not considered hazardous. Items not accepted include explosives, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, medical waste, sharps, controlled substances, agricultural chemicals and all business wastes. Propane tanks and lead acid auto batteries cannot be accepted at most of the events, but should be taken to local recyclers.

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Farmer's Market Opens Saturday

(Carbondale, IL)  --   Lovers of farmer raised seasonal fruits and vegetables will get a chance to satisfy their craving at the Carbondale Farmer's Market.  It gets underway tomorrow at the Westowne Center from 8 o'clock in the morning to noon.  The market has some new features this year, which include grass-fed and finished beef, humanely raised pork and craft cheeses.

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STATE
Republicans Blast Quinn Over Personnel Maneuver

(Springfield, IL) -- Republican lawmakers say Governor Quinn is guilty of a "sneaky abuse of power" with his move to keep two appointees on the job. With Republicans opposed and a 60-day window for Senate confirmation about to close, Quinn withdrew the names of Julie Hamos as Healthcare and Family Services Director and Manny Flores as Financial and Professional Regulation chief. Quinn then resubmitted their names, starting a new 60-day clock and allowing the two to remain in their posts, effectively for the rest of the year. State Representative Michael Connelly calls it a slap in the face to the Senate, while Senator Tim Bivins now wants to change the rules that allowed Quinn to protect his appointees.

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Schools consider new test fee amid budget worries

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State education officials are considering retaining a traditional college-readiness test for high school juniors but passing the cost along to school districts and possibly the students' families. The move is one cost-cutting possibility after Illinois schools have seen close to $1 billion in cuts since 2009. Educators warn of more drastic cuts if lawmakers decide not to extend a temporary income tax hike set to expire at the end of 2014. State board officials estimate it will cost $14 million for all high school juniors to take the ACT test next year. They're considering providing the $52.50 test free only to low-income students. The total cost of state testing totals $54 million next year. That includes keeping the ACT and adding new exams at the elementary and high school levels.

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New Measure For Pot De-Criminalization

State lawmakers are considering a measure to de-criminalize marijuana. A bill sponsored by State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) wouldn’t legalize it, but it would change possession of 30 grams or less from a misdemeanor into a regulatory offense, says Chris Lindsey of the Marijuana Policy Project. “An individual can be ticketed, can be cited, and then would be responsible for paying a fine, and Rep. Cassidy’s bill would cap that fine at $100,” he said. Kathie Kane-Willis of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy says this would save money, in terms of police, court and jail costs, and free up cops from the burden of 50,000 annual marijuana possession arrests. “We’re not saying let’s have fewer police officers.  Let’s have them do work that might be more useful to our communities,” she said. Kane-Willis is also concerned about the criminal records that follow those busted for pot possession.  She says these arrests can prevent someone from attending school, getting housing or getting a job. More than 100 Illinois cities have ordinances that allow officers to write tickets for possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the state law making it a misdemeanor is at this time always available to cops and prosecutors.

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Quinn Calls For MAP Increase

Gov. Pat Quinn is touting another part of his budget proposal—increased funding to help low-income students attend college. Quinn is calling for a $50 million increase for the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP), with the long-term goal of doubling the state’s investment in the next five years. During a visit to DePaul University, Quinn said that assistance is an alternative for those who don’t want to take out high-interest student loans.  “And for some, that prohibits them from even starting college because they simply can’t afford it,” Quinn said. “So affordability of higher education, whether it’s here at a private university or at a public university like NIU and U of I, or whether it’s at a community college.” The typical MAP grant is between $2,000 and $5,000 per student. With the increase Quinn is proposing this year, he estimates that 21,000 more students will be able to go to college.  The campaign of Quinn’s Republican challenger in the governor’s race, Bruce Rauner, bashed Quinn for signing budgets that cut MAP funding in 2010 and 2013.

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Measure Passes To Form Committee Seeking Big Ten School

(Springfield, IL)  --  Two lawmakers are making some progress in their effort to add a third Illinois university into the Big Ten Conference.  Their legislation to create a committee designed to take a close look at recruiting an existing school was approved by the state Senate this week.  The measure now goes to the state House.  State Senators Matt Murphy and Michael Connelly say several Illinois students leave the state for other Big Ten Schools when rejected by the University of Illinois and Northwestern.

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NATIONAL
Looking into Fort Hood shooter's background

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) —Army officials say the soldier who killed three people at Fort Hood and then committed suicide saw a psychiatrist last month, and showed no "sign of any likely violence either to himself or others." Officials say there's a "strong possibility" that Spc. Ivan Lopez had an argument with at least one soldier right before Wednesday's shooting. Investigators are looking into Lopez's psychological background. Officials say he never saw combat during a deployment to Iraq.

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'Cuban Twitter' heads to hearings in Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the U.S. government agency that secretly created a "Cuban Twitter" communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba is expected to testify before a senator who thinks the whole idea was dumb. The congressional hearing could resolve key questions around the program, including whether the Obama administration adequately informed lawmakers about it. Administration officials Thursday defended the program, saying it had been "debated" by Congress and wasn't a covert operation that required White House approval. Two senior Democrats said they had known nothing about the effort. An Associated Press investigation found that the network was built using secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank. The program aimed first to build a Cuban audience, mostly young people, before pushing them toward dissent.

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Washington State Governor Returns To Mudslide Zone

(Arlington, WA)  --  Washington state Governor Jay Inslee is back in the mudslide zone.  Inslee returned to the area about 55 miles northeast of Seattle yesterday to meet with rescue crews and families of the victims.  He'll be attending a prayer ceremony tonight.  Thirty people were killed in the slide nearly two weeks ago and more than a dozen people are still missing.

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Second trip into nuclear dump expected today

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Crews investigating a radiation leak from the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico plan to make a second trip into the half-mile-deep repository today. Officials say workers who went into Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on Wednesday to install air monitors and communications equipment found no airborne radiation, but they're prepared to encounter contamination as they go deeper into the mine. The dump near Carlsbad has been closed since mid-February, when a mysterious leak sent low levels of radiation into the air and contaminated 21 workers.

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David Letterman Announces Retirement

(Undated)  --  David Letterman is ready to say goodbye to CBS's "Late Show."  The late night funnyman is retiring after more than two decades as host of CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman."  Letterman, who turns 66 on April 12th, made his announcement during the taping for Thursday night's "Late Show."  He made it official ahead of Thursday's show when he called CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves and told him the time was right for him to call it quits. 

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US employers add 192K jobs; rate stays at 6.7 pct.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added jobs at a solid pace in March in the latest sign that the economy is rebounding from a weak stretch brought on by a harsh winter. The Labor Department says employers added 192,000 jobs, slightly below February's total of 197,000. Employers also added a combined 37,000 more jobs in February and January than previously estimated. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. But a half-million Americans started looking for work last month, and most of them found jobs. The increase in job-seekers is a sign that they are more optimistic about their prospects. March's job gain nearly matches last year's average monthly total, suggesting that the job market has mostly recovered from the previous months' severe winter weather.

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Many returning military vets bound for college

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Officials from universities nationwide are getting set for a wave of military veterans going back to college after wars abroad and defense budget cuts. A three-day conference titled "Success for Student Veterans" begins Friday at the University of South Carolina to discuss ways academia can help the new vets with the transition. Tens of thousands of new veterans are expected to return to college or the workforce in the next several years as the military downsizes after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as the Pentagon budget is pared back. The director of Veteran Services at the University of South Florida, Lawrence Braue ('brow'), is one of several participating experts and is exhorting universities to help veterans make the leap from the military to life on a college campus.

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States revolt against powerful new painkiller

BARRE, Vt. (AP) — State officials fighting well-publicized battles against heroin and prescription drugs are revolting against a powerful new painkiller that some fear could make the battle even harder. On Thursday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin announced an emergency order that would make it harder for physicians to prescribe a new class of drugs that includes Zohydro. Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick banned Zohydro, the first time the state has ever banned a drug. Late last year, 28 attorneys general urged the Food and Drug Administration to revoke the drug's approval or require the manufacturer to reformulate the drug to make it more difficult to abuse. San Diego-based Zogenix, which makes Zohydro, says its drug no more potent than other hydrocodone medications and is taking steps to ensure doctors and patients understand its risks.

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Food ordering company soars in debut

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street appears to be in the mood for takeout. Investors sent shares of online food ordering service GrubHub Inc. jumped 51 percent to $39.20 in early trading in its stock market debut Friday. GrubHub and its rivals are changing the way people order takeout from restaurants. Instead of calling a restaurant, people can order their next meal online or through a few taps on a smartphone app. The Chicago company raised $192.5 million after pricing more than 7.4 million shares at $26 per share. That's above the company's previously expected range between $23 per share and $25 per share. The stock is trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "GRUB."

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Broken ATM at Maine bank spits out $37,000

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Police in Maine are investigating after a malfunctioning ATM at a bank spit out $37,000 in cash to man who requested $140. South Portland police tell WGME-TV that they responded to the TD Bank branch at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday after getting a call from a woman who said a man was spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM she was waiting to use. Responding officers found the man stuffing cash into a shopping bag. The money was returned to the bank, and bank officials said they don't want to press charges. But police continue to investigate. The identity of the man wasn't released because he hasn't been charged. A bank official described the problem as a "code error" and said no customer accounts were affected.

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INTERNATIONAL
AP photographer killed, reporter wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expressing sadness over the shooting attack that killed a veteran Associated Press photographer and wounded an AP reporter. The two women had been sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan when an Afghan policeman opened fire on them. Photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed instantly, and reporter Kathy Gannon is hospitalized in stable condition. A witness says the policeman surrendered and was arrested. The attack came on the eve of nationwide elections in Afghanistan. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the vote.

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Syrian troops attack Damascus suburb

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say government forces have bombarded some suburbs of the capital, Damascus, killing several people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that 22 fighters have been killed since late Thursday in the fighting in the suburb of Mleiha and surrounding areas. Activist Ammar al-Hassan, who is based near Mleiha, says air raids killed seven people in the suburb Friday morning. He added that at least six fighters have been killed there since Thursday night. Syrian troops have been on the offensive on the outskirts of Damascus in order to distance opposition fighters from President Bashar Assad's seat of power. Also Friday, the state news agency SANA said five mortar shells slammed into Damascus' predominantly Christian Bab Touma neighborhood, wounding 22 people.

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Uganda: Police raid US project that assisted gays

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Ugandan government spokesman says police have raided the offices of a United States-funded project known to offer AIDS services to homosexuals. Ofwono Opondo said on Twitter Friday the Makerere University Walter Reed Project building in Kampala was targeted for "training youths in homosexuality." Frank Mugisha, a gay leader in Uganda, said one person was arrested in Thursday's raid. He said the project —a nonprofit partnership between a Ugandan university and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program — was known to offer services to gays who felt comfortable going there for anti-retroviral treatment. Police spokesman Patrick Onyango denied the raid, saying a man pretending to represent the police threatened workers at the project, which has since been closed by administrators. A U.S. Embassy spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

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Germany investigates large-scale password theft

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities are investigating the suspected theft of passwords for some 18 million email addresses. Interior Ministry spokesman Harald Neymanns said Friday an analysis by Germany's Internet security agency determined that about 3 million of the affected addresses were German. It's not clear where the others were from. The agency analyzed the hacking at the request of prosecutors in the northern town of Verden, but officials gave no details on who owned the accounts, citing data protection laws, or how they learned of the password theft. The agency says it's working with email providers to determine how to inform people who may be affected. In a separate case, German authorities said in January that an analysis of hijacked computer networks has turned up about 16 million compromised online accounts.

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 7, Cincinnati 6
Chicago Cubs 3, Pittsburgh 2
Minnesota 10, Chicago White Sox 9

NHL

St. Louis 2, Buffalo 1
Chicago 3, Minnesota 2  (SO)

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

MLB

Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs 1:20 p.m.
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City 3:10 p.m.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh 6:05 p.m. (94.1 WMIX, Pre-game at 5:10 p.m.

NBA

Milwaukee at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

Chicago at Columbus 6 p.m.

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

MLB

Chicago White Sox at Kansas City 1:10 p.m.
Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs 1:20 p.m.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh 6:05 p.m.

NBA

Chicago at Washington 6 p.m.

NHL

Colorado at St. Louis 1 p.m.

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE

MLB

St. Louis at Pittsburgh 12:35 p.m.
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City 1:10 p.m.
Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs 1:20 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Chicago 11:30 p.m.

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2 Illinois media groups back hearings into IHSA

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Two media groups are backing legislation requiring hearings into the operations of the Illinois High School Association. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the Illinois Broadcasters Association and the Illinois Press Association are backing the bill that's been introduced by Aurora state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia. Dennis DeRossett is president of the Press Association and says the hearings are needed because they'd give taxpayers more insight into how the governing body for high school sports operates. Chapa LaVia's bill also calls for an evaluation of whether the state should take over duties for the nonprofit that's based in Bloomington. But the head of the IHSA calls the measure "mind-boggling." He says IHSA releases an annual financial audit and Its financial reports are also available for public review.

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Cubs May Offer Team Shares For Renovation Costs

( Chicago, IL)  --   Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, may involve minority shareholders to help defer the costs of renovating and expanding Wrigley Field.  The owners posses 95-percent of the Cubs and if the deal happens, the organization will be looking for a small number of high net-worth shareholders, who would not have a vote at the table.  There's no word on how many shares the Cubs would be selling or at what price.

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News For Apr. 3, 2014

LOCAL
Charges Filed After Roxana School Scare

(Roxana, IL) -- Three male students at Roxana High School are being charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the false report of shots fired at the school Tuesday afternoon. The suspects prompted a major scare and a school lockdown after one of them sent a text message to a family member saying shots had been fired. The family members contacted authorities who determined that wasn’t the case. The charges against the suspects are felonies but the cases will remain in juvenile court. All three are locked up at the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center in Edwardsville. Their punishment could range from supervision or probation to spending time in the juvenile department of corrections.

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Belleville Catholic diocese sued for priest abuse

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A Breese man has sued the Belleville Catholic diocese alleging a priest sexually abused him when he was a boy attending church camp. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the man, referred to as J. Christ in court documents to provide anonymity, alleges former priest Robert J. Vonnahmen abused him at Camp Ondessonk in Ozark during the summers of 1970 and 1971. Vonnahmen was one of 14 priests and a deacon the Belleville Diocese removed in the 1990s for the alleged sexual abuse of children. The lawsuit alleges the diocese failed to protect J. Christ and remove Vonnahmen from the camp and church when it should have known he was a danger to young boys. Similar lawsuits against the Belleville diocese have been successful. A diocese representative was unavailable for comment.

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SWIC To Host Mobile Veterans Center

(Belleville, IL)  --  Southwestern Illinois College is hosting a mobile veterans center.  The goal is to help vets readjust to civilian lifestyles through counseling sessions.  The van will be on the Belleville campus today at 9 a.m.

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McLeansboro Man Faces Drug Charges

A McLeansboro man is in custody facing drug charges after a Wednesday arrest in Hamilton County. 31 year old Bradley Rogers was arrested after officers noticed a strange odor coming from a curb. Following a legal trash pull, authorities discovered items used in the making of methamphetamine. Rogers was taken to the white county jail on multiple meth related charges.

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Week of the Young Child Slated For Next Week

Next week is the Week of the Young Child, says Keri Garrett, Superintendent of Regional Office of Education Number 13.  It honors young children and those who make a difference in their lives.  It recognizes the importance of early learning and early literacy, as well as celebrating the teachers that bring early childhood education to the young ones.  Garrett says preschool classrooms throughout Clinton, Marion and Washington Counties will be celebrating with community involvement and special activities to promote literacy.  This includes 14 preschool classrooms and 394 children in the three counties that make up ROE #13, which will be adding Jefferson County in the next year.

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House passes Cavaletto bill to Permit Schools to Use Fire Safety Funds

SPRINGFIELD – State Representative John Cavaletto (R-Salem) announced Wednesday that the Illinois House overwhelmingly passed his legislation (House Bill 4616) that will permit school districts to utilize “Fire Prevention Safety Fund” monies for required safety inspections. “This legislation stems from conversations with superintendents in my district who are meeting the safety needs of the students and staff by being able to use money already allocated for other safety expenses,” said Cavaletto. “This is one of those common-sense, technical changes to the law that truly does help the children and I commend my superintendents for bringing this to my attention.” The 107th district includes all or parts of Bond, Clinton, Effingham, Fayette and Marion Counties.

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Trout Fishing Season Begins Saturday

The state’s spring trout fishing season will begin this Saturday.  Dan Stephenson of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the catchable rainbow trout program is one of the department’s more popular activities, so much so that four new locations are being added this year in north Illinois.  Stephenson says there’s a chance to reel in some sizeable trout. “I stock the lakes…around Springfield, and sometimes we get  some fish up to 14 or 16 inches.  There won’t be many, most of them are gonna be 12 to 13, but there will be some bigger ones in there, too.”  If you’re over 16, you’ll need a valid Illinois fishing license and an inland trout stamp, which is what pays for the program.  To get a full list of the stocked sites around the state, you can visit www.ifishillinois.org, with the closest being the Mount Vernon Game Farm Pond.  There is other fish available at Carlyle Lake and Rend Lake with local fishing at Memorial Park in Nashville and Washington County Lake.

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STATE
People With Seizures May Be Able To Use Medical Marijuana

(Springfield, IL) -- People who suffer from seizures are one step closer to getting relief by using medical marijuana. The plan cleared the Senate Wednesday. Supporters say the medical marijuana will help relax the muscles and reduce the amount of seizures a person has in each day. Even kids would be allowed to get access to the drug. The plan now heads to the House.

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Smoke Free Campus Bill Clears House

(Springfield, IL) -- Smoking could soon be banned on all state college and university campuses. State reps cleared the bill Wednesday. It would include campuses like Western, Northern, Illinois State, Eastern, and community colleges that receive state monies. People would still be able to chew tobacco and use E-cigarettes on campus because they don’t actually emit any smoke. Opponents argue that the bill is walking the line of impeding on a person’s right to smoke. Supporters say it’s not about a person’s right to smoke, it’s about impeding on someone else’s right breathing clean air. The bill is headed to the Senate.

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Lawmakers: Let’s spend smarter in community college aid

(Springfield, IL) -- More and more students are choosing community colleges over four-year-universities, but the smaller schools don’t seem to be getting much aid from the state. State Rep. Ken Dunkin says there’s something wrong with that. Community college students hit the capital this week asking lawmakers to give them an additional 65-million dollars in MAP scholarships. Right now the state has set aside 373-million dollars for the grants. There’s no word yet on whether lawmakers will be able to meet the students’ requests.

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Ill. political remapping group says has signatures

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A group that wants to change the way Illinois draws its political districts says it has the signatures it needs to put a measure on the November ballot. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports that the group Yes! For Independent Maps announced Tuesday that it has nearly 350,000 signatures. The group needs nearly 300,000 signatures for voters to consider their plan. That plan would amend the Illinois constitution to require state legislative leaders to appoint an 11-person redistricting commission made up of Illinois citizens. Those citizens could have no ties to lobbyists or public offices. Currently the Illinois Legislature draws a new legislative district map every 10 years. If they can't agree before June 30 then legislative leaders appoint a bipartisan eight-member commission to decide.

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Environmentalists want stricter coal regulations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois environmentalists are calling for stricter regulations and better enforcement of existing rules for coal mines. Residents from coal mining areas and environmental advocates made their case in Springfield on Wednesday. They say a recent surge in coal mining has heightened concerns over what they consider lax regulation by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. They claim that mines are allowed to continue operating even after violating environmental laws. They also worry that a surge in mining will destroy farmland and pollute water. The groups were reacting a day after the DNR said it would reform the way it deals with coal mining permits to do a better job of involving the public in the process. A DNR spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday

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Manar introduces bill changing school funding

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A group of Democratic lawmakers Wednesday introduced a long-awaited piece of legislation that would dramatically change the way schools are funded in Illinois for the first time since 1997. The sponsors call the measure the most comprehensive way to ensure equity across the state but say there's still work to do in gaining broad support on the regionally divisive issue. The legislation would streamline the state's school funding formula to require districts to demonstrate need before receiving money. The current method factors in a district's poverty for some types of state aid but not others. Critics calling for a change say the poorest districts that can't rely on property taxes to offset funding cuts often get hurt the most.

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Electronic cigarette bill advances to state Senate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House approved legislation that'd require stores to keep electronic cigarettes behind the counter. The measure passed 113-0 on Tuesday and now heads to the Illinois Senate. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the bill requires retailers to keep e-cigarettes and other alternative tobacco products in age-restricted sections, a sealed display case or behind store counters. The measure is aimed at keeping young people from accessing the products. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Willis, a Democrat from Addison. A Senate version is before the Senate Public Health Committee.

---------------------------------

Quinn's running mate touts tax hike extension

CHICAGO (AP) — Lieutenant governor candidate Paul Vallas is promoting Gov. Pat Quinn's plan to make the income tax increase permanent and blasting Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner. Vallas is a former Chicago Public Schools CEO and made his first solo public appearance Wednesday in Chicago since winning the Democratic nomination. He says allowing the increase to roll back in January will mean budget cuts for districts statewide. Vallas touted his experience in writing budgets. He was most recently a superintendent in Connecticut. Rauner wants to allow the increase to sunset and cut spending. His campaign questioned Vallas' past education contract work. Vallas called it a distraction from the issues. Quinn outlined a budget last week that calls for making the 2011 income tax hike permanent. Republicans say they'll fight the extension.

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Federal Grant Funds Are Offered To Illinois Worst Schools

(Undated)  --  Poor performing schools in Illinois may be able to see the light of day. The U.S. Department of Education announced on Tuesday that the state will receive 22 million dollars to help overhaul schools that are consistently not meeting achievement standards.  In order to get the School Improvement Grant, school districts must hand in proposals for eligible schools. They must then prepare to implement one of four reform models in their plan. The models include handing the school over to a charter operator, as well as terminating the entire staff and allowing an outside agency to manage the school.

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Lawmaker Reworking Legislation For Statewide Recycling Program

(Springfield, IL)  --  Environmentalist are hopeful for the passing of a statewide plastic recycling bill.  The foundation of the legislation is a 2012 proposed measure sponsored by state Senator Terry Link, which was vetoed by Governor Quinn.  The Waukegan lawmaker has now gone back to the drawing board and is meeting with environmentalist and industry officials to draw up a new and improved measure.  Link's initial legislation banned manufacturers from selling plastic bags in the state unless it had invested in the recycling program.  The measure would also require manufacturers to collect and report statistics on recycling.

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Illinois Rated Poorly in Providing Tax Help To Residents

(Undated)  --  A recent study shows that Illinois is one of the worst states to get tax help.  The report by Wallet Hub indicates that the Land of Lincoln is rated 42 out of 50 states.  The factors include how easy it is to track down an accountant, how much the accountant charges, and the average tax refund for each state.  Illinois is in the middle of the pack when it comes to tax help affordability.  D.C. is at the top of the overall list.

---------------------------------

NATIONAL
4 dead after Fort Hood shooting

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Authorities say the soldier who opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood was an Iraq War veteran who was being treated for mental illness. Ivan Lopez allegedly killed three people and injured or wounded 16 before killing himself yesterday. Within hours of the attack, investigators started looking into whether his combat experience caused post-traumatic stress.

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Senators to vote to release terror report summary

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to vote this afternoon to declassify part of a secret report on Bush-era interrogations of terror suspects. Once the panel approves declassifying the 400-page summary and the key findings of its report, the CIA will scan the material for any information it feels may compromise national security. Panel member, Sen. Angus King of Maine says the CIA "significantly overestimated" the value of waterboarding and other techniques that can be defined as torture.

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US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press investigation has found that the Obama administration secretly financed a social network in Cuba to stir political unrest and undermine the country's communist government. Documents and interviews show the U.S. Agency for International Development went to extensive lengths to conceal its involvement in a so-called Cuban Twitter that could be used to organize political demonstrations. And it drew in tens of thousands of subscribers who were unaware it was backed by the U.S. government.

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Supreme Court to decide Texas execution drug case

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to stop this evening's scheduled execution of a Texas serial killer. A federal judge on Wednesday stayed the execution of Tommy Lynn Sells after ordering the state to reveal more information about the supplier of its lethal injection drug. But the judge's ruling was quickly reversed on appeal. Sells was convicted of killing a 13-year-old girl in 1999, but claims he's committed dozens of slayings nationwide.

--------------------------------

Report says blacks, Latinos losing economic ground

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report from the National Urban League says African-Americans and Latinos are losing economic ground when compared with whites in the areas of employment and income. The annual report, called "One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America," notes that the underemployment rate for African-American workers is 20.5 percent. That's compared with 18.4 percent for Hispanic workers and 11.8 percent for white workers. Underemployment is defined as those who are jobless or working part-time jobs but desiring full-time work. The report also says African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. The unemployment rate for blacks was 12 percent in February, compared with 5.8 percent for whites. National Urban League President Marc Morial says African-Americans and Latinos are being disproportionately left behind by post-recession job creation.

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Florida woman who killed 3 loses license

There's no claim of responsibility for today's bombing that missed former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's convoy. Police say Musharraf had just arrived home from a military hospital in Rawalpindi when more than 4 pounds of explosives went off along a route he uses to get home. Musharraf's spokeswoman says extremist and terrorist forces want to kill the former Pakistani president, and she says, "If anything happens to Musharraf, the government will be responsible."

----------------------------------------------------

Army says alleged shooter saw no combat in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army's top civilian official says the soldier accused in the Fort Hood shooting this week was deployed for the final months of the Iraq war but did not see combat. Three people died and 16 were wounded before the shooter committed suicide. Army Secretary John McHugh testified Thursday that the soldier appeared to have no connections to extremist groups. The soldier is identified by others as Ivan Lopez. He enlisted in the Army in June 2008 as an infantryman and later switched his specialty to truck driver, the job he had in Iraq. McHugh says the soldier was examined by a psychiatrist last month and was found to show no violent or suicidal tendencies. He says the soldier had been prescribed Ambien to deal with a sleeping problem.

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Harvard issues report on marathon bombing response

BOSTON (AP) — A new report on the emergency response to the Boston Marathon bombings was largely positive but criticized law enforcement for the chaotic gunfight in which one suspect was killed and a police officer seriously injured, saying it lacked coordination. The 50-page report released Thursday by Harvard University says the response to the April 15 explosions that killed three people was the result of "years of investment of time and hard work by people across multiple jurisdictions." The report says the gunfight that occurred four days after the explosions became confusing as officers from multiple agencies arrived in Watertown and opened fire, placing themselves and the public in danger. The report suggested better training to avoid "contagious" gunfire. No official report on the shooting has been released.

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Applications for US jobless aid up 16K to 326,000

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits rose 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 326,000. Despite the increase, the number remains close to pre-recession levels and points to stable hiring. The Labor Department says the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, inched up 250 to 319,500. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The current level of applications suggests that employers are confident enough about consumer demand to maintain their current staffs. Growing business confidence can also signal more hiring. The Labor Department on Friday will release its March employment report. Economists estimate that 191,000 jobs were added last month, according to FactSet. About 3.2 million people received benefits in the week ending March 15, the latest data available, about 105,367 fewer than in the previous week.

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Death toll in Washington mudslide rises to 30

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — The number of confirmed deaths in the Washington state mudslide rose to 30 on Thursday with the release of another victim's name. The Snohomish County medical examiner's office says 67-year-old Gloria Halstead of Arlington died of multiple blunt force injuries in the accident. She had been on the list of missing, which now drops to 17. Recovery crews are still searching for bodies in the March 22 landslide that crushed the community of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle.

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Welfare agencies probing boy's bathtub drowning

MCCANDLESS, Pa. (AP) — Child welfare officials are reviewing the case of a Pennsylvania woman accused of drowning her son and critically injuring another by sitting on them in a bathtub. State Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Kait Gillis says agency officials will try to determine if child protection agencies could have prevented the drowning. Gillis says Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families also has 90 days to file a fatality report on Tuesday's death of 3-year-old Luke Schlemmer. The McCandless boy's mother is jailed on homicide and other charges accusing her of killing him and tried to kill his brother, 6-year-old Daniel, at their McCandless home. Daniel is in critical condition. Last year, the woman backed into the boys with a van. Gillis says officials concluded it was an accident.

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Jury back deliberating tot's creek-toss death case

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — Jury deliberations have resumed at the trial of a New Jersey man accused of tossing his 2-year-old daughter into a creek in her car seat, weighted down with a tire jack so she would sink. Arthur Morgan III is charged with murder, child endangerment and interference with custody. Prosecutors say he killed the child in a jealous rage to get back at the girl's mother, who had broken off their engagement. The second day of deliberations began Thursday. On Wednesday, the jury asked to watch a videotaped statement Morgan gave to police in San Diego, where he was arrested a few days after the November 2011 killing. In it, Morgan says he told little Tierra Morgan-Glover he loved her, then kissed her before leaving her to die in the water.

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Israel says it is cancelling prisoner release

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians says it will not release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinians' push for recognition at the United Nations. Tzipi Livni's spokeswoman said Thursday that the Israeli government was working to finalize an agreement to free the prisoners when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accessions to 15 international conventions. Abbas said it was a response to Israel's failure to release prisoners as promised. Livni said the prisoner release was contingent on the Palestinians refraining from making unilateral moves. Livni said that "new conditions were established and Israel cannot release the fourth batch of prisoners." She added that now the sides need to re-examine how to proceed in the U.S.-led talks helmed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Ukrainian officers join NATO drills in Bulgaria

NOVO SELO, Bulgaria (AP) — Ukraine has dispatched 16 senior officers across the Black Sea to Bulgaria to join a NATO military exercise in a demonstration of cooperation between the alliance and the crisis-torn former Soviet republic. Organizers said Thursday that the drills, dubbed Saber Guardian, involve over 700 troops from 13 NATO member and partner nations, as well as representatives from NATO. Although planned in 2013, the exercise is coinciding with an East-West standoff over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The exercises are being held just few hundred miles away from the contested Black Sea peninsula. Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, deputy commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, said "our peaceful, humanitarian-focused exercise will help bring stability to this geopolitically significant part of the world."

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Turkish government says it is lifting Twitter ban

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's government says it is restoring access to Twitter, a day after a high court ruling against the ban. Turkey's Constitutional Court had ordered the ban on Twitter to be lifted on Wednesday, ruling that the blockage was a violation of the right to free expression. A statement from Turkey's Transportation and Communications Ministry Thursday said it was in the process of restoring access to the website. Access to YouTube however, remains blocked.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Chicago White Sox 7, Minnesota 6 (11 innings)
Pittsburgh 4, Chicago Cubs 3 (16 innings)
Cincinnati 1, St. Louis 0

NBA

Chicago 105, Atlanta 92

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

St. Louis at Cincinnati 11:35 p.m.
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh 11:35 p.m.
Minnesota at Chicago White Sox 1:10 p.m.

NHL

Minnesota at Chicago 7 p.m.
Buffalo at St. Louis 7 p.m.

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Toews Out Until Playoffs

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss the rest of the regular season with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, However, Coach Joel Quenneville expects Toews to be "100 percent" for the playoffs. The Hawks are already without star forward Patrick Kane, who is out for the rest of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

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News For Apr. 2, 2014

LOCAL
Fatal Accident In Washington County

A fatal accident occurred on Tuesday at 12:17 p.m. on Illinois Route 177 at Covington Road in Washington County. A 2014 Chevrolet Malibu driven by 79 year old Dorothea J. Tielemann, of Nashville, failed to stop at the stop sign and entered the intersection. Tielemann struck the left side of the trailer attached to a 2012 International 5 axle truck / trailer combination driven by 34 year old Bret G. Schuetz, of New Baden, IL the International. The box trailer being pulled by the International was a refrigerated box trailer. The impact ruptured the refrigeration unit’s fuel tank causing the trailer to catch fire. Schuetz was able to disconnect the International from the trailer which became severely damaged by the fire. The Chevrolet came to rest on the south side of the roadway. Dorothea J. Tielemann was fatally injured in the accident. A passenger, 81 year old Wilbert E. Tielemann, of Nashville, was flown to a regional hospital for treatment of injuries incurred in the accident.  Assisting Agencies included Washington County Sheriff’s Department, Okawville Police Department, Okawville, Fire Department, Addieville Fire Department, and the Washington County Coroner’s Office, and ISP.

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Southern Ill. man accused of killing wife

West Frankfort, IL (AP) —A West Frankfort man is facing murder charges after his wife succumbed to gunshot wounds in the head. 66 year old John Adams is facing two counts of first degree murder in the Monday morning shooting of his wife, 52 year old Kendra Turner-Adams. Adams phoned authorities around 11 Monday morning and originally told  police he had found his wife unresponsive at their home in the 1900  block of Old Marion Road in West Frankfort. Turner-Adams was transported to an Evansville, IN Hospital where she died yesterday morning. Adams is being held at the Franklin County Jail on $2 million bond.

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School Shooting Reports May Have Been April Fool's Joke

(Roxana, IL) -- False reports of shots fired at Roxana High School may have been part of an April Fool's prank. The school was put on lockdown Tuesday afternoon and eventually evacuated so police could sweep the building. Students had called police reporting gunfire before one o'clock. Officers gave the "all clear" after about an hour, confirming the reports were false. Three people were reportedly in custody.

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Former Probation Officer Gets Probation For Fraud

(Belleville, IL) -- A judge today sentenced former St. Clair County probation officer and former Washington Park trustee Darron Suggs to five years probation for Medicaid fraud. He had pleaded guilty to diverting some 65-thousand-dollars intended for the care of his mother and another person to his own use. Prosecutors had recommended a six-month sentence. The judge said he was impressed by the inch-thick stack of letters written in support of Suggs and the standing-room crowd of people who came to the court today to seek leniency for Suggs. Under his sentence, Suggs must also pay restitution.

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Rauner Brings Campaign To Southern Illinois Farm

(Shiloh, IL) -- What he's calling his "Broken Promises" tour brought Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner to a farm in St. Clair County today. At the David Tiedemann farm between Belleville and Shiloh, Rauner repeated that by asking to make the temporary income tax increase permanent, Gov. Quinn has broken his promise to Illinois. Rauner says the state cannot tax its way out of its financial problems. He proposes what he calls true pension reform, workers comp reform, the elimination of Medicaid fraud and the restructuring of state bureaucracies as the way to improve the state's economy.

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County freezes wages for many elected officials

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Many elected officials in southwestern Illinois' St. Clair County won't be getting a raise. The county's governing board unanimously voted Monday night to cancel a 1.5-percent pay boost that will affect everyone from board members to the sheriff, treasurer and clerk. Board Chairman Mark Kern says the savings will help prevent a property tax hike. The pay of the sheriff, treasurer, county clerk and the county board's members will be frozen through 2018. Salaries of the board chairman, auditor, circuit clerk, coroner and recorder of deeds will remain the same through 2016. The county's current budget incorporates a 1.5 percent salary increase for non-elected employees. Salaries range from $19,000 for board members to slightly less than $100,000 for the sheriff and board chairman.

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Judge sacks ex-inmate's lawsuit against 3 deputies

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A judge has thrown out a federal lawsuit that accused three Madison County sheriff's deputies of using excessive force against a former jail inmate. The (Alton) Telegraph reports U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan dismissed 46-year-old Robert Baker-El's suit. Baker-El alleged he was housed in the Madison County jail in September 2011 when officers allegedly found him with a sharpened piece of plastic considered a possible weapon. Baker-El alleged a deputy used excessive force while two others failed to protect him. Madison County prosecutors alleged Baker-El lunged at one of the deputies and a struggle ensued. Baker-El is serving a 29-year sentence for robbery and contraband possession. An appointed attorney for Baker-El, Jonathan Fortman, says that while "the facts weighed so heavily against (Baker-El)," an appeal is planned.

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Man arrested for 7th time for no driver's license

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois man is accused of driving with a revoked license for a seventh time since 1987. The (Alton) Telegraph reports that Madison County prosecutors charged 52-year-old Jeffrey A. Martin of Granite City with the felony traffic offense on Monday. Sheriff's investigators say a deputy who stopped Martin for illegal lane usage in Granite City found he did not have a valid license. At the time, Martin was being sought on an outstanding felony warrant for driving with a revoked license. Martin lost his license initially after a 1987 conviction of driving under the influence. Martin remained jailed Tuesday in Edwardsville on $45,000 bond. Online court records do not show whether he has an attorney.

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Scammers Calling Utility Customers

(Collinsville, IL)  --  There's a scam warning for Collinsville Ameren customers.  Police say scammers pretending to be with Ameren tell victims they must pay a delinquent bill or lose service and they ask for a credit card number.  Ameren Illinois says that's not the way it operates.  An Ameren spokesman says they would work out a payment plan and would never threaten to almost immediately cut power.

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Madigan’s Office Schedules Satellite Office Hours

A representative from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is scheduled to be at Centralia City Hall from 10 a.m. to noon and Olney City Hall from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday April 3, 2014, with informational materials and to discuss services that are available to area residents. Community Outreach Liaison Ella York will provide information on topics such as how consumers can protect themselves from consumer scams, how to file a consumer complaint form, information about veterans rights and benefits, and the office’s Health Care Mediation program. Residents also may learn more about Madigan’s Identity Theft Hotline, an initiative aimed at helping identity theft victims repair their credit, dispute fraudulent debts and prevent future victimization. Walk-ins are welcomed.

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STATE
Governor's tactic delays Senate cabinet approval

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn used a procedural move sidestepping a deadline to have two cabinet members reappointments approved by the state Senate. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports Quinn withdrew the nomination of Julie Hamos as director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, then resubmitted her name for the post. Rikeesha Phelon is a spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton and says the move "in effect has reset the clock" for approval. The deadline was this week. Hamos has led the state agency since 2010, but has been criticized for her efforts to oversee the overhaul of the state's Medicaid program. A Quinn spokeswoman says the governor "strongly supports" Hamos. Quinn also resubmitted Manny Flores as secretary of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

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State officials announce homebuyer assistance

CHICAGO (AP) — State officials are increasing assistance available for first-time homebuyers. Gov. Pat Quinn announced a program Tuesday that helps new homebuyers get $7,500 to help make a down payment on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. It builds on existing programs, including those for veterans. Illinois Housing Development Authority spokeswoman Cami Freeman says "Welcome Home Illinois" has a better interest rate and more down payment help than before. The down payment money comes from capital funds set aside for affordable housing. The mortgage program is funded by the housing authority, which generates revenue from bond proceeds. Quinn said last week he'd help first-time homebuyers. His proposed budget calls for making permanent Illinois' income tax increase, and also proposes giving property taxpayers a $500 refund. Republicans claim the new program just repackages old ideas.

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Ill. State Police disqualify firearms instructor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State Police officials have disqualified a Bolingbrook firearms instructor and informed at least 327 applicants they will not receive a license to carry concealed weapons because of improper training. Investigators conducted interviews and reviewed records to determine the training was not in accordance with state law. They have given their findings to the Will County State's Attorney for possible action. Illinois' concealed carry law took effect Jan. 1. Applicants must complete 16 hours of instruction following curriculum approved by the state police. Denied applicants will be able to repeat training without paying the $150 application fee. State police have so far invalidated 13 instructors and notified 425 applicants of invalid training. The state's concealed carry website will carry names of disqualified instructors.

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USDA: Ill. to have less corn acreage, more beans

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The number of acres Illinois farmers devote to corn crops this year is expected to dip slightly amid growers' plans to plant more soybeans statewide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual forecast released Monday shows Illinois will have roughly 11.9 million acres of corn. That's down about 1 percent from the 12 million acres planted last year. In 2012, the acreage was 12.8 million. The USDA says soybeans will make up the difference, with the 9.5 million acres expected to be planted in Illinois coming in 1 percent higher than last year's 9.45 million acres. Nationwide, the USDA expects 91.7 million acres of corn to be sown this year, down about 4 percent from last year. Soybean acreage is expected to rise about 6 percent to 81.5 million acres.

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Illinois cracking down on feral swine populations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials have announced new rules about release, transportation and harvest of feral swine. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Monday that the new rules will deter people from bringing feral swine into Illinois to promote hunting them. They'll also help the agency better manage feral swine. The agency says it wants to prevent a culture of hunting wild hogs from developing. The IDNR says the animals can spread disease and damage wildlife habitats, wetlands and crops. State officials say they've worked with federal officials to eliminate a population of feral swine in Clay, Effingham, Fayette and Marion counties. The new rules make it illegal to hunt or shoot feral swine outside of certain deer seasons. Only hunters who legally hunt deer during those seasons can shoot wild hogs.

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Bill would let drivers 'sign and go' for speeding

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Legislation being considered by lawmakers in Springfield would allow drivers to keep their licenses in hand after getting speeding tickets. The bill is sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Mike Noland of Elgin. The proposed law would amend the state's vehicle code to let drivers "sign and go" by making a written promise to comply with the terms of the ticket they receive. Drivers who violate the agreement would have their driving privileges suspended under the law. Currently, non-residents of the state can keep their license if they're pulled over while passing through Illinois. Proponents of the law say Illinois residents should have the same privileges. The measure passed out of a Senate committee last week and is now being considered by the full chamber.

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Ill. motorcycle advocates kick of safety campaign

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — As temperatures warm up, motorcycle advocates are urging riders to be safe when they hit the road this spring and summer. The Illinois Department of Transportation and other motorcycle advocates are kicking off their "Gear Up - Ride Smart" campaign. They're urging riders to make sure bikes are in proper condition, use high-visibility clothing and enroll in free motorcycle training classes. They're also reminding motorcyclists to not drink and drive. Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider says it's important for riders to take these precautions because they're at a higher risk for crashes. Transportation officials say 3 percent of registered motorists are bikers. But motorcycle deaths account for more than 15 percent of all vehicle fatalities. Officials also say about half of all motorcycle deaths involve only the motorcyclist.

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Jesse White urges Illinoisans to be organ donors

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is encouraging people to register to be organ and tissue donors. White is scheduled to appear Tuesday in Chicago with families of people who have donated their organs, as well as some recipients. White says they'll unveil a new commercial that will spotlight some of the "heroes" who have registered to be donors. The Chicago Democrat says his office is teaming up with Illinois community colleges on the "Be a Hero" public awareness campaign. Students will get the chance to create their own campaigns and earn community service hours by promoting the donor registry. White says more than 5.5 million people in Illinois have put their names on the registry. But he says about 300 people die each year waiting for a donor.

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REO Speedwagon concert to benefit storm victims

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — The classic rock band REO Speedwagon will perform this summer at Illinois State University as part of the "Rock to the Rescue" program to benefit victims of Midwest tornados and storms. With chart-topping hits such as "Roll with the Changes" and "Keep on Loving You," REO will perform June 27 at Braden Auditorium at ISU in Normal. Rick Derringer and The Easthills will open for REO. Portions of the proceeds from the concert will benefit Rock to the Rescue. The charity has raised $400,000 for Midwest storm victims. There will also be memorabilia and instrument auctions at the show. Kevin Cronin is frontman for the group that was founded in Illinois in 1967. He says upcoming shows in Chicago, Effingham and Muncie, Ind., will also help the fund.

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Group names Illinois' 10 most endangered places

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A preservationist group has released its list of the 10 most endangered historic places in Illinois. Landmarks Illinois announced its list Tuesday morning. It includes Chicago's Uptown Theatre, a U.S. Marine hospital in Galena that was built in 1859 and a more than 125-year-old primary school in Otterville. The group has released its annual list since 1995 hoping to call attention to the threatened sites. Landmarks Illinois officials say that since it started the list designation, more than a third of the places have been saved. The list also includes Hotel Belleville, a 1931 art deco building on the public square in the southern Illinois city. It also lists the Old Millstadt Water Tower. This year there's a special 11th item, the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program.

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NATIONAL
Chrysler recalling 870,000 SUVs for brake defect

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler is recalling nearly 870,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs. Chrysler says the vehicles made from 2011 through 2014 have brake parts that can corrode, possibly making it harder to stop. Chrysler says dealers can install for free a shield to protect brake boosters and it'll notify customers that are affected.

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GM faces more questioning

WASHINGTON (AP) — General Motors CEO Mary Barra heads back to Capitol Hill today to testify about ignition switch problems on some of the automaker's small cars that are linked to 13 deaths. Yesterday, Barra acknowledged before a House committee that GM took too long to recall cars with the problem. Today, Barra appears before a Senate subcommittee. GM has recalled 2.6 million cars since February.

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Washington mudslide death toll climbs to 28

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Receding floodwaters in Washington state are allowing rescuers to look for bodies in areas that had been inaccessible. The death toll from a March 22 mudslide is 28, but 20 people are still missing in the community of Oso.

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PG&E criminally charged in fatal pipeline blast

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) —Pacific Gas and Electric is facing federal felony counts linked to a natural gas pipeline blast in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010. Eight people were killed and 38 homes were destroyed in San Bruno. The indictment accuses the utility of failing to act on threats in its pipeline system even after the problems were identified by its own inspectors.

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Obama, Mich. Senate candidate call for higher wage

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is using his call for a higher minimum wage to help boost a Michigan congressman running for the Senate. Obama is being joined this afternoon at the University of Michigan by Rep. Gary Peters. That makes Peters the first Senate candidate to embrace the president's message and the chance to appear with him before voters this year. Some other Democrats have shied away from Obama amid controversy over his health care plan. Obama wants to increase the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 as part of an election-year economic agenda focused on working families. The White House says that would benefit more than 970,000 workers in Michigan. Obama also plans to travel to his hometown of Chicago for two evening fundraisers benefiting the Democratic National Committee.

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House GOP plan seeks health cuts to balance budget

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are pressing ahead with a plan to try to balance the budget within 10 years, relying on big decreases in health care programs for the middle class and the poor, as well as tax hikes and Medicare cuts engineered by President Barack Obama. The GOP fiscal plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan promises $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade and incorporates the pro-growth effects of deficit reductions to bring the government's chronically unbalanced books into the black by 2024. The Wisconsin Republican's moves promise to balance the government's books with wide-ranging cuts to programs like food stamps and government-paid health care for the poor and working class. It's a nonstarter with Obama. The measure should ease through the House budget panel today.

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High court voids overall contribution limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. The justices said in a 5-4 vote Wednesday that Americans have a right to give the legal maximum to candidates for Congress and president, as well as to parties and PACs, without worrying that they will violate the law when they bump up against a limit on all contributions, set at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014. That includes a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates. But their decision does not undermine limits on individual contributions to candidates for president or Congress, now $2,600 an election.

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Former CIA official disputes claims on Benghazi

WASHINGTON (AP) — The former deputy director of the CIA is rejecting claims that political pressure to protect President Barack Obama and onetime Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton forced him to edit the widely debunked talking points on the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack. Mike Morell offered a lengthy defense of his actions in a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence committee on Wednesday. Republicans are pressing ahead with their investigation of the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Morrell disputed allegations that he or the agency "cooked the books" on the attack and then tried to cover up their actions. Morell had deleted references to al-Qaida in revising the talking points.

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Demands grow to release Senate torture report

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two centrist senators have joined the call to release a Senate torture report that has sharply divided lawmakers and the CIA. Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King say the report shows terror detainees were tortured. Collins is a moderate Republican. King is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. They are both members of the Senate intelligence Committee, which will vote Thursday on whether to demand that a summary of its 6,200-page review be declassified. In a joint statement, the senators say they'll vote for declassification even if they don't fully endorse all the findings. They say the review was limited because no CIA officials were interviewed and Republican committee staff wasn't involved. But they say it's important to allow Americans to make their own conclusions.

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Razor blades found at playground near Philadelphia

BROOKHAVEN, Pa. (AP) — Police say razor blades were found duct-taped to playground equipment at a park outside Philadelphia. Police in the Delaware County town of Brookhaven say the blades affixed to equipment in Eaton Park could have injured children playing in the area. They said other parks in the town had been checked and were clear, but they will be checked by both patrol and plainclothes officers on every shift. On their Facebook page, police asked parents to check equipment before letting children play, and said older, unescorted children should be warned as well. Police credited maintenance personnel for discovering the vandalism. No injuries were reported. A week ago, authorities in western Illinois found a dozen razor blades glued to playground equipment in a city park in East Moline.

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Funeral set for Boston firefighter, father of 3

WATERTOWN, Mass. (AP) — A 43-year-old Boston firefighter killed with a colleague as they fought a nine-alarm apartment fire last week is being laid to rest. Lt. Edward Walsh died alongside 33-year-old firefighter Michael Kennedy when they became trapped in the March 26 blaze at a Back Bay-area brownstone building. Walsh was married with three children all under the age of 10. His funeral Mass is scheduled for Wednesday morning at St. Patrick's Church in suburban Watertown, where he grew up. Thousands, including firefighters from across the country, attended his wake Tuesday. Walsh will be buried next to his father, a Watertown firefighter. Kennedy's wake is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. His funeral is Thursday in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood. Fire department chaplains will conduct the funerals. Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley is expected to attend.

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INTERNATIONAL
6 dead in Chile quake

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) —Authorities have lifted tsunami warnings for Chile's long coastline after a magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck the country's northern coast. Six people were crushed to death or suffered fatal heart attacks. President Michelle Bachelet says the extent of damage from Tuesday night's quake is still being assessed. She's declared a state of emergency in the region and has sent a military plane with 100 anti-riot police to join 300 soldiers deployed to prevent looting and round up 300 inmates who escaped from a women's prison. The powerful quake and more than 20 significant aftershocks touched off landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport and provoked fires that destroyed several businesses. Near the quake's offshore epicenter authorities say hospitals treated minor injuries and some homes made of adobe were destroyed.

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Third blast hits area outside Cairo University

CAIRO (AP) — A bombing attack outside Cairo University's main campus in Egypt has killed a police general and wounded several others, including some top police officers. Three bombs went off, hitting riot police who were deployed against protests by Islamist students. The bombings are the latest in a campaign of attacks targeting Egypt's police and military.

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AP Interview: Yanukovych: Crimea a part of Ukraine

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's ousted president, calls Russia's annexation of Crimea "a tragedy" and says he hopes the Black Sea peninsula can come back under Ukraine's fold someday. Yanukovych was speaking Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press and Russia's NTV television, his first since fleeing Ukraine after months of massive protests. He said he hopes to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the conditions under which Crimea could rejoin Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea last month following a hastily-called referendum held after Russian troops had taken over the region. Ukraine and the West have rejected the move as illegal.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

St. Louis 1, Pittsburgh 0

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Minnesota at Chicago White Sox 1:10 p.m.
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh 6:05 p.m.
St. Louis at Cincinnati 6:10 p.m.

NBA

Chicago at Atlanta 6:30 p.m.

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Woods To Miss The Masters

(Undated)  --  Tiger Woods will not play in The Masters next week.  The world's number-one golfer revealed on his website that he will miss the first major of the season after having surgery for a pinched nerve.  The 14-time major champion says he hopes to return to competition sometime this summer.

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Rams ink Britt

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Rams have signed receiver Kenny Britt to a free agent deal. He caught 84 passes for 10 touchdowns in his first two seasons, averaging 18.5 yards per catch in 2010. He has since been hindered by a knee injury and personal issues. The Rams also added defensive lineman Alex Carrington.

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News For Apr. 1, 2014

LOCAL
Centralia Beating Suspect In Custody In Missouri

A 27-year-old Hartford, Missouri man wanted by Centralia Police has been arrested in Missouri by St. Louis Police, according to the family of his alleged victim. Law enforcement in both Illinois and Missouri have been searching for Cedric Powe since a December incident in which he is alleged to have savagely beaten and choked his then girlfriend, causing her to permanently lose sight in her left eye. Mark Zack, the father of the 20-year-old girl, Chelsea Simmons, initially offered a $500 reward for information that would lead to the apprehension of Powe, and through fundraisers and donations that reward money grew. A Marion County judge reportedly issued a felony warrant for Powe’s arrest in connection with the alleged beating incident. Powe has been a “most wanted” person with the St. Louis Regional Crimestoppers since December’s alleged incident, as it was believed he fled to the St. Louis area. An extradition hearing will most likely have to be held in Missouri before Powe is returned to Illinois where he will face the charges filed in connection with the beating of Simmons. The charges filed in Marion County Court remain sealed, until such time as Powe is in custody of Marion County authorities. Powe is being held in the St. Louis City Justice Center.

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West Frankfort Woman Shot

A West Frankfort woman is in an Evansville, IN hospital after a Monday morning shooting.
52 year old Kendra Turner-Adams was shot in the back of the head  around 11 yesterday morning in the 1900 block of Old Marion Road in  West Frankfort. Her husband, John Adams, has been charged with attempted murder.

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Alton woman gets 8 years prison in heroin death

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — An Alton woman will have to serve eight years in prison for her role in a southwestern Illinois man's heroin death last summer. The (Alton) Telegraph reports 28-year-old Mary Ellen Johnson pleaded guilty to drug-induced homicide in Madison County. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped a count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of an elementary school. Authorities say Johnson supplied the heroin that was used by 34-year-old Michael Johnson, who died from an overdose last July at Mary Johnson's home. The Johnsons are not related. The homicide charge was punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

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Charges: Ill. woman tried sneaking drugs into jail

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — A woman ordered to serve weekends in jail on an impaired-driving conviction is now accused of trying to smuggle banned prescription drugs into the lockup. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that Franklin County prosecutors have charged 23-year-old Caitlen Haynes of Sesser with bringing contraband into a penal institution and possessing a controlled substance. Both are felonies. Sheriff Don Jones says Haynes was arrested Friday. Details about the drugs Haynes allegedly tried to smuggle were not immediately released. Haynes last month pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence and was sentenced to 30 months of probation, along with 20 days of periodic jail time. Online court records do not show whether she has an attorney.

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Three To Hospital After Fiery Collision In Centralia

Two people had to be extricated from their vehicle Monday, following a fiery crash on South Poplar Street in Centralia. According to reports, an SUV driven by 20-year-old Chelsea Branch, of Centralia, collided with a UPS semi-truck driven by 36-year-old David Schaefer, of Bonnie. Details into what led to the collision are still not clear, but reports do show that the SUV caught fire after the wreck, with two of its three occupants, Branch and 30-year-old passenger Dane Hays, of Kell, trapped inside. A second passenger, 30-year-old Rachel Crain, of Salem, was able to escape the vehicle through a rear window. Using the fire extinguisher in the cab of his UPS truck, Schaefer was able to quickly put out the flames on the SUV. After they were extricated from the SUV, Branch and Hays were transported along with Crain to St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia for treatment of injuries they suffered in the accident. Schaefer declined treatment at the scene.

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McHaney Named Chief Judge In Fourth Circuit

With the current chief judge of the Illinois Fourth Judicial District set to take his seat Tuesday on the Fifth Appellate Court bench in Mt. Vernon, a new chief judge has been named. The honorable Michael McHaney, of Salem, will take over the chief judge’s position in the Fourth Circuit as the honorable S. Gene Schwarm takes his seat on the Appellate Court bench. The Illinois Supreme Court announced earlier this month that it had appointed Schwarm to fill the vacancy created by Justice James Wexsten’s January retirement. Schwarm’s appointment was made by Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier based on a committee’s recommendation, an Illinois Supreme Court news release stated. Schwarm’s appointment takes effect April 1 and will expire Dec. 5, 2016, when the position will be filled by the victor of the 2016 general election. McHaney, an at large circuit judge in the Fourth Circuit, was selected by his fellow judges in the circuit to ascend to the chief judge’s position, following Schwarm’s appointment to the appellate bench. McHaney and his wife Laura reside in Salem. They have four adult children.

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2 accused of dumping tires in East St. Louis club

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Two southwestern Illinois men are accused of illegal dumping after police say they found more than 1,000 scrap tires inside a former East St. Louis club. The Belleville News-Democrat reports St. Clair County prosecutors have charged 32-year-old Patrick Singleton of Granite City and 34-year-old Robert Evans Jr. of O'Fallon with criminal disposal of waste. Police say officers responding to a tip from witnesses found the two men with a flatbed loaded with tires outside the former Club Casino. A warrant alleges the men dumped more than 50 waste tires at a site that wasn't approved as a sanitary landfill. Online court records don't show whether Singleton or Evans have attorneys. They do not have listed home telephone numbers.

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Scott Airmen To Pitch In With Dorm Cleaning

(Scott Air Force Base, IL) -- A new cost-cutting program at Scott Air Force Base will result in airmen taking on less than glamorous duties. Starting tomorrow, armed will take on more responsibility for mopping, vacuuming and grass-cutting at dorms and office buildings. Scott will save about a million dollars in custodial and grounds keeping contracts by putting the airmen to work on those tasks. Challenge Unlimited has the grounds keeping and custodial contracts and the cost cutting is forcing the non-profit to eliminate 15 positions.

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New Math Hotline For Middle School Kids

(Edwardsville, IL) -- Kids having trouble with their math homework can get help at the press of a few buttons. There’s a new homework hotline at the SIU Edwardsville. It’s designed to help 6th through 8th graders in Illinois and in Missouri get a grasp on math concepts. The hotline is open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. The number to call for help is 618-650-3072.

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Fire Destroys Ashley Home

A fire east of Ashley destroyed a home yesterday afternoon.  The call originally was a Jefferson County call and Woodlawn responded, as did Ashley, Waltonville and the Jefferson Fire Protection District.  The JFPD reports that the home at 1820 East Illinois Route 15 belonged to Jim Mandrell and there was heavy fire in the roof area when the fire crews arrived on the scene at 2:30 PM.  An Illinois State Police Trooper and a Jefferson County deputy made sure the residence was clear of any persons, as there was a report of someone inside, but that was not the case.  The damage is severe and it is a total loss, but fire fighters were able to get some contents out of the house for the family.  No other homes were damaged and no one was injured.  Fire crews were on the scene for over 3 hours.  The JFPD reports the Red Cross was called in to assist the family.

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STATE
Durbin, Quinn push for minimum wage increase


CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn have joined labor unions and workers to push for raising the minimum wage. The Democratic lawmakers spoke Monday in Chicago. Durbin says the U.S. Senate could vote this week to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. He says he supports the measure, which is unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-controlled House. Durbin says people who go to work every day shouldn't live in poverty. Quinn is pushing a separate measure to raise Illinois' minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour. He says it would stimulate the economy by putting more cash in workers' pockets. Opponents say hiking the minimum wage will force companies to lay off workers, adding to Illinois' already high unemployment.

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Fox Blocks Governor Quinn’s Campaign Ad

(Undated)  --  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will have to try some other strategy to get one up on his challenger for reelection.  A recent Quinn campaign commercial compared his opponent Bruce Rauner to Mr. Burns, a wealthy character from the cartoon The Simpsons.  Fox, which has rights to the cartoon, slammed the ad and removed it from YouTube.

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Illinois Revokes First Concealed Carry Permit

(Undated)  --  An Illinois man is the first in the state to lose his concealed carry license.  William O’Connell of Chicago is accused of pulling a gun during a fight and threatening to shoot another man.  He then allegedly hid the weapon.  O’Connell will have his permit reinstated if he’s found not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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Report: Madigan Used Clout To Select Some Metra Board Members

(Chicago, IL)   --   A transit panel created by Governor Quinn accuses the Illinois House Speaker of using his influence to select Metra Board members.  The Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force says Michael Madigan was among a list of officials who made job related recommendations to Metra.  Other officials included Metra and CTA officials, as well as Cook County and legislative members. The panel also said that in some cases, Madigan made more than a recommendation, he made the executive decision that his selection was hired. Madigan's camp called the 94-page report amateurish because it did not provide names and dates.

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Ninety Percent Of Illinoisans Say Politicians Are Corrupt

(Carbondale, IL) -- Illinois is known as one of the most corrupt states in the nation and if you ask the people who live here, they’ll tell you corruption runs rampant. Charlie Leonard, with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, says their latest poll reveals nine out of ten people think their politicians are shady. The perception of corruption may not be so far off-base. Right now there are at least two state reps facing federal scrutiny, a third resigned just last week after the feds raided his office looking for child porn. Four out of the last nine governors have served prison time, including Rod Blagojevich who’s serving out a 14-year-sentence for corruption. Other notable politicians who are serving time are former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Junior, his wife Sandi Jackson who was a Chicago alderman, and dozens of local office holders who’ve been accused of swindling money.

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Jesse White Reminds Drivers to Drive Safely; Avoid Distracted Driving

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is reminding people to travel safely and avoid driving while distracted as April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. “As the weather warms and travel increases, I encourage everyone to put away their cell phones while they are behind the wheel and focus completely on the task at hand: driving safely,” said White.  “Studies show that distracted driving contributes significantly to otherwise preventable fatal crashes.” A recent study commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that the use of handheld cell phones increase the risk of a crash by three times.  According to U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2012 over 3,300 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving. Texting while driving is perhaps the most dangerous form of distracted driving.  According to NHTSA, driving while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while drunk and texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not texting. Illinois has been a national leader in efforts to combat distracted driving.  White chaired the state’s Distracted Driving Task Force, which led to the state’s ban on texting while driving in 2010.  Over 5,000 people have been convicted of texting while driving since that law took effect Jan 1. 2010. On Jan. 1, 2014, the new state law banning handheld cell phones while driving took effect.  In the law’s first three months, more than 2,800 drivers having been convicted for texting, talking or dialing on a handheld cell phone.

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FTC says Sunday car sales ban bad for competition

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Federal regulators say Illinois' longstanding ban on Sunday automobile sales isn't good for competition and can be harmful to the marketplace. The Federal Trade Commission says the prohibition on Sunday automobile sales also makes it more difficult for drivers to shop around for the best deal. The agency issued the statement late last week in response to a measure introduced by state Sen. Jim Oberweis, who wants to repeal the law that went into effect in 1983. Oberweis asked the FTC to weigh in. Violators can face a $1,500 fine. The ban is still supported by car sellers, who said it cuts overhead, levels the playing field and gives employees a day off. An effort to repeal the ban was defeated in a state Senate committee in 1987.

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NATIONAL
Last-minute rush

WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials say a mad rush to sign up for health insurance before last night's midnight deadline could put the government on track to have more than 7 million Americans enrolled. But the administration has not said how many of those who already have signed up closed the deal by paying their first month's premiums. And it doesn't know how many of those signups were previously uninsured. That's the real test of Obama's health care overhaul.

--------------------------------

New report details racial gap among US children

NEW YORK (AP) — A report being released today underscores a continuing racial gap affecting American children's chances for success. The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that white and Asian children are far better positioned for success than black, Latino and American Indian children. The foundation is calling for urgent action to close the gap.

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Obama gets bill giving docs temporary Medicare fix

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has once again given doctors temporary relief from a flawed Medicare payment formula that threatened them with a 24 percent cut in their fees. A 64-35 Senate vote Monday cleared the measure for President Barack Obama's signature, which is expected as early as Tuesday. The $21 billion bill would stave off a 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors for a year and extend dozens of other expiring health care provisions, such as higher payment rates for rural hospitals. The legislation is paid for by cuts to health care providers, but fully half of the cuts won't kick in for 10 years. It's the 17th temporary "patch" to a broken payment formula that dates to 1997.

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DC mayor seeks second term amid federal probe

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters in the nation's capital are deciding whether Mayor Vincent Gray should get a second term amid a federal investigation of his 2010 campaign. Gray faces seven challengers in today's Democratic mayoral primary, and polls have shown him neck-and-neck with D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser. She says the city needs a fresh start as the mayor faces possible indictment. Five people involved with Gray's 2010 campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies. Three weeks ago, federal prosecutors said for the first time that Gray knew about an illegal, $668,000 slush fund that helped him get elected four years ago. The mayor has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. Gray is hoping for high turnout in less affluent parts of the city where he remains popular.

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LI student accepted at 8 Ivy League schools

SHIRLEY, N.Y. (AP) — Kwasi Enin of Shirely, N.Y., is one smart cookie. The 17-year-old Long Island student has been accepted at all eight Ivy League schools. Enin tells Newsday he applied to Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania all said yes. The William Floyd High School senior scored 2,250 out of 2,400 on his SAT.

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GM on the hot seat

DETROIT (AP) — The new CEO for General Motors is headed to Capitol Hill today to answer questions about the defect in some of the automaker's small cars that's linked to 13 deaths. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman also is expected to testify that GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags as early as 2001, but didn't share it until last month. House subcommittee members will want to know why neither GM nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of cars with the defective switches.

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Chrysler sales surge 13 percent in March

DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler's U.S. sales jumped 13 percent in March, helped by strong sales of the new Jeep Cherokee and the Ram pickup. Jeep brand sales were up 47 percent, largely due to the Cherokee, which went on sale last fall. Sales of its bigger sibling, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, were up 26 percent. And Chrysler's best-seller, the Ram truck, was up 26 percent to 42,532. Chrysler's minivan sales were also up. Minivan sales usually rise in the spring, as families plan for summer road trips. Dodge Caravan sales jumped 27 percent to 14,165. Chrysler's results were likely to far exceed the industry average. Analysts are expecting sales to rise around 2 percent in March compared with the same month a year ago.

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Marathon victim sues Glenn Beck for defamation

BOSTON (AP) — A Saudi Arabian man injured in the Boston Marathon bombings has filed a defamation lawsuit against Glenn Beck, accusing the conservative commentator of saying on the air that the plaintiff was "the money man" behind the attack. In the federal lawsuit filed Friday in Boston, Abdulrahman Alharbi says his reputation was "substantially and severely damaged" as a result of Beck's statements tying him to the bombings. The 20-year-old Alharbi, who attends college in the Boston area, says in his lawsuit that he was injured in the bombings and was questioned by authorities who searched his apartment before determining he had no connection to the attack. His lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages. Beck's agent didn't immediately respond to a phone call Tuesday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

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Police: Body in DC park is that of murder suspect

WASHINGTON (AP) — Police in the nation's capital say they have identified the body of a man found in a park as that of a murder suspect who was the last person seen with a missing 8-year-old girl. Police announced Tuesday morning that the man found dead Monday with an apparent gunshot wound was identified as 51-year-old Kahlil Tatum. Chief Cathy Lanier says his death appears to be a suicide. Tatum was a janitor at the homeless shelter where Relisha Rudd lived with her family. The search for Relisha continues. She was last seen March 1 with Tatum, and police say the next day he bought trash bags and was seen in the park. School absences sparked the search March 19. After Tatum's wife was found dead, he was charged with murder.

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INTERNATIONAL
Kerry returning to Mideast Wed to push peace talks

BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will return to the Middle East on Wednesday to continue his push to salvage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The State Department says Kerry will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week in Jerusalem. After seeing Abbas, he will travel to Algeria and Morocco. An official close to the Mideast peace talks has said a deal is emerging to extend the troubled peace negotiations. It could include the U.S. release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who spied for Israel, in exchange for Israel's release of 400 Palestinian prisoners, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the deal with the media on the record.

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Official: Deal emerging on Mideast talks extension

JERUSALEM (AP) — An official close to the Mideast peace talks says a deal is emerging to extend the troubled negotiations. It includes the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for 400 Palestinian prisoners. The official says the deal would extend the talks into 2015. He says it doesn't include a freeze on West Bank settlement construction but that Israel would show "great restraint." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the deal with the media. He says that under the deal, Pollard's release would take place by mid-month. The U.S. has been negotiating with Israel and the Palestinians to extend talks past a late-April deadline. The months-long negotiations hit a snag when a planned prisoner release did not take place as scheduled.

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Airlines call for more security, passenger checks

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The International Air Transport Association says the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane highlights the need for security improvements both in tracking aircraft and screening passengers before they board planes. The global airline group said it is creating a high-level task force that will make recommendations by the end of the year on how commercial aircraft can be continuously tracked. IATA director-general Tony Tyler told an industry conference Tuesday in the Malaysian capital that accidents remain rare, but "we cannot let another aircraft simply vanish." The 3-week hunt for Flight 370 has turned up no confirmed sign of the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

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Rolling Stones to resume tour in May

LONDON (AP) — The Rolling Stones are resuming a world tour after postponing several dates in the wake of the death of L'Wren Scott, girlfriend of singer Mick Jagger. The band has announced new shows in Europe, starting May 26 in Oslo, Norway. The Stones said Tuesday they also will play Portugal, Switzerland, Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark as part of the 14 On Fire tour. The band called off a seven-date tour of Australia and New Zealand after fashion designer Scott was found dead in her New York apartment on March 17. The New York City medical examiner's office ruled her death a suicide. Scott, 49, had been Jagger's companion since 2001.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 94, Boston 80

MLB

St. Louis 1, Cincinnati 0
Pittsburgh 1, Chicago Cubs 0 (10 innings)
Chicago White Sox 5, Minnesota 3

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Philadelphia at St. Louis 7 p.m.

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Angels hitting coach Baylor breaks leg catching ceremonial first pitch

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)— Current Los Angeles Angels hitting coach and former Cubs Manager Don Baylor broke his right leg while catching Vladimir Guerrero's ceremonial first pitch last night. The 64-year-old Baylor had to be helped off the field after squatting to catch Guerrero's throw. Baylor will have surgery today on his right femur.

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News For Mar. 31, 2014

LOCAL
S. Illinois counties have highest permit numbers

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — A newspaper analysis shows two far-southern Illinois counties have the highest per-capita number of concealed carry applications. The (Peoria) Journal Star reports Hardin and White counties topped the state for the most concealed carry permit requests based on their population. Each county had a rate of 12.5 applications per 1,000 residents. So far, 54 Hardin County residents have applied and 184 applications have come from White County residents. Cook County, which is home to Chicago, had the least number of applications per-capita — 2.3 per 1,000 residents. But the state's most populated county led the state in simple numbers, with 12,027 applicants so far. Illinois State Police began accepting permit applications in January. By early March, nearly 49,000 people had applied. The first permits were mailed this month.

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Former Judge Gets Two Years In Drug Plea

(East St. Louis, IL) -- Former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook is pleading guilty to drug and gun charges again, and the judge this time imposed a two-year sentence, plus three years probation. A previous plea agreement was rejected by the judge because he thought the 18-month sentence was too lenient. At today's hearing, federal prosecutors again suggested 18-months, while Cook's attorney argued for six months. The judge wasn't bound by either recommendation, but had said previously that Cook's status as a judge and the impact of his drug addiction on cases he heard were reasons to go beyond the sentencing guidelines.

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Belleville 'March' resurfaces after 100 years

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A 100-year-old march written to commemorate Belleville's centennial is being played once more in the southwestern Illinois community. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the nearly forgotten piece was composed a century ago by Frank E. Macke, a trumpet player who led "Frank Macke's Old-time Orchestra." The sheet music resurfaced while community officials were planning Belleville's bicentennial. Kathy Liddy is Macke's granddaughter. She says she kept the piece framed her home, but never heard it performed until this week when Swansea pianist Christina Witkowski performed it. Liddy calls it "sophisticated" and says it had "a lot of lively movements." She says she hopes the march is played by a full band during the bicentennial celebrations.

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Belleville woman charged in baby boy's death

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois woman serving prison time for trying to kill her baby daughter has been charged with murder in the death of another child. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that 28-year-old Elyse J. Mamino was charged Friday with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicidal death. Belleville police say officers searching Mamino's home found the remains of a baby boy wrapped in a plastic bag and towel in a dresser drawer. An autopsy found the baby was born alive and suffocated. Mamino is serving a six-year prison term at the Lincoln Correctional Facility for attempted murder. In that case prosecutors say she tried to drown her newborn daughter in a toilet. Mamino was to be released Sunday, but her bail is $1 million in the murder case.

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AP Exclusive: State official must repay $7,200

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The head of state parks in Illinois will repay $7,200 in improper travel reimbursement mostly in the past two years. The Department of Natural Resources acknowledged it was in error after inquiries from The Associated Press. Department administrator Ronald House lives in Benton, in southern Illinois, but his headquarters is Springfield. State travel rules stipulate that commuting mileage must be subtracted from any trip that includes travel between home and headquarters. The AP's review of records found nearly 80 instances in which House was reimbursed for 165 miles between Benton and Springfield. House says the agency instructed him on filing mileage claims. Spokesman Chris Young says IDNR director Marc Miller asked House to repay the money. IDNR initially defended the reimbursements but reversed course after further review.

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Two Arrested for Cocaine Possession

Centralia Police arrested two people Saturday night, after a traffic stop resulted in the alleged discovery of a controlled substance. According to reports, 21-year-old Ricosha Young, of Centralia, was arrested for alleged possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, after she was being walked away from the vehicle for alleged driving while license suspended and reportedly dropped a baggie containing multiple other baggies that contained a substance that field tested positive for cocaine. A passenger of the vehicle, 20-year-old Dominique Burwell, of Chicago, was also arrested for alleged possession of a controlled substance. They both remain in the Marion County Jail.

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Kinmundy Man Sentenced To Prison

The burglary last May of a Centralia city councilman’s home has resulted in an 18-year prison term for a 27-year-old Kinmundy man. Nicholas Easley had earlier pleaded guilty to residential burglary in connection with the burglary of city councilman Howard Jones’ home.  Easley had been entered into the county drug court program, but as a result of not successfully completing the program, Easley was sentenced on the charge. After his release from prison, he will have to complete 3-years parole and will have to pay restitution.

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STATE
Ill. makes last push for health insurance sign-up

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials are making a final push to enroll residents in the state's Health Insurance Marketplace. People who don't already have health insurance must sign up by midnight Monday or face federal tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act. After that, only people with limited special circumstances will be able to get coverage that meets the federal law's requirements. Those without insurance can be fined either 1 percent of their income or $95, whichever is greater, when they file 2014 federal taxes. Low- and middle-income Americans can get subsidies to help buy policies through the exchanges. The law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions or from dropping those who develop expensive health problems. Enrollment counselors are available until midnight at events around the state.

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Closer Look: Quinn's budget holds a few surprises

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Much of the focus of Gov. Pat Quinn's election-year budget address was on his proposal to make Illinois' temporary income tax permanent in order to avert cuts to education and other areas. But buried in the 514-page blueprint released by the governor's office Wednesday are several other less-publicized proposals revealing his priorities in the year ahead. Quinn proposes to wipe out funding for an anti-violence program that was criticized in a February audit for being hastily organized and sloppily executed. He also wants to reopen two shuttered youth corrections facilities as adult prison facilities, and boost funding to his own office, among other plans. While lawmakers are not required to listen to Quinn's suggestion, the governor's budget address sets the tone for the budget negotiations continuing in the spring session.

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Hybrid court for drug offenders saves county money

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — A county in central Illinois is having success and saving money with a hybrid court program that's keeping drug offenders out of prison and helping them turn their lives around. The Macon County court combines legal oversight with treatment for drug or alcohol abusers in legal trouble. The Herald & Review in Decatur reports the program can save the county up to $13,000 in legal and incarceration costs for each person it keeps out of prison. A dozen people completed the court's first program in a ceremony Friday. The requirements include a year of continuous sobriety and finding a job or volunteer work. One participant, Shannon Coefield, told the newspaper she overcame a decade of substance abuse. She says she now has a sense of self-respect.

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Illinois lawmakers push for state retirement plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers are advancing legislation that would give most private-sector employees access to retirement plans through a government program.
Proposals in the House and Senate would require most businesses without retirement plans to enroll workers in a statewide savings program. The program would take 3 percent from employee paychecks and put money into a privately managed investment fund. Employees could choose to opt out of the program. State Sen. Daniel Biss says it would allow millions of people to save for retirement with little cost to government and businesses. The Evanston Democrat's measure passed a Senate committee on Tuesday after lengthy debate. Business groups say the state shouldn't force businesses to enroll employees. They argue it would add costs and complications to businesses.

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Illinois Democrats use redistricting to dominate

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Republican congressional candidate Bobby Schilling is running against two opponents in the November election - one an incumbent congresswoman and the other a map of electoral districts favoring Illinois Democrats. What happened in Illinois after the decennial census in 2010 is a mirror image of most of the rest of the country, where Republican legislatures doing the map-drawing helped the GOP retain a majority in the House of Representatives despite losing the national popular vote. With solid majorities in the state House and Senate as well as control of the governor's mansion, the Democrats had complete control over the Illinois redistricting process in 2011. They used it to defeat Schilling and three other Illinois Republican congressmen in 2012, solidifying their vise grip on President Barack Obama's home state.

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Quinn's housing refund plan draws scrutiny

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois homeowners could get $500 checks this year under a provision of Gov. Pat Quinn's state budget that he says will ease the burden of an unfair property tax system. However, the refund plan comes as the Chicago Democrat wants to make Illinois' temporary income tax increase permanent in the same proposed budget and he faces a fierce re-election challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. The plan has come under scrutiny from Republicans who say it costs too much and some homeowners who say they'll lose money. Still, Quinn says most homeowners will benefit from the "historic" property tax relief. Currently, Illinois homeowners get a tax credit. The new refund would replace that if lawmakers approve the plan soon. Homeowners could start getting checks as soon as this year.

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Illinois House OKs measure to allow bobcat hunting

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers have advanced a proposal to allow bobcat hunting for the first time in more than 40 years. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports the Illinois House voted 91-20 Thursday in favor of the measure. It now goes to the Senate. Illinois banned hunting of the nocturnal animal in 1972. Bobcats were on the threatened species list from 1977 to 1999. But supporters say the population has made a comeback. Republican state Rep. Wayne Rosenthal of Morrisonville is the bill's sponsor. He says the bobcat population is growing in rural, non-farming areas of western and southern Illinois. The hunting and trapping season would occur sometime between Nov. 1 and Feb. 15. A hunter would be allowed to kill one bobcat per year.

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NATIONAL
Confirmed dead in Washington mudslide rises to 21

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Authorities say the number of people who have been confirmed dead from the mudslide in Washington state has increased from 18 to 21. Jason Biermann of Snohomish County Emergency Management said Sunday that 15 victims have been identified by the Snohomish County medical examiner. Six have yet to be identified. Biermann says another four bodies were found in the debris field on Sunday. About 30 people remain missing after the massive mudslide in mountainside community of Oso on March 22. Meanwhile, many of the dogs essential in the search for victims will take a two-day break. Rescue officials say the dogs can lose their sensing ability if overworked in the cold and rain. Dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that arrived more recently will continue working. Rescuers will be getting some relief as far as weather is concerned. Mainly dry conditions are forecast Monday through Wednesday in western Washington.

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Police: Man dead after shooting at Ga. University

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say a man was shot and fatally wounded by campus police on Sunday near student apartments at Georgia's Columbus State University after they responded to reports that someone had been seen loading a gun. Campus officials say no one else was hurt and the campus in western Georgia, about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta, was never put on any lockdown during or after the shooting episode. They added that the man wasn't a student at the school. University Police Chief Rus Drew says officers were called at 2:35 p.m. Sunday and arrived three minutes later to an area near some campus apartments and began chasing the man on foot. He says "at some point the suspect turned and faced the officers and shots were fired." The man died later at a hospital. Drew says the man wasn't a student there and no lockdown was imposed because an "isolated threat" had been ended quickly. He says no one else was hurt and no students appeared to have been endangered.

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Senate torture report examines hunt for bin Laden

WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA still disagrees, but sources say a yet-to-be-released Senate torture report concludes that so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were ineffective in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With the release edging closer for the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on interrogations, renditions and detentions, Democrats and Some Republicans hope to make a persuasive case for their conclusion.

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GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

DETROIT (AP) — Members of Congress will press General Motors for answers this week in the recall of some 2.6 million vehicles for a faulty ignition switch that's been linked to 13 deaths. A House subcommittee on Tuesday and a Senate subcommittee Wednesday will ask GM officials if they knew the vehicles had a problem, and was something done to fix it. At least a dozen family members of victims plan to attend.

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Hacked Albuquerque police website back online

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Albuquerque police website is back online after authorities say a cyberattack took it down for hours. The department couldn't immediately be reached for comment Sunday evening, but said earlier that the site was breached. It was visible late Sunday afternoon after going down in the early afternoon. Police spokesman Simon Drobik said earlier that the disruption was due to a cyberattack but didn't know the source of the hack. The attack comes days after a YouTube video emerged threatening retaliation for a recent police shooting that left a homeless man dead. The video that bore the logo of the computer hacking collective Anonymous warned of a cyberattack on city websites and called for a protest march. Hundreds of protesters were marching Sunday to protest recent police shootings.

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Health care website stumbles on last day

WASHINGTON (AP) — On this deadline day for signing up for coverage on the government's health care website, there have again been some problems with the site. For nearly four hours, visitors to HealthCare.gov this morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. An administration spokesman says the website undergoes "regular nightly maintenance" during off-peak hours, and the period was extended today because of a "technical problem."

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Yellen signals continued support for low rates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the extraordinary measures the central bank has used to boost the economy are still needed. Yellen's remarks are a signal that even after the Fed phases out its monthly bond purchases later this year, it will keep a key short-term interest rate at a record low for some time. In her first major speech since taking over the Fed's leadership in February, Yellen continually describes the U.S. job market as being less than healthy despite some improvement. She says the difficulty many people are still having finding full-time work shows that low rates are still needed to encourage borrowing and spending. Yellen says she thinks this view is widely shared by her Fed colleagues.

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US: N. Korea actions are dangerous, provocative

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says North Korea's actions are "dangerous and provocative" and will further aggravate tensions in the region. The comments come after Pyongyang's sudden announcement that it would conduct live-fire drills in seven areas north of the Koreas' disputed maritime boundary. Following that announcement, North and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other's waters. White House spokesman Jonathan Lalley says North Korea's continuous threats and provocations will only deepen its isolation. He says the U.S. remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of its allies and is working in close coordination with South Korea and Japan.

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Court rejects new cases on birth control coverage

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has turned away an early look at a challenge by religiously affiliated not-for-profit groups to the new health care law's provision on birth control coverage. Lawsuits filed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and others are making their way through the courts. The justices on Monday declined to weigh in on them before any federal appeals court has reached a final decision. The Obama administration has devised a compromise to the law's requirement that contraception be included in health plans' preventive services for women. The compromise attempts to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. Their insurers or the health plan's outside administrator would pay for birth control coverage and creates a way to reimburse them.

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Supreme Court takes up drug company dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is wading into a patent dispute between rival pharmaceutical companies over a multiple sclerosis treatment. The justices agreed Monday to hear an appeal from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which claims the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wrongly overturned five of its patents for the drug Copaxone. The appeals court ruling would allow rivals Mylan Inc., Momenta Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sandoz, Inc., to start selling generic versions of the drug later this year, after the remaining patents on the drug expire. A federal district court had earlier ruled in Teva's favor and upheld the patents. Teva says the Federal Circuit should have deferred to factual findings made in the district court. The justices will hear the case in the fall.

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Surgery gives long-term help for obese diabetics

WASHINGTON (AP) — New research is boosting hopes that weight-loss surgery can put some patients' diabetes into remission for years and perhaps in some cases, for good. Longer follow-up from a major study shows that stomach-reducing operations are better than medications for treating "diabesity," the deadly duo of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Millions of Americans have this and can't make enough insulin or use what they do make to process food. After three years, blood-sugar levels were normal in 38 percent and 25 percent of two groups given surgery, but in only 5 percent of those treated with medications. Doctors won't call it a cure because they can't guarantee diabetes will never return, but they hope for long-term remission. The study was discussed Monday at a cardiology conference in Washington.

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INTERNATIONAL
Another disappointment

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Searchers continue to be frustrated as debris being spotted and picked up in the Indian Ocean turns out to have no connection to a missing Malaysian airliner. Australian officials say the latest items spotted are fishing gear. The prime minister says the search will continue indefinitely.

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Kerry to Mideast at critical point in peace talks

PARIS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as peace talks hit a critical make-or-break point. The State Department said Kerry will fly to Tel Aviv Monday for meetings that may be held in Jerusalem and Ramallah. American mediators have been holding urgent talks with the two sides in hopes of salvaging the troubled negotiations and getting them to extend the talks beyond a current late-April deadline. With the parties unable to agree on the terms of a promised Israeli prisoner release, the negotiations risk collapse in the coming weeks. Kerry was flying to Tel Aviv from Paris, where he met Sunday with Russia's foreign minister about the Ukraine crisis.

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Elton John to have 'quiet' wedding with partner

UNDATED (AP) — Elton John and his partner David Furnish are planning a low-profile wedding in May, following a change in British law allowing gay marriages. The singer told NBC's Today show that he wants to celebrate "very quietly," and added: "It will be a joyous occasion and we will have our children." The two men, who have been in a civil partnership since 2005, have two children. In quotes released on NBC's website Monday, the singer said: "We shouldn't just say 'Oh, well, we have a civil partnership, we're not going to bother to get married'. We will get married." Same-sex marriages were allowed for the first time in Britain Saturday, when a new marriage law came into effect.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

Dallas 4, St. Louis 2

MLB

Chicago Cubs 9, Arizona 8

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 107, Boston 102

NHL

Pittsburgh 4, Chicago 1

NASCAR

STP 500  (at Ridgeway, VA)

1. Kurt Busch
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

PGA

Valero Texas Open  (at San Antonio, TX)

1. Steven Bowditch (-8)
T2. Will MacKenzie (-7)
T2. Daniel Summerhays (-7)
T4. Andrew Loupe (-6)
T4. Matt Kuchar (-6)

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Boston at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh 12:05 p.m.
St. Louis at Cincinnati 3:10 p.m. (94.1 FM WMIX, pregame at 2:15 p.m.)
Minnesota at Chicago White Sox 3:10 p.m.

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News For Mar. 28, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon Man Pleads Guilty To Unlawfully Purchasing Firearms

Roman Victor Dymashok, 45, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, and a citizen of Ukraine, pled guilty on Thursday in United States District Court in Benton to information charging him with three counts of making false statements in relation to the purchase of three different firearms, announced Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Specifically, the information alleged that Dymashok provided false information regarding his use of marijuana on three federal background check forms he completed between January 2010 and July 2011. The firearms he purchased included two .223 caliber semi-automatic rifles and a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Sentencing was set for July 10, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at the United States District Courthouse in Benton. At that time, Dymashok faces up to 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and 3 years of supervised release to follow his incarceration on each of the three counts. Dymashok will also be required to forfeit the three firearms, as well as others he possessed, to the United States. Dymashok has been held in custody since his arrest on these charges in May 2013. He was again remanded to the custody of the United States Marshal to await sentencing. The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Illinois State Police, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

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Unemployment Down In Much Of South Central Illinois

Unemployment fell in 14 of 18 counties in South Central Illinois when compared to one year ago. The rate dropped in Jefferson County from 9.5% in February 2013 to 9.1% in February 2014.  The rate also dropped in Marion, Washington, and Wayne Counties while it increased over the same amount of time in Clinton and Hamilton Counties. The data is not seasonally adjusted. Workforce conditions were stable during the winter of 2014 in this region of Illinois. Over the year payroll advances occurred in Wholesale Trade, Health Care Services, and Professional-Business Services. Severe weather conditions this winter caused a seasonal decrease in construction employment and also affected employment in other industries such as Retail Trade and Leisure-Hospitality. Government payrolls remained on a steady downward trend. Employment opportunities were available in early 2014 in Sales, Transportation, and Food Services.  Health Care and Medical Support occupations continued to have job openings. Demands continued for workers in Management, Computer Operations, Engineering, Production Occupations, Office Support Staff, and Installation, Maintenance and Repair Occupations. The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. A person who exhausts benefits, or is ineligible, still will be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work. The IDES supports economic stability by administering unemployment benefits, collecting business contributions to fund those benefits, connecting employers with qualified job seekers, and providing economic information to assist career planning and economic development.

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Trial reset for woman accused in daughter's death

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — The trial of a southern Illinois woman accused of drowning her 8-year-old daughter has been postponed. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports 31-year-old Mary Zumwalt-Jophlin had been scheduled for a May 6 trial in Franklin County in connection with Alexus Smothers' 2011 death. But those proceedings have been delayed until Sept. 6. Authorities allege Zumwalt-Jophlin killed her daughter at their West Frankfort home and then hid the girl's body in a basement crawlspace. She's pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, concealment of a homicide and obstructing justice. She remains jailed in lieu of $2 million bail. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for April 29.

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Quinn's proposes repurposing southern Ill. lockup

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois juvenile prison closed for cost-cutting reasons may be reopened as an adult lockup for drunk driving offenders if Gov. Pat Quinn has his way. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports Quinn announced the proposal involving the shuttered Murphysboro prison in the budget blueprint unveiled Wednesday. Making that a reality depends on Illinois lawmakers making a 67-percent income tax increase permanent, as Quinn proposes. Quinn's budget office says an estimated 2,500 inmates in Illinois prisons are serving time for multiple drunk driving offenses. Shifting them to the maximum-security lockup that closed less than two years ago in Murphysboro could ease prison crowding. The Murphysboro youth center was built to house more than 150 inmates and once employed as many as 135 workers.

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Alexander County Called Least Healthy In Illinois

(Alexander County, IL)  --  Alexander County has been called the least healthy of all Illinois counties.  Patricia Moehring, with the Southern Seven Department of Public Health, says the rankings point to a number of factors, but a poor economy plays a key role. The report released by the Robert Wood Foundation at the University of Wisconsin considers factors like health behaviors, education, socio-economic status, access to health providers, and housing quality. The goal is to provide for communities so they can focus on area that will help improve the health of their residents.  Woodford County comes in as the healthiest in Illinois.

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Hearing awaits ex-judge in courthouse drug case

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A former southwestern Illinois judge at the center of a courthouse drug scandal soon could hear his punishment on federal gun and heroin charges. Michael Cook is to appear for a scheduled sentencing Friday in federal court in East St. Louis. That's where U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade rejected a plea deal the former St. Clair County judge had reached with prosecutors. McDade called the proposed 18-month prison term too lenient. McDade at that time delayed proceedings for a month, giving both sides time to negotiate a stiffer prison sentence for him to consider. Cook still has the right to withdraw his November guilty plea and request a trial. Cook resigned last year after being accused of heroin possession and illegally having a firearm.

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Camp Counselor Charged With Child Porn, Underage Sex

(O'Fallon, IL)  --  A Metro East camp counselor is charged with having sex with girls under the age of 18 and child pornography.  Nicholas Cherry was taken off the job with the O'Fallon, Illinois Parks and Recreation department when an anonymous tip came in last July.  After months of investigation, O'Fallon police found enough evidence to bring charges yesterday.  It's not believed Cherry met any of the girls involved on the job.

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Harrisburg Woman Arrested For Attempted Murder

A Harrisburg woman is facing attempted murder charges. 19 year old Amy Nicole Tolley was arrested earlier this week on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon. Reports indicate another Harrisburg woman, Breanna Sisk, was treated for stab wounds at an Evansville, Ind. Hospital. The incident is alleged to have occurred at Sisk's home.

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Odin Man Sentenced For Meth

A 37-year-old Odin man was sentenced Thursday in Marion County Court to 2-years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, after he pleaded guilty to a meth related felony charge. Walter J. Henson pleaded guilty Thursday morning to a 2013 charge of possessing precursors used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The 2-year sentence will run concurrent to a 3 ½ -year sentence that he began serving earlier this month on a 2011 conviction for the delivery of less than 5 grams of meth.

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STATE
Quinn: Legislature should examine millionaires tax

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn says state lawmakers should take a close look at a plan to tax Illinois millionaires. House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced a constitutional amendment to add a 3 percent surcharge onto incomes over $1 million. He says it will raise an estimated $1 billion annually for schools. A House committee approved the plan Thursday. Quinn told reporters in Chicago on Thursday that voters should have final say. He didn't say outright that he supports it. But the governor does say he's happy to hear it passed through committee and legislators have a "good opportunity" to examine it. Republicans say the tax is unfair. The issue could come up in Quinn's re-election bid against Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Quinn already has alluded to Rauner's wealth in campaign ads.

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Green Party Jumping Into Governor’s Race

(Springfield, IL)  --  The Green Party is trying to get on the November ballot to square off against Governor Quinn and Bruce Rauner for the state’s top job. They’re putting Scott Summers up for the job.  He’s hoping voters have had enough with Republicans and Democrats. Summers supports a progressive or fair tax structure that would spread the tax burden out based on income levels.  The Green Party is not an established party in Illinois, so they’ll need to collect at least 25-thousand valid signatures in order to get on the ballot. 

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Eastern Illinois president to retire in 2015

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — The president of Eastern Illinois University says he'll retire in 2015, stepping down from the post when his contract expires next June. Bill Perry made his announcement Thursday. The 68-year-old joined the Charleston university in 2007 after spending more than 30 years working at Texas A&M University. Perry says in a statement that he'll continue working to "forge opportunities and meet our challenges" while trustees search for a successor. School officials say they plan to conduct a national search to find a replacement for Perry, which they expect will begin this summer. Eastern Illinois has about 10,000 students.

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Revenge Porn Clears House

(Springfield, IL)  --  Lawmakers are still trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal to post pictures of someone online, without their consent.  State Rep Scott Drury says bitter exes usually turn to social media to get back at their old flame.  Drury says at least three other states have laws that crack down on revenge porn and 13 others are considering it.  The bill cleared the House and is headed to the Senate.  They have their own version of the bill, which is also gaining traction. 

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100 salmonella cases due to Mexican-style cheese

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois public health officials say about 100 cases of salmonella have been tied to illegally made Mexican-style cheese. The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a warning Thursday. Officials say the cases are across 13 counties and have been reported by local health departments since 2012. They say cheese obtained from an ill person's home tested positive for salmonella. Health officials say patients in a third of the cases were hospitalized. Investigators are trying to determine the cheese manufacturer. They say many cases reported eating cheese obtained from worksites, factories, train stations and street vendors. The cheese is not labeled and is often wrapped in aluminum foil. IDPH recommends Illinoisans not eat cheese if they can't clearly identify if the product was made by a licensed or regulated manufacturer.

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Quinn orders 'lights out' at state facilities

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has ordered state facilities to turn off their lights for one hour as part of a global conservation effort. Quinn on Thursday ordered lights out from 8:30 to 9:30 in the morning at many state facilities on Mar. 29. That includes the Thompson Center and Bilandic Building in Chicago, the Illinois State Fairgrounds and other state facilities across Illinois. The announcement is part of a global conservation effort called Earth Hour. It's an annual initiative launched by the World Wild Fund in 2007. Last year, hundreds of millions of people from 7,000 cities went dark for one hour during the event. Quinn says it will not only conserve energy, but "shine a light" on the need to protect the planet. His administration often touts their conservation efforts.

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Committee Approves Truck Stop Gambling Legislation

(Springfield, IL)  --  A proposed bill that calls for more video gaming machines at Illinois truck stops is advancing through the Statehouse. A Senate committee passed the measure on Tuesday by a vote of nine-to -two.  The legislation would allow truck stops to have ten video gaming terminals.  Currently, businesses can operate with five machines. 

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NATIONAL
Weary mudslide rescuers battle rain, exhaustion in quest to find bodies, maybe a miracle

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Rescuers in hip waders have been pushing on through rain and exhaustion, searching for more bodies and perhaps a miracle in the pile of mud and debris that laid waste to the rural town of Oso in Washington state. At least 26 people are known to have been killed in Saturday's mudslide. Nine of those bodies have been located but not recovered, while the list of those unaccounted for still totals 90. Officials are warning the community that a higher toll will be announced Friday morning. The official death toll rose to 17 late Thursday as the Snohomish County medical examiner's office announced it had received the body of an infant recovered earlier in the day. At this point, digging is the only method being used to narrow the list of the missing. Emergency officials say they have stopped conducting door-to-door searches or calling relatives in hopes of locating people who haven't checked in yet.

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US Rep. Rogers of Michigan won't seek re-election

DETROIT (AP) — Seven-term Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan says he won't seek re-election. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced his plans on Friday morning during an interview on Detroit radio station WJR-AM. He says he'll serve out the end of his term and plans to start a national radio program. Last year, Rogers had said he would not run for the U.S. Senate in Michigan this year, saying the best way for him to make a difference in Washington is staying in the House. The 50-year-old former FBI agent has a prominent role on American national security issues, being invited regularly to talk about them on TV. Rogers has been in the House since 2001. He previously was a state senator from 1995 to 2000.

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Poll: Obama health law fails to gain support

WASHINGTON (AP) — Public support for President Barack Obama's health care law is languishing at its lowest level since passage of the landmark legislation four years ago, according to a new poll. The Associated Press-GfK survey finds that 26 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act. Yet even fewer — 13 percent — think it will be completely repealed. A narrow majority expects the law to be further implemented with minor changes, or as passed. The poll was taken before Thursday's announcement by the White House that new health insurance markets have surpassed the goal of 6 million sign-ups.

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Congress backs bill to help cash-strapped Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is close to sending President Barack Obama a bill to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to cash-strapped Ukraine and give the administration broad authority to levy more sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea. In solidarity with the White House, Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly backed legislation in the House and Senate that denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin's military incursion into the Ukrainian Peninsula. On a voice vote, the Senate approved its version of the legislation. The House endorsed a different version on a 399-19 vote and is poised to pass the Senate version on Friday, the final step needed to send the bill to Obama.

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Records: Man who shot sailor was convicted felon

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The Virginia truck driver who killed a sailor aboard a Naval destroyer served prison time for manslaughter and drugs, but it's still unclear what led him onto the base earlier this week. The Navy identified the shooter Thursday as 35-year-old Jeffrey Tyrone Savage of Chesapeake, Va., but officials were still searching for clues about the shooting. Savage was killed by Navy security forces Monday night aboard the USS Mahan after he took a gun from a petty officer who was on watch for the ship and used it to shoot Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo, who was providing security at Naval Station Norfolk. Navy officials have said there's no indication the attack was planned or had any link to terrorism.

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At core of nuke cheating ring: 4 'librarians'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Military investigators are calling them "the librarians" — four Air Force nuclear missile launch officers at the center of a still-unfolding scandal over cheating on proficiency tests. At least 82 missile launch officers face disciplinary action in the scandal, but it is the four "librarians" who allegedly facilitated the cheating, in part by transmitting test answers via text message. As the investigation continues, the Air Force on Thursday fired nine midlevel commanders at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and announced it will pursue disciplinary action against the accused 82. A 10th commander, the senior officer at the base, resigned and will retire from the Air Force. One official says three of the four junior officers at the crux of the cheating also are accused of illegal drug activity.

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Court hands setback to Texas abortion law critics

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld Texas' tough new restrictions on abortion, meaning Dr. Lester Minto's clinic near the Mexican border will stay closed. But Minto, who has been providing abortions for three decades, insists he'll keep helping women who call his shuttered clinic. His is among at least 19 clinics that have closed statewide because of a new law that includes some of the nation's strictest limitations on abortion. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld those restrictions Thursday, overturning a lower court that ruled parts of the law were unconstitutional and served no medical purpose. The appeals court said the law "on its face" doesn't impose undue burden on a woman's life or health.  The case is likely to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Christie holding 1st news conference in 2 months

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is planning to take questions from reporters at his first news conference in more than two months. His availability Friday afternoon comes a day after a lawyer hired by his office issued a report clearing him of any wrongdoing in lane closures near the George Washington Bridge last year. Federal prosecutors and a state legislative committee are still looking into what happened. Christie has not fielded questions from the press corps that normally covers him since Jan. 9, when he held a two-hour news conference about the bridge scandal. Since then, he has taken questions from children during school visits, sports broadcasters on radio interviews, citizens during town hall meetings and radio call-in shows, and a few journalists in one-on-one interviews.

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US consumer spending up modest 0.3 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans spent slightly more in February but the gain still left consumer spending growing at a modest pace, held back by severe winter weather. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in February following a 0.2 percent rise in January. The spending increases would have been even weaker except for a surge in spending on utility bills. In February, spending on durable goods such as autos actually dropped as consumers stayed away from auto dealerships. Service spending, which covers utility payments, rose. Income increased 0.3 percent in February, the same amount as January. Analysts say consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, slowed significantly in the current quarter and will depress overall economic growth. But they are looking for a rebound in the second quarter.

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Tesla to install shields to prevent car fires

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government's auto safety watchdog has closed an investigation into Tesla electric car battery fires after the company agreed to install more shields beneath the cars. Tesla says the shields will prevent roadway debris from damaging batteries and possibly causing fires. The company will retrofit Model S cars sold in the U.S. with the new shields. It sold about 22,000 through February. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the shields and raising the ride height should reduce underbody damage and fire risk. Tesla says the action is not a recall. The company says it will add an aluminum bar, a titanium plate and another piece of aluminum. The shields are designed to ward off the type of debris that caused fires in two cars last year.

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Study finds many preteens have high cholesterol

UNDATED (AP) — There's fresh evidence that many young people could be headed for heart trouble. A study of preteens in Texas found that about one-third of them had borderline or high cholesterol when tested during routine physical exams. High cholesterol rarely causes symptoms in young people. But more than half of them will go on to have it in adulthood, raising their risk for stroke and heart attacks. The study involved 13,000 youths ages 9 through 11 at dozens of clinics in the Houston area. Unhealthy cholesterol levels were found in 34 percent. Doctors say the results support recent guidelines calling for every child to have a cholesterol screening test between ages 9 and 11. The study will be discussed this weekend at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington.

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Study: Married folks have fewer heart problems

UNDATED (AP) — What's good for the heart? Marriage, researchers say. A study of more than 3.5 million Americans finds that married people are less likely than singles, divorced or widowed folks to suffer any type of heart or blood vessel problem. This was true at any age, for women as well as for men, and regardless of other heart disease risk factors they had such as high cholesterol or diabetes. The study by researchers at New York University involved people who sought screening tests for cancer or other conditions from a private company offering them in community settings around the country. Married people had a 5 percent lower risk of any cardiovascular disease compared to singles. Widowed people had a 3 percent greater risk and divorced people, a 5 percent greater risk.

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INTERNATIONAL
Australia says planes checking new search area

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Five aircraft have spotted objects in the southern Indian Ocean today during the search for debris from the lost Malaysian jetliner. The discovery came after officials moved the search area nearly 700 miles to the northeast, following a new analysis of radar data. It found that the plane flew faster than originally thought, and used up more fuel -- which would have cut the distance it could have traveled before going down in the Indian Ocean. It's still not clear whether the objects, of various colors, are from the plane. Photos are being analyzed. Australian officials say a Chinese patrol ship in the area will try to locate the objects after daylight. The search area remains large: about 123,000 square miles. It's also closer to western Australia — and therefore easier for search crews to reach — and does not have the same harsh weather conditions as the old search location.

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Obama: Pope seems uncomfortable with trappings

ROME (AP) — President Barack Obama says he left a meeting with Pope Francis feeling like the pontiff is a little uncomfortable with the trappings of the position. Obama says, quote, "that's not his style," in an interview Friday with "CBS this Morning." Obama says he found in his Vatican visit Thursday that Francis projects humility and has a good sense of humor. He says, quote, "His simplicity and his belief in the power of the spiritual over the material reflects itself in everything that he says and does." Obama says people get a sense that Francis sees himself as a priest and disciple of Christ. And Obama thinks the impression that the pope lives out his convictions is part of why he's been so embraced around the world.

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Britain set to hold first same-sex weddings

LONDON (AP) — The British government has ordered rainbow flags flown over two prominent government buildings to mark the country's first same-sex weddings. The flags are being raised Friday ahead of the law taking effect on Saturday. It marks a profound shift in attitudes in a country that little more than a decade ago had a law on the books banning the "promotion" of homosexuality. Among the first to wed will be Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway. They will marry just after midnight in front of 100 guests at London's Camden Town Hall, before emerging to the strains of "I Got You, Babe" by Sonny and Cher. Treadway says the definition of marriage has changed from a union of a man and a woman. He says, "Now it's between two people who love each other."

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

Boston 3, Chicago 0
St. Louis 5, Minnesota 1

MLB

Miami 6, St. Louis 4
Chicago Cubs 4, Chicago White Sox 3

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Portland at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

Chicago at Ottawa 6:30 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Memphis
Chicago Cubs at Arizona
Chicago White Sox at Birmingham

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Dallas at St. Louis 7 p.m.

MLB

Chicago Cubs at Arizona

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Chicago at Pittsburgh 6:30 p.m.

NBA

Chicago at Boston 7 p.m.

 

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White Sox Debut The "Racing Broadcasters"

(Chicago, IL)  --  Milwaukee has the "Racing Sausages," Washington DC has the "Racing Presidents" and this year the White Sox will debut the "Racing Broadcasters."  The team debuted the four characters yesterday during a media tour of U.S. Cellular Field.  The characters resemble broadcasters Steve Stone, Darrin Jackson, Ed Farmer and Hawk Harrelson.  The four will race between innings of White Sox home games this year. 

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EIU athletic director taking job at Tulane

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) — Eastern Illinois Athletic Director Barbara Burke is leaving the school to take a job at Tulane University. EIU said Thursday that Burke will be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer at Tulane starting in late April. Burke was at EIU for six years. She was hired at the Charleston campus in June 2008 after spending time in senior administration at the University of Wyoming. Burke's work at Tulane will include day-to-day athletic program operations. The school is transitioning to the American Athletic Conference next academic year. Burke also serves as chair of the NCAA Women's Basketball Rules committee and on the NCAA Championships cabinet.

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News For Mar. 27, 2014

LOCAL
Hearings Under Way For US 51 Expansion

The first in a series of hearings in the area was held last night at the American Best Value Inn in Centralia, where people brought their concerns and questions regarding the proposed four-lane expansion of U.S. Route 51 from the Christian/Shelby County line to the village of Irvington in Washington County. Nearly 100 concerned residents attended the hearing that was held by the Illinois Department of Transportation, and learned that contrary to rumors saying the highway would go through the Murray Center property, the proposed path runs near the boiler house of the Murray Center, as we have earlier reported. In addition to concerns about the Murray Center, people are also concerned about possibly being displaced from their homes and properties to make way for the highway. The second hearing will be held today from 4 until 7 p.m. at the village hall in Sandoval. Multiple route possibilities through and around Sandoval and Junction City remain. Opponents to a western route around Sandoval say such a move would spell disaster for the village, as traffic would be pulled away from the town center. Again, another hearing will be held today from 4 until 7 p.m. at the village hall in Sandoval, with additional hearings to be held from 4 until 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, at the Civic Center in Patoka; and Thursday, April 3, at the grade school in Ramsey.


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Johnson County sheriff's candidate found dead


VIENNA, Ill. (AP) — The Democratic candidate trying to succeed the longest-serving sheriff in Illinois history has died. Johnson County Sheriff Elry Faulker tells WSIL-TV that Jay Merchant was found unresponsive Tuesday by a family member and was later pronounced dead at a Marion Hospital. The cause of death has not been released. Merchant was a former Vienna Correctional Center warden who ran unopposed as a Democrat in last week's primary election. He was to face Republican and part-time sheriff's deputy Charles Harner in November. Merchant had spent three decades with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Faulkner is retiring after 40 years as sheriff. Democratic Party officials have until August to decide whether to replace Merchant on the November ballot. Merchant's services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Blue Funeral Home in Goreville.
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Police chief retiring in southern Illinois' Marion

MARION, Ill. (AP) — The police chief in the southern Illinois city of Marion is stepping down after nearly three decades with the department. John Eibeck told the Marion City Council this week that his retirement takes effect at the end of July. Eibeck has been police chief for the past three and a half years, having risen up the ranks from patrolman since joining the police force in 1985. He was promoted to assistant chief in 2005 and became chief in 2011. Mayor Robert Butler thanks Eibeck for his long service and expects a successor from within the department to be named soon. With about 17,200 residents, Marion is the Williamson County seat.

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Dean Cain to headline Ill. city's Superman fest

METROPOLIS, Ill. (AP) — Organizers of a yearly festival honoring Superman in the southern Illinois city that claims the Man of Steel as its favorite son say this year's installment will have plenty of celebrity fare. KFVS-TV reports that Metropolis' Superman Celebration from June 12-15 will feature an appearance by Dean Cain. He's the actor best known for playing Superman and his Clark Kent alter ego in the 1990s television series "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." Billy Dee Williams played district attorney Harvey Dent in the 1989 Batman movie. He'll be joining Cain for a June 14 appearance at the festival in the 6,500-resident Ohio River community. Also appearing this year will be Valerie Perrine, who played Superman rival Lex Luthor's girlfriend, Miss Teschmacher, the 1978 and 1980 Superman movies.

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Mt. Vernon Tandem Face More Charges

Two men who were subjects in a Mt. Vernon drug sweep may have again been arrested, this time on a string of methamphetamine related felonies. Members of the Mt. Vernon Police Department/Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Joint Narcotics Division on Sunday arrested 46-year-old Larry W. York and 51-year-old Kenneth L. Badgett, both of Mt. Vernon, based upon a report, says Jefferson County State's Attorney Doug Hoffman.  Both York and Badgett were already awaiting trial on Class 1 felony charges of distributing narcotics near a school, public housing, or park.  They were charged Wednesday in Jefferson County Court with Class 1 felony manufacture of less than 15 grams of meth, possession of less than 15 grams of a meth precursor, possession of meth manufacturing material and delivery of less than 5 grams meth – all Class 2 felonies. Bail for both men was set today at $75,000, but an arrest warrant on York called for a $10,000 warrant, making his total bail $85,000 and a warrant on Badgett for failure to appear added an additional $5,000 to his total bail. According to Hoffman, if they are convicted in both cases, because they were free on bail at the time of Sunday’s arrests, they would have to serve both sentences consecutively.

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Effingham Doctor Indicted

A Federal Grand Jury sitting in East St. Louis, Illinois, returned a 15 count Indictment against an Effingham County doctor, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. The indictment was opened today upon the arrest and arraignment of the doctor in Benton, Illinois. Naeem Mahmood Kohli, 59, of Effingham, Illinois, operated the Kohli Neurology and Sleep Center, located on North Maple in Effingham, Illinois. The indictment alleges that, for some patients, Kohli did not operate a legitimate medical practice, but instead was engaged in a scheme to illegally distribute controlled substances by running what was in essence a prescription service for drug addicts, commonly known as a “Pill Mill.” The indictment also alleges that Kohli defrauded Health Care Benefit Programs, namely, Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, by billing for services not provided.  In the Indictment, Kohli is charged with the following offenses: (1) health care fraud in Counts 1 through 3, which carry penalties of a maximum of 10 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, a maximum of three years supervised release; (2) illegal distribution of a Schedule II controlled substances (Oxycodone, Hydromorphone, and Methadone) in Counts 4 through 13, which carry penalties of a maximum of 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $1,000,000, no less than three years supervised release; and (3) money laundering in Counts 14 and 15, which carry penalties of a maximum of ten years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and one year of supervised release. A $100 special assessment must be imposed on each count.  An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.  The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Illinois State Police, Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau.

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Man Charged With Faking Own Stabbing

(Collinsville, IL)  --  A Metro East man is charged with staging a violent home invasion.  Evan Wallace allegedly called 9-1-1 last Saturday night, claiming someone broke into his Collinsville home and stabbed him.  Half-a-dozen agencies responded to the scene and conducted a massive search for a suspect, who police say never existed.  Wallace is now facing felony charges.

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STATE
Quinn Wants Income Tax Hike Made Permanent

(Springfield, IL) -- In his annual budget address, Governor Pat Quinn has proposed making the temporary income tax increase permanent, but offered to soften the blow with property tax relief. Quinn's plan would keep the flat income tax at five-percent, where it's been since the 2011 temporary hike from three-point-75 percent. To make the increase more palatable, Quinn is offering a 500-dollar annual refund on property taxes paid by homeowners. Quinn says the additional revenue is needed to support education, including an expansion of early childhood programs. Without the revenue, Quinn says cuts to vital programs would be savage.

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Rauner Says Quinn Broke His Tax Promise

(Springfield, IL) -- Republican challenger Bruce Rauner says Governor Quinn's call to make the temporary income tax hike permanent shows he breaks his promises. Rauner issued a statement reacting to Quinn's budget address, saying the budget can be balanced without more tax increases. Quinn anticipated Rauner's criticism, saying at the end of his speech that those who say you can tax less and spend less and still expect to fund education "are simply not telling you the truth." Quinn says the state is spending billions less, even as demands have grown.

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Illinois Residents Ranked 22nd In Nation In Well-Being Poll

(Undated)  --  A new poll shows that state residents are doing just fine when it comes to their overall well-being. The Gallup Healthways Well Being Index ranks Illinois 22nd. Some of the factors include job satisfaction, emotional and physical health, personal safety, financial security and access to food, water and shelter. Some of the bright spots of the study show that Illinoisans are smoking less and are more optimistic about improvements in their communities.

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Quinn doesn't mention minimum wage

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Raising the minimum wage has so far been a key campaign theme for Gov. Pat Quinn, but he didn't mention it in his annual budget speech. The Chicago Democrat has focused on the issue in his re-election bid and brought it up in his State of the State address earlier this year. He's also blasted his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner for changing his stance on it. Instead, Quinn used his budget speech to talk about keeping the state's temporary income tax increase and relief for homeowners. Quinn has said he wants the state's $8.25 rate to be at least $10 by year's end. Quinn's first political ad focused on his Republican rival's changing stance. Rauner initially said he'd cut it, but now says he'd raise it under the some circumstances.

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New ISU president says school 'won't miss a beat'

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — The new president of Illinois State University says the school won't "miss a beat" despite a series of administrative changes including the resignation of the school's previous president. Larry Dietz became ISU's 19th president on Saturday after Timothy Flanagan abruptly resigned. His departure came days before being charged with a misdemeanor for an altercation with a former grounds crew worker. Flanagan's lawyer says the disorderly conduct charge is unfounded. Flanagan started working at the school in August. Dietz tells The (Bloomington) Pantagraph that the latest transition "isn't anything different" than previous changes at the Normal university. Three vice president positions at the school, including Dietz's former job, remain vacant. Dietz says he plans to spend more time speaking with students, faculty and the ISU community.

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State Rep Proposes Food Stamp Changes

A bill filed by State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) proposes banning food stamp users from paying for “junk food” with their benefits. If you've been in line at the grocery store and gotten upset when you see the person in front of you whip out a Link card to pay for a cartload of junk food, Mitchell feels your pain. “What we have here in the state of Illinois,” says Mitchell, “is a lot of people – some people – on these programs (such as SNAP, the food stamp program) that are also on Medicaid that are (diagnosed with) Type 2 diabetes.  It just doesn’t make sense that we are funding this bad behavior.” Mitchell says computerization keeps liquor purchases from going onto the food-stamp card, and this can be no different.  The allocation would be the same, he says, just that all of it would be for more nutritious things. “Oatmeal, things like that,” he says. “Vegetables, things like that.”

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Illinois Senate panel OKs truck stop gaming bill

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A proposal that would allow truck stops to have twice as many video gaming machines as other establishments is moving through the Illinois Legislature. A Senate committee on Tuesday approved the measure with a 9-2 vote. It would allow truck stops to have ten video gaming terminals. Currently, establishments with video gaming can operate five machines. State Sen. Dave Syverson is sponsoring the proposal. He says it will create more revenue from truckers who are often from out of state. The Republican from Rockford says it wouldn't affect other gaming businesses because truckers already don't leave truck stops to gamble. Opponents say it would only be a matter of time before other businesses add more machines, leading to "mini casinos" popping up across the state.

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NATIONAL
Subway Driver Admits Sleeping Before Crash

(Chicago, IL)  --  The driver of a train that derailed and started up an escalator at a Chicago subway station admits she dozed off.  More than 30 people were injured in the crash early Monday morning and more than six-million dollars in damage was done.  The NTSB says the driver has been "very cooperative" and confessed falling asleep before the train entered the station, waking up seconds before the crash.  

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Prosecutors Ask Judge To Deny Newlywed Murder Plea Change

(Missoula, MT)  --  A young woman who admitted pushing her new husband over a cliff is waiting to learn whether she'll be allowed to change her guilty plea.  Jordan Graham is scheduled to be sentenced this morning in Missoula, Montana federal court.  In a December trial, Graham pleaded guilty to murdering her husband of one week.  The 22-year old Graham admitted pushing 25-year old Cody Johnson to his death in Glacier National Park last summer.  On Tuesday, Graham asked to withdraw her guilty plea.

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Charlotte mayor faces corruption charges, resigns

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was getting ready to close the deal with the big-time developer in the room. Cannon had been boasting that he could pull the right strings to make things happen fast. At the end of the Feb. 21 meeting in the mayor's office, the developer handed the mayor a briefcase containing $20,000 in cash. Less than a month later, Cannon discovered the developer was really an undercover FBI agent. Cannon was arrested Wednesday and accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do work with North Carolina's largest city. He resigned from office Wednesday night. It was a stunning fall for Cannon, who had risen from the city's housing projects to become a successful businessman and politician.

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Boston mourns 2 firefighters killed in blaze

BOSTON (AP) — Boston residents are mourning the deaths of two firefighters who were killed when a fire driven by strong winds whipped through a brownstone and trapped them in the basement. Tributes began pouring in Wednesday for Lt. Edward J. Walsh, a 43-year-old father of three who had almost a decade of experience, and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran who had been a firefighter for more than six years. Mayor Martin J. Walsh says it was "a sad day" for the city. Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the 9-alarm blaze in the city's Back Bay district, and several police officers also were taken to hospitals. Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn says he's never seen a fire "travel that fast" and "escalate that quickly."

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Homes Damaged By Twister In Roseville, California

(Sacramento, CA)  --  Residents in a Roseville, California neighborhood will be cleaning up today after a rare encounter with a tornado.  KCRA is reporting that several homes were damaged, but none seriously yesterday.  Most reported roof damage.  The National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for parts of Sacramento, Placer and Sutter counties.

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US economic growth for Q4 is revised slightly up

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, slightly more than previously estimated, as consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in three years. The Commerce Department says the fourth-quarter growth rate was a bit stronger than its 2.4 percent estimate made last month. The revision reflected stronger consumer spending, which rose at an annual rate of 3.3 percent — its best quarterly pace since 2010. Even with the upward revision, growth in the overall economy slowed from a 4.1 percent pace in the July-September quarter. Analysts think growth has slowed even more in the current January-March period to around a 2 percent annual rate. A harsh winter has disrupted factory production and kept people away from shopping malls.

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Gov. Inslee: Review of slide risk 'needs to be done' following tragedy

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says state authorities will examine whether risk-assessment for landslides is adequate, following Saturday's deadly slide in the town of Oso. Questions have been raised after it was learned there were reports years ago warning of the potential for catastrophic landslides in the area. The search for victims is in its sixth day at the site where hope of finding survivors has been replaced with the realization that some families may not even have someone to bury. Search crews have located 25 bodies in the debris field but have only managed to recover 16 of them. The Snohomish County emergency management director says 90 people are confirmed missing. In addition, there are 35 people who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the slide.

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Police: Colts owner had $29K in cash when arrested

CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Police say Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had $29,000 in cash with him when he was arrested last week on suspicion of intoxicated driving. The Indianapolis Star reports it obtained the Carmel police documents on Irsay's March 16 arrest through a public records request. An officer writes that he stopped Irsay's SUV after it twice stopped on a city street for no apparent reason. The officer wrote Irsay appeared disoriented and said he was trying to find his house. Much of the cash was found in a briefcase and bags on the passenger's side floorboard. Prosecutors haven't decided whether to charge Irsay over the numerous prescription drugs that officers found in his vehicle. Irsay attorney James Voyles didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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INTERNATIONAL
Air search for missing Malaysia Airline plane finds nothing; suspended due to bad weather

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Bad weather has again cut short the hunt for possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner. Satellite images have revealed hundreds more objects in the southern Indian Ocean that might be pieces of wreckage, but not one piece of debris has been recovered. The heavy rain, winds and low clouds that are hampering the search are expected to remain for 24 hours. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says "there was no visibility" in the search area today. Planes have been flying out of Perth for a week, looking without any success for the objects spotted in vague satellite images. Finding them could give physical confirmation that Flight 370 crashed and allow searchers to narrow the hunt for the wreckage of the plane and its black boxes.

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Ukraine's Tymoshenko to run for president

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has announced she will run for presidential elections set for May 25. Tymoshenko, who was released from jail last month following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovcyh, said Thursday that she has earned the moral right to say she will combat corruption. She said she would become a candidate for Ukrainian unity. Her renewed ascent to the forefront of public life marks the return of the most polarizing figures in Ukraine's political scene. She is variously admired as an icon of democracy and detested as a self-promoting manipulator with a shady past.

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Russia to set up own payment system

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin says Russia will set up its own payment system to rival Visa and MasterCard. The move comes barely a week after the two companies suspended services to Russian banks which were directly and indirectly hit by international sanctions. The United States and the European Union last week imposed travel bans and asset freezes on two dozen Russians who are believed to be Putin's close allies. The banks of some of those individuals reported suspension of card services. Putin said on Thursday in televised comments that Russia will set up a payment system of its own, citing the examples of Japan's JCB or China's UnionPay. Russian officials have criticized the reliance on Visa and MasterCard, saying Russian banks are hostage to international corporations.

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Obama and pope exchange gifts

VATICAN CITY (AP) — It appears President Barack Obama and Pope Francis have established a rapport after a nearly hour-long first meeting at the Vatican. The meeting was scheduled for just a half-hour, and at the end they exchanged gifts. The pope offered Obama two medallions and a copy of his apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," in which he denounces a global economic system that excludes the poor. Obama says he'll probably read it some time when he's "deeply frustrated" and expects it will give him strength and calm him down. Obama presented the pope with a seed chest with fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden, in honor of the pope's announcement earlier this year that he's opening the gardens of the papal summer residence to the public. Obama considers Francis a kindred spirit on issues of economic inequality, though his administration and the church remain deeply split on issues of abortion and contraception.

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Church official: Pope's trip to Israel in peril

JERUSALEM (AP) — A top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land says a trip to Israel by Pope Francis in late May is in peril because of a strike by Israeli diplomats. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal told reporters Thursday that if the strike continues, the pope may remove Israel from his itinerary. He says planned stops in Jordan and the West Bank will not be affected. Twal, the Church's top clergyman in the region, said officials have received assurances from the Israeli government that the trip will not be disrupted. Israeli diplomats play a key role in make preparations for visiting dignitaries. The Israeli Foreign Ministry went on strike this week, demanding higher salaries and improved work conditions. They had reduced operations in recent weeks in a prelude to the strike.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

St. Louis 3, Washington 2
Chicago White Sox 9, Cincinnati 5
Arizona 14, Chicago Cubs 4

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Chicago at Boston, 6 p.m.
Minnesota at St. Louis, 7 p.m.

MLB

Miami vs. St. Louis
Chicago White Sox vs. Chicago Cubs

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Backers of college athlete unions laud ruling


CHICAGO (AP) — Backers of an effort to unionize Northwestern University football players are praising a federal agency's landmark ruling. A regional director of National Labor Relations Board said Wednesday that players are employees under federal law and can form the nation's first college athletes' union. Former Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter took a leading role in establishing the College Athletes Players Association. He says in a written statement that the decision is a "win for both the players and the football program." He says it'll make Northwestern's football team stronger because players will have a say in issues that "affect their well-being." The United Steelworkers union has footed the legal bills. Union lawyers argued the Big Ten school's players are part of a commercial enterprise that generates hefty profits through their labor.

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White Sox claim RHP Guerra on waivers from Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Chicago White Sox have claimed right-handed pitcher Javy Guerra off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The White Sox made move Wednesday. The 28-year-old Guerra is 4-5 with a 2.90 ERA and 29 saves in three big league seasons with the Dodgers. He missed much of the 2012 season with injuries and had a 6.75 ERA last year in 10 2-3 innings with Los Angeles. Guerra spent most of last year at Triple-A Albuquerque, going 0-4 with 12 saves and a 3.66 ERA.

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Cardinals sign reliever David Aardsma

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals have signed reliever David Aardsma to a minor league contract, hoping the veteran can fill the team's final bullpen spot. The Cardinals made the move Wednesday. Aardsma began this spring with Cleveland. The 32-year-old Aardsma is 23-15 with 69 saves and a 4.23 ERA in a seven-year major league career. The righty was 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 43 games for the Mets last year after missing almost two seasons with injuries.

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Cubs Make Moves

(Mesa, AZ)  --  The Chicago Cubs made a few moves to get down to 32 players in spring camp.  The team placed catcher George Kottaras on unconditional release and named John Baker the backup to Welington Castillo.  The Cubs lost infielder Donnie Murphy to the Rangers, and catcher Eli Whiteside is on his way to Triple-A Iowa.

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Rams Continue To Sign Free Agents

(Undated)  --  The St. Louis Rams continue to fill out their roster with free agents.  A day after signing defensive lineman Alex Carrington, the Rams inked quarterback Shaun Hill.  St. Louis also brings in defensive back Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

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Bears, Jared Allen Agree To Deal

(Lake Forest, IL)  --  The Bears are bolstering their defensive line by adding pass rusher Jared Allen.  The two sides have agreed to a four-year deal that NFL.com reports is worth 32-million-dollars, with 15.5-million guaranteed.  The 31-year-old had 11-and-a-half sacks and two forced fumbles last season for Minnesota.  In 10 seasons with the Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, Allen ranks 12th all-time with 128-and-a-half career sacks.

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News For Mar. 26, 2014

LOCAL
Ex-trooper tied to fatal crash seeks license again

MOUNT VERNON, Ill. (AP) — A former Illinois state trooper who lost his driving privileges after causing a southwestern Illinois freeway crash that killed two sisters is asking for a fifth time to get his license reinstated. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Matt Mitchell will have a hearing on his latest request May 20 in Mount Vernon. Mitchell was working as a state trooper in 2007 when he was driving more than 120 mph and using his cellphone and computer when his car crossed the median on Interstate 64 east of St. Louis and slammed into a car. That vehicle's occupants, Collinsville sisters ages 18 and 13, died at the scene. Mitchell later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and received probation.

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Services set for southern Ill. man killed by train

TAMAROA, Ill. (AP) — Services are scheduled for a man killed when a coal train hit his pickup truck in southern Illinois. Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Nehrkorn of Pinckneyville was injured in the Perry County crash about 1:30 p.m. Monday and died about three hours later at a St. Louis hospital. It's unclear what caused the accident involving the Canadian National Railroad train between Du Quoin and Pinckneyville. Services for Nehrkorn will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Friendship Church of Christ in Tamaroa. Burial will be in Galum Presbyterian Cemetery in Pinckneyville. Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday until service time at the church.

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Field fires in southern Illinois prompt cautions

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — Authorities in southern Illinois' Franklin County are using a recent spate of apparently suspicious field fires to warn residents that dry conditions could court disaster. Sesser Fire Protection District Chief Cletus McBride tells the (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan there were at least five remote brush fires that were likely deliberately set. McBride says none of the fires injured anyone or involved large acreage. But he says the possible culprits "just don't realize how dry it is and the high winds add to it." The fire district and the county's sheriff's department are investigating. In nearby Williamson County, Fire Protection District Chief Jeremy Norris says his department responded to two field fires last weekend. Fire officials remind property owners to be mindful of the dryness when burning anything outdoors.

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Vandals trash southern ill. charity haunted house

WEST FRANKFORT, Ill. (AP) — Police in southern Illinois' West Frankfort are trying to identify vandals who damaged a haunted house that's used to raise money for charity. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that intruders last weekend kicked down some interior walls, destroyed equipment and splattered paint. The building is used by the Southern Illinois SCARE Association, which uses proceeds from the haunted house to supply Thanksgiving turkeys to families in need. Damage estimates were not released.

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Illinois State Police District 19 Seeks Assistance

Carmi, IL – Illinois State Police (ISP) District 19 would like to request assistance from the public in locating Arnold Samuel Cornett, age 26, of Stonefort, Illinois.  Cornett is wanted on an Albany County, Wyoming Arrest Warrant for failure to appear in court on drug-related charges.  Additional charges are also being pursued in Saline County, Illinois, following a traffic stop on the evening of Monday, March 24, 2014.  At approximately 8:50 p.m., on Monday, March 24th, a District 19 Trooper stopped a vehicle for expired Illinois registration plates traveling on Main Street at Poplar Street in Harrisburg, Illinois.  The Trooper initiated a traffic stop, identified the driver as Cornett, and subsequently placed him in custody for the Wyoming arrest warrant.  Cornett escaped custody of the Trooper and fled westbound from the scene on foot.  Attempts to locate Cornett by ISP, Saline County Sheriff’s Department, and Harrisburg Police Department were unsuccessful. ISP District 19 would like to thank the public in advance for their assistance.  If anyone has contact with or information concerning Cornett, do not attempt to apprehend him, please contact your local law enforcement agency or ISP District 19 at 618-382-4606, Extension 255.

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Two Carbondale Residents Charged  With Methamphetamine Conspiracy

On February 4, 2014, Heather L. Richey, 38, and Leeann M. Simmerman, 20, both of Carbondale, were charged by indictment with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today.
The offense occurred between 2010 and January 2014, in Jackson, Williamson, Union, and Franklin Counties. The two co-defendants made their initial appearances in federal court on March 25, 2014. They are currently being held without bond pending a March 28, 2014, detention hearing.  The methamphetamine offense carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of $1,000,000.
Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.  The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Murphysboro Police Department, Carbondale Police Department, Illinois State Police/Southern Illinois Drug Task Force, and Drug Enforcement Administration.

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Motion To Release Bond For Kell Man On The Run Denied

A defense motion to release bond in the felony conviction case of a 22-year-old Kell man was denied Tuesday in Marion County Court. Defense attorney Steve Quinn had filed a motion march 17 to release the $25,000 bond in the case of John A. Morton, who had pleaded guilty March 5 to the aggravated battery of his infant son in 2012 that resulted in permanent brain damage to the child. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on that charge, but was given one week to get his affairs in order before he had to report to the Marion County Jail for transport to the Department of Corrections where he would begin serving his sentence. At that time his bail was held until such time as he turned himself in to authorities. However, on the day he was to turn himself in, Morton reportedly jumped from the vehicle taking him to jail and fled. Despite multiple agencies responding and searching for Morton, he has not yet been captured. Five days after Morton reportedly fled, his attorney filed a motion for the release of his bond, a motion Marion County Resident Judge Mark Stedelin denied Tuesday. Stedelin was the judge who presided over Morton’s negotiated guilty plea, and allowed for the one-week furlough. On Tuesday, the court issued a bond forfeiture notice and scheduled a 30-day hearing, at which time, if Morton has not been captured or turn himself in, will lead to the forfeiture of the $25,000 to the court.

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Bail Set For Father-Son Tandem In Heroin Arrest

Bail has been set and public defenders appointed for a father and son arrested by Kinmundy Police for alleged possession of heroin with the intent to distribute. Reports indicate 31-year-old Josh Robinson, of Kinmundy, and his 60-year-old father, John J. Robinson, of Violet Hills, Arkansas, were arrested after Kinmundy Police approached a vehicle at the home of the son, knowing he was wanted on an outstanding Grundy County arrest warrant. Reportedly, Josh Robinson began walking away from the truck, throwing several blue baggies into the vehicle as he did so. His father also reportedly exited the truck and also threw several baggies into the truck. Both men were taken into custody, and a substance inside the baggies reportedly field tested positive for heroin. With assistance from Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies, additional baggies with drug residue, along with more than $1,700 in cash were also found inside the truck.
Both men were charged Tuesday in Marion County Court with Class 1 felony intent to deliver between 1 and 15 grams of heroin, as well as Class 4 felony possession of a controlled substance.
Bail for Josh Robinson was set at $20,000 and for John Robinson, it was set at $25,000, or 10 percent cash bond. They are both scheduled for April 15, preliminary hearings.

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STATE

Quinn To Properly Fund Education

(Springfield, IL) -- Governor Quinn’s team won’t say much about what will be in the Budget Address today. But, they are confirming that he’ll layout a five-year blueprint for the state’s financial outlook. He also apparently plans to “properly fund” education, which has been slashed by hundreds-of-millions-of dollars in recent years. There’s still no word on whether Governor Quinn is on board with letting the income tax rate rollback. And, no word on whether he supports a progressive tax proposal that would tax people based on their income levels.

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Dems Want Progressive Tax


(Springfield, IL) -- State Senator Don Harmon wants to change the tax structure in Illinois. He wants to create a "fair tax" with three brackets. Illinois has a flat tax rate right now. Everyone pays five-percent of their income into the state’s account. Democrats have been pushing for a change in the tax structure for several years but Republicans say it’ll do more harm than good. Harmon wants voters to make the final decision but he has to get 71 state reps and 36 senators to go along with the idea first. If they give it a thumbs up, it’ll be on the November ballot.

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Madison County Authorities Warn Parents Of Heroin Epidemic

(Edwardsville, IL)  --  One Metro East community is struggling with a heroin epidemic.  Madison County officials, including the state’s attorney and investigators with the coroner’s office, addressed a group of concerned parents during a Tuesday night meeting in Edwardsville.  They say they handled nearly two-dozen deadly heroin overdoses in 2013, and are looking for ways to end the epidemic.

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Elderly Inmates Could Get Early Release

(Springfield, IL) -- About 800 elderly prisoners could have a shot at getting out early. A new proposal in Springfield suggests that inmates over 50 years old, who’ve been locked up for more than 25 years, be released. Supporters say the idea is to help cut down on overcrowding in Illinois prisons. Right now the state is holding about 49-thousand inmates but it’s only designed to hold 32-thousand. Opponents of the bill say it’s unfair to the victims who were impacted by the inmates’ crimes. Some go as far as calling the plan unconstitutional. The proposal has cleared a House committee but faces an uncertain fate when it comes up for debate on the floor.

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Public shows interest in Illinois medical cannabis

CHICAGO (AP) — Written comments by the hundreds are being reviewed by Illinois officials who are revising proposed regulations for the state's new medical marijuana program. The public comments range from declarations of marijuana's healing properties to rants against the tough requirements in the first draft of the rules. Three state agencies released 100 pages of citizen input in response to a public records request from The Associated Press. The agencies soon will submit their proposed regulations to a legislative committee for review. Then more public comments will be heard. For now, the comments are full of questions about how the medical marijuana program will work. Some reflect an eagerness to get involved from people who want to apply for licenses to grow or distribute medical cannabis.

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E-book readers to receive payments from settlement

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois e-book customers are set to receive payments this week from a court settlement with five major publishers. Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin Group agreed to pay $166 million nationwide to readers. Illinois will receive more than $6.4 million in payments. Most customers will receive a credit to their online accounts without filing a claim. Others will receive payments by check. The settlement stems from an alleged conspiracy between the five publishers and Apple Inc. between 2010 and 2012. In 2013, a federal court in New York found that Apple Inc. had conspired with the five publishers to drive up the price of e-books by $3. A second trial is set for later this year to determine the amount of damages Apple Inc. will pay.

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NATIONAL
Navy searches for answers in fatal base shooting

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Navy officials are searching for answers about what may have motivated a civilian to approach a docked destroyer, struggle with security personnel, disarm a sailor, then shoot and kill someone coming to that sailor's aid. The civilian was shot and killed by Navy security forces shortly after the encounter late Monday night aboard the USS Mahan at Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base. The unidentified civilian was authorized to be on base, but it wasn't immediately clear for what reason or why he would want to approach the destroyer, which shares a pier with a hospital ship. The base's commanding officer said Tuesday that the civilian was found with a transportation worker's credential issued to personnel such as truck drivers who require unescorted access to secure areas.

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Report details killing of bombing suspect's friend

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A new investigative report says a Chechen mixed-martial-arts fighter grew increasingly agitated as he wrote a confession about his role in a 2011 triple slaying that got renewed attention after the Boston Marathon bombing. The report released Tuesday says 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev (IH'-bruh-heem TOH'-duh-shehv) flipped a coffee table at an FBI agent and charged a Massachusetts State Police trooper with a pole before the agent shot him dead. The report was issued by State Attorney Jeff Ashton's office in Orlando, Fla., which cleared the FBI agent of any criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Todashev last May. Separately, the Justice Department filed its own report Tuesday, echoing the Florida findings. Todashev was shot after being questioned in his Orlando apartment by the FBI agents and two troopers about the triple homicide in Waltham, Mass.

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White House To Extend Obamacare Deadline

(Washington, DC)  --  The Obama administration is giving people more time to finish enrolling for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  Officials said that anyone who claims they have started the enrollment process before the March 31st deadline will be given more time to complete it.  The move is in anticipation of a last-minute surge of people seeking health insurance before the deadline.  It's uncertain how much extra time consumers will get.

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IRS Says Bitcoin Is Property, Not Currency

(Washington, DC)  --  The Internal Revenue Service is treating bitcoin as property and not currency, for federal tax purposes.  The IRS announced Tuesday the digital currency will be governed by the rules it uses for stocks and barter transactions.   The feds also say that if wages are paid by bitcoin, they must be reported by an employer on a W-2 form.  And those wages are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes. 

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National Weather Service extends flood warning and watch in Washington state mudslide area

SEATTLE (AP) — The National Weather Service has extended a flood warning in the area of the Washington state mudslide. The warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday for the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River in Snohomish County. The weather service says it expects some flooding of homes and roads to continue until a newly forming river channel is large enough to drain the lake behind the slide blockage near Oso. Crews using cadaver dogs, small bulldozers and their hands have been working through the muck and rain in a search for more people trapped in Saturday's mudslide. Two more bodies were recovered late Tuesday, bringing the official death toll to 16. As many as eight more bodies have been located but not yet recovered. Scores of people remain listed as missing, but officials hope the restoration of power in a nearby logging town of Darrington will allow some residents to call in and have their names removed from the list.

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Gusty winds hit New England

CHATHAM, Mass. (AP) — An early spring storm is bringing gusty winds that are whipping snow across portions of Massachusetts and eastern Maine, bringing near-whiteout conditions to Cape Cod. Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard are expected to bear the brunt of the storm as it strikes Massachusetts, perhaps dropping up to 10 inches of snow. Less snow was expected farther to the north and east in Massachusetts, with the Boston area getting just an inch or two. Schools across Cape Cod closed, while ferry and flight service to the islands was canceled. State courts in the region also closed. Winds that could gust up to 70 miles per hour is blowing snow horizontally, stinging the faces of those few who dared venture outside. Blizzard warns are in effect in Massachusetts and Maine. Maine Gov. Paul LePage ordered state offices in Washington and Hancock counties closed. Forecasters say snowfall in Washington County could reach 20 inches.

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Judge Joe Brown challenging contempt charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — TV judge Joe Brown says he wasn't out of line during an outburst in a Tennessee court that got him charged with contempt of court. Speaking to ABC's "Good Morning America," Brown said he would do it again. The star of the television show "Judge Joe Brown" and present-day political candidate has a court hearing April 4 on his challenge of contempt of court charges handed down Monday by a Shelby County Juvenile Court magistrate. The 66-year-old Brown was arrested and sentenced to five days in jail during the outburst in a child support hearing before Juvenile Court Magistrate Judge Harold "Hal" Horne. Brown was released from jail by a Circuit Court judge who'll hear arguments next week about dropping the charges and sentence.

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INTERNATIONAL
Satellite spots 122 possible objects in search

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Malaysia says a satellite has captured images of 122 objects in the Indian Ocean that might be from the missing plane. Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the objects were seen close to where three other satellites previously detected objects. He said Wednesday the sightings together are "the most credible lead that we have." Hishammuddin said the images were taken Sunday and were relayed by French-based Airbus Defense and Space. Hishammuddin says the objects ranged in length from one meter (yard) to 23 meters (25 yards). Various floating objects have been spotted by planes and satellites, but none has been retrieved or identified. A dozen planes and five ships are again hunting for the objects after seas calmed today. Nothing has been retrieved yet. New data has narrowed the search zone, but it remains huge — an area estimated at 622,000 square miles, about the size of Alaska. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott calls it "the most inaccessible spot imaginable."

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Obama pays tribute to WWI at Flanders Field

WAREGEM, Belgium (AP) — President Barack Obama is paying tribute to American troops who died a century ago in the struggle to save Europe in World War I. Obama has laid a wreath at a memorial at Flanders Field in Belgium. That's where hundreds of fallen troops who helped liberate Belgium are buried. Obama says the visit reminds us never to take progress for granted. He says Belgium and the U.S. stand together forever for freedom, dignity and the triumph of the human spirit. To those buried at the site, Obama says, quote, "We can say we caught the torch. We kept the faith." Obama says the war's lessons are still relevant. He's pointing to ongoing efforts to rid Syria of chemical weapons, which were also used at in the wider area Obama visited.

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Kerry to meet with Palestinian leader in Jordan

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Jordan for a meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as foundering Mideast peace talks approach a critical deadline. The Palestinians and Israelis had agreed to an April 30 deadline for a settlement. But the Palestinians have threatened to walk away before then unless Israel releases a batch of prisoners, as it agreed to, by March 29. A State Department spokeswoman said Kerry also will talk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the next few days. Kerry flew from Rome to Jordan's capital, Amman, Wednesday morning. He is meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II before a working dinner with Abbas. Kerry will then return to Rome to join President Barack Obama at a meeting Thursday with Pope Francis.

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Arab League rejects Israel as Jewish homeland

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Arab leaders say they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and are blaming it for a lack of progress in the Mideast peace process. A communique issued at the end of a two-summit also rejects what the Arab League described as the continuation of settlements and the "Judaization" of Jerusalem. The League's announcement that it will not recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people rejects a key demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Mideast peace talks. Wednesday's announcement sets the stage for the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to take a tough line in talks later in the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

St. Louis 5, Toronto 3
Chicago 4, Dallas 2

MLB

Colorado 4, Chicago White Sox 1
LA Angels 8, Chicago Cubs (ss) 4
Chicago Cubs (ss) 5, San Diego 5
Miami 6, St. Louis 5

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Washington vs. St. Louis
Cincinnati vs. Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona

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Edwards County Bolts LIC for Black Diamond

WMIX Sports learned last night that the Black Diamond Conference has voted to accept Edwards County as a full member of the conference effective at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. Edwards County's Board of Education had voted last week to give its two-year notice to the Little Illini Conference pending BDC approval in last night's meeting. The approval means Edwards County, located in Albion, will replace Elverado, who is no longer a Black Diamond member after forming a football co-op with Du Quoin.  The Diamond must await a ruling from the IHSA regarding the void Elverado leaves in football schedules in 2014 and 15. Edwards County will fill the Elverado spot in the 2016 football season, but will begin conference play in baseball in softball in 2015. A closed 10-team conference in football, the Diamond is comprised of  East and West divisions in other sports.  Elverado's departure from the west means current member Vienna will fill that spot while Edwards County will join the eastern division. Edwards County joins Cumberland, Oblong, Hutsonville, Palestine and Martinsville amongst schools who have left the Little Illini in the past decade.

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Rams Agree To Terms With Carrington

(Orlando, FL)  --  The Rams are finally making a move in free agency.  After spending over two weeks on the sidelines, St. Louis came to terms yesterday on a one-year deal with defensive lineman Alex Carrington.  The 26-year-old comes to the Rams after spending his first four seasons with the Bills.

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NFL Makes Rules Changes

(Orlando, FL)  --  If an NFL player spikes the ball over the goalpost following a touchdown next season, it will result in a penalty.  The league has decided to make it a 15-yard infraction.  NFL owners have also voted to use a centralized replay system to help stadium officials with instant replay rulings.

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Former winner to drive pace car...Nabors will sing one more time

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — There will be a familiar face in the pace car for this year's Indianapolis 500 as it has been announced that three-time winner Dario Franchitti will drive the pace lap for the 98th running of the Indy 500 in May. Franchitti was forced to retire in November from injuries suffered in an October IndyCar race at Houston. The four-time series champion won the Indy 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012. And Jim Nabors, better known perhaps as Gomer Pyle, says this year's Indianapolis 500 will be the last time he performs "Back Home Again in Indiana" live to a global audience of race fans. The 83-year-old says his health limits his travels from his home in Hawaii, so he'll be "retiring" from singing the ode at the Indianapolis 500 after the May 25 race. Nabors has performed the song live at the race every year since 1987 with the exception of 2007 and 2012. This year will be his 35th performance.

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White Sox Introduce New Ballpark Foods

(Chicago, IL)  --  The Chicago White Sox are introducing new foods to the U.S. Cellular Field food lineup this year.  Along with the normal fare of hot dogs, popcorn and pretzels, fans can now get carved sandwiches from the new Xfinity Zone Bar and Carvery or slices of Beggars Pizza.  Other stands will serve bacon-on-a-stick, a bacon mac and cheeseburger, and a chicken and waffle sandwich.  For dessert, how about a three-pound banana split served in a sundae helmet?  The new menu will debut Monday on Opening Day as the White Sox host the Minnesota Twins.

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News For Mar. 25, 2014

LOCAL
Jefferson County Board Met Monday

Jefferson County Board met on Monday evening. Among the items discussed was advertising for the county website, a federal aid agreement for Dubois Road pavement preservation, and dump truck purchase options in addition to the committee reports.

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MVTHS BOE Holds Special Met Monday Afternoon

Mt. Vernon Township High School held a special Board of Education meeting Monday afternoon.  Items on the agenda included discussion on the status of the new high school project including the 95% review of Design development, a review of final Athletic Complex plan Renderings and Finishes, a review final interior and exterior finishes, and a review progress of VE items.

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Fight in Rural Benton Leads To Arrrests

A Monday morning incident sent a Benton man in the hospital with major injuries. Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a fight around 1:30 Monday morning in rural Benton. The victim in the case was described as a 51 year old male. 27 year old Joshua Connors of Thompsonville and 20 year old Dillon Estep of Valier were both charged with Aggravated Battery. 18 year old Erika Thompson of Zeigler and 18 year old Darrian Willis  of West Frankfort were also charged with illegal consumption of  alcohol in the incident.

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Hamilton County Man Sentenced For Burglary

A Hamilton County man will be spending five years behind bars on theft and burglary charges.
29 year old James Denham of Broughton was sentenced yesterday in Hamilton County Court.
Denham was accused of stealing several hundred dollars worth of cigarettes from a McLeansboro grocery store after throwing a rock through a glass door at the same location.
Denham’s sentence also included a theft charge involving auto parts.

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Jefferson County Man Sentenced For Methamphetamine Related Charges

A Jefferson County man was sentenced on March 19, 2014, to federal prison on methamphetamine related charges, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced Monday. Alvin Gene Chelf, 42, of Bonnie, Illinois, was sentenced to 235 months in federal prison, to be followed by six years of supervised release, and fined $400. The Court sentenced Chelf as a Career Offender due to Chelf’s previous criminal history. Chelf had pleaded guilty to two counts in a federal indictment, Count 1 charged that on February 14, 2013, in Jefferson County, Illinois, Chelf knowingly and intentionally distributed methamphetamine, and Count 2 charged that on February 19, 2013, in Jefferson County, Illinois, Chelf knowingly and intentionally distributed methamphetamine. The investigation in this case was conducted by the Joint Narcotics Unit of the Mt. Vernon Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney George Norwood.

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Illinois State Police District 19 Announces Results of Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement Patrol

Carmi, IL – Lieutenant Cory Ristvedt, District 19 Interim Commander, announced the results of an Alcohol Countermeasure Enforcement (ACE) patrol which was conducted in White County on Saturday, 03/22/14. There were 17 total written warnings and 11 total citations issued, including 1 DUI arrest, 4 drug or alcohol related arrests, 1 suspended driver's license ciation, and 1 occupant restraint citation. The Illinois State Police (ISP) reminds those who drink and drive that future patrols will be conducted.  The ISP will continue to work to save lives by taking DUI offenders off the road, arresting them, and locking them up.  This project was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.

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FEMA Awards $6,415,688 Grant to City of West Frankfort

CHICAGO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today released $6,415,688 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds to the City of West Frankfort, Ill., for a proposed sewer treatment plant improvement project. The project includes the relocation of all sewer treatment plant components from the south plant site to the north plant site, where it will be three feet above the base flood elevation. "This grant supports an important public health and safety project in West Frankfort," said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. "Flood waters have knocked the current sewer treatment plant out of service in the past, including for more than 200 days in 2008. Moving the facility above the flood elevation will protect the sewage treatment process from future flood-related disruptions."  HMGP provides grants to state and local governments to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures. Through HMGP, FEMA will pay $6,415,688 or 75 percent of the project’s total cost. The City of West Frankfort will contribute 25 percent of the remaining funds, or $2,138,562.

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Suspicious Package Forces TV Crew Out of Their Building

(Carbondale, IL) -- A southern Illinois TV station is back in business after being forced out of the building. WSIL-TV in Carbondale reports they received a suspicious package this morning. The local bomb squad came out to take a look at it but in the meantime, police made everyone get out of the building. A Hazmat crew safely removed the package from the premises. Officials haven’t revealed what was inside the package but they gave WSIL workers the all clear to return to work just before 12:30 this afternoon. The FBI has joined the investigation.

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Belleville Caregivers Charged With Neglecting Blind Man

(Belleville, IL) -- A Belleville husband and wife are charged with criminal neglect of a blind man found dead in their home. The 52-year old victim was the younger brother of Richard Young who is charged along with his wife Elizabeth. Billy Ray Young was found curled in a fetal position and weighing just 60 pounds on March 11th. The charges indicate the Youngs who were the caretakers of the victim had failed to feed and clean him and did not make sure he was taking care of his medical needs.

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Woman accused of getting $1M through tax scheme

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois woman living in public housing and on government aid has pleaded not guilty to charges she bilked the U.S. government of more than $1 million from hundreds of bogus tax returns. The Belleville News-Democrat reports 45-year-old Dorresa Braggs of Belleville entered the not-guilty plea Friday to a 12-count indictment in East St. Louis. The charges against the mother of three children range from making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service's investigations arm to aggravated identity theft. Authorities allege she used her computer as a tax preparer to electronically file false tax returns from at least 2010 through the summer of 2012. The indictment alleges she claimed false business expenses for clients and at times falsified W-2 forms to overstate wages and federal income tax withholdings.

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STATE
Kirk Won’t Stump For Oberweis

(Washington, DC)  --  U.S. Senator Mark Kirk is not going to be on the campaign trail with fellow Republican Jim Oberweis.  He says he’d rather protect his relationship with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.  Oberweis is a state senator who is trying to unseat Durbin. 

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Illinois schools participate in practice exams

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — About 125,000 Illinois public school students will be taking practice exams beginning this week to determine the effectiveness of progress assessments the state will adopt next year. The tests, which are being administered in about 1,800 schools, are tied to learning goals called the Common Core Standards that have been adopted by Illinois and dozens of other states. Illinois will implement the testing in all 860 districts next year. The tests by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers replaces the current Illinois Standards Achievement test that's given to third- through eighth-graders, and the Prairie State Achievement Exam that's given to high school juniors. The Illinois State Board of Education says the pilot test takers are a representative sample of Illinois students.

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Quinn gets SEIU endorsement in re-election bid

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn has picked up a major labor endorsement for his re-election during a campaign that's already focused on union influence. Service Employees International Union in Illinois said Monday it was backing the Chicago Democrat because of his stance on the minimum wage and integrity in Springfield. Quinn faces what's expected to be a tough challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. The Winnetka venture capitalist made fighting "government union bosses" a theme during the GOP primary. Unions also made the unusual move of endorsing a Republican in the primary: state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale. Quinn has traditionally enjoyed union support. However, public employee unions disagreed with his signing of a pension overhaul that cuts benefits for state employees and retirees. SEIU represents roughly 170,000 workers in Illinois.

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Quinn Slated To Give Budget Address

(Springfield, IL) -- Governor Quinn is set to give his budget address Wednesday but the big question is, what will he do about the income tax rate. Illinoisans are paying five percent in state income taxes right now. That’s supposed to roll back to three-point-75 in January but the state stands to lose billions-of-dollars in revenue if that happens. Democrats are already telling some agencies to prepare for a possible 20-percent cut in their budgets. That means deeper cuts in education and public safety could be coming down the pipe. Quinn’s office has said he’s on board with the rollback, that’s part of the reason he asked for extra time to prepare his speech. His team usually holds a media briefing the night before the speech to give some sort of idea on what to expect, but that’s been called off this year.

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Parents Push To Get Medical Marijuana For Kids

(Springfield, IL) -- Parents are pushing lawmakers to let their sick kids use medical marijuana. Chris Lindsey with the Marijuana Project says it’s extremely difficult for parents to watch their child suffer from seizures. Medical marijuana has been shown to help keep the seizures under control. So far, 19 states have legalized medical marijuana and some of them allow kids to use it. Lindsey says children in Illinois deserve the same treatment option. A couple of parents will be testifying about their child’s struggles in an Illinois Senate committee tomorrow. They’re backing a bill that would allow kids and adults who have seizures to get access to medical marijuana.

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Ill. lawmaker proposes increase in gun penalties

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois lawmaker wants to increase penalties for gun owners who illegally carry firearms into schools. State Rep. Deborah Conroy is introducing a proposal that would make carrying guns into Illinois schools a felony. That includes pre-schools up to colleges and universities. Currently, first and second-time offenders are charged with a misdemeanor. Another measure introduced by the Democrat from Villa Park increases fines for carrying guns into prohibited places from $150 to $500. Fines currently go to a state mental health fund. Conroy says this proposal is about providing more money to cover mental health services. She says the current amount is too low. The bill is in a House committee with other proposals changing the concealed carry law passed last year.

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Commission: Remove juveniles from sex registries

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A study says requiring juveniles to register as sex offenders impairs rehabilitation efforts for a crime that very few of them ever commit again. The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission's report released Tuesday recommends removing offenders younger than 17 from sex registries that can negatively affect an offender for years. The report — requested in 2012 by the General Assembly — is the first comprehensive review of laws and treatment plans for juvenile sex offenders. It finds that few young sex offenders ever commit the offense again and that individualized, community-based treatment plans are highly effective. The report recommends developing standards for courts and law enforcement professionals to deal with young sex offenders, and for a consistent assessment tool across Illinois for evaluating risks posed by individual juveniles.

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Specialty Crop Grants Available

(Springfield, IL) -- The state’s Department of Ag is accepting applications for specialty crop grants. Grant Manager Delayne Reeves says farmers aren’t really eligible for the grants but they could be used for educational workshops and certain types of research. Reeves says Illinois usually gets 600-thousand-dollars-a-year to help benefit the specialty crops industry. That could be different this year, based on provisions of the new Farm Bill. Anyone interested in applying for the grant has until May 1st to get their proposal in. For more details call 217-524-9129.

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NATIONAL
WA Mudslide Death Toll Climbs, Over 170 Missing

(Oso, WA)  --  The death toll is rising in that massive mudslide in Washington state.  Snohomish County Fire Chief Travis Hots says emergency crews including firefighters, search dogs, and aircraft continue to search the area for victims and survivors.   The number of people missing or unaccounted for is now up to 176.  The slide happened Saturday on a rain-soaked hillside about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

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Mid-Atlantic, New England brace for nor'easter

BOSTON (AP) — As the East Coast shivers through an unusually cold early spring, parts of New England are bracing for a storm that could bring additional snow. More than half a foot of snow is expected to hit southeastern Massachusetts Tuesday evening into Wednesday. Maine also will see snow. National Weather Service spokesman Bill Simpson says Cape Cod and the Islands are expected to be hit the hardest, starting around the evening commute and lasting until Wednesday morning. Boston and northern Massachusetts could get 2 to 4 inches of snow and coastal New Hampshire may see 1 to 2 inches. Areas west of Boston to Worcester are forecast to get about an inch and far eastern Maine could get 8 to 14 inches. Simpson says the Northeast has had below normal cold temperatures this spring.

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2 killed in shooting at Naval Station Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A base spokeswoman says two people were killed in a shooting at Naval Station Norfolk. Terri Davis says the shooting happened around 11:20 p.m. Monday at Pier 1 on the base. Davis would not describe the circumstances of the shooting but said the scene is secure, no shooter was taken into custody and no one is being sought by authorities. Davis says the two killed were a sailor and a civilian. No other injuries were reported. The base was briefly put on lockdown after the shooting but that has since been lifted. The shooting is under investigation.

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FCC: Thousands of hotels don't offer direct 911

DALLAS (AP) — A federal official says tens of thousands of hotels don't allow guests to directly reach emergency services when dialing 911 from their room phones. Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai announced the initial results of a survey that was taken after a 9-year-old Texas girl couldn't connect with 911 while her mother was being stabbed to death in a hotel room. The hotel room's phone required dialers to press "9'' before dialing 911. Pai says the "vast majority" of America's estimated 53,000 hotel properties are run by franchise owners, and only about 45 percent of those have direct 911 dialing. The December stabbing death of Kari Hunt Dunn drew national attention and more than 440,000 signatures on a petition to require hotels and motels to enable direct 911 dialing.

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Feds reach out to kids over online predators

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Federal agents are reaching out to children to get them to use street smarts online in a nationwide push to prevent sexual exploitation cases. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will send agents to schools and community centers across the country to teach teens and tweens — and their parents — how to be safer online and steer clear of Internet predators amid a rise in cases involving the sexual exploitation of children. Authorities hope the effort being launched Tuesday will educate young Internet users and encourage them to turn to law enforcement if they run into trouble online. It is the agency's first concerted push to reach out to kids nationwide to promote cybersafety. The effort is a partnership between the agents and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

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Agency calls WTC parachute jump a 'selfish act'

NEW YORK (AP) — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has condemned the parachute jump off 1 World Trade Center last fall by four skydiving enthusiasts as a "lawless and selfish act that clearly endangered the public." The agency said in a statement released early Tuesday that one of the jumpers was a construction worker at the site. The Port Authority, which owns the trade center site, says "the spirit of respect and reverence for this sacred site" was violated. Four men were arrested Monday in connection with the "base jumping" on Sept. 30. They were arraigned on charges of burglary, reckless endangerment and misdemeanor jumping from a structure. Police Commissioner William Bratton says "being a thrill-seeker does not give immunity from the law."

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Report: Payday loans can cost borrowers much

WASHINGTON (AP) — A report by a federal watchdog has found that about half of all payday loans are made to people who extend the loans so many times they end up paying more in fees than the original amount they borrowed. The report released Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also shows that four of five payday loans are extended, or "rolled over," within 14 days. Additional fees are charged when loans are rolled over. Payday loans, also known as cash advances or check loans, are short-term loans at high interest rates, usually for $500 or less. They often are made to borrowers with weak credit or low incomes, and the storefront businesses often are located near military bases. The equivalent annual interest rates run to three digits.

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Carter: Russian invasion of Crimea 'inevitable'

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter says the Crimean annexation was "inevitable" because Russia considers the peninsula to be part of its country and so many Crimeans consider themselves Russian. But he says Russian President Vladimir Putin shouldn't be permitted to go any further. On the "Late Show with David Letterman" on Monday, Carter recounted when then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Carter recalled the U.S. ambassador declared an embargo and withdrew from the Olympics. Then, Carter said, "We began to arm the freedom fighters." He says that was "successful at stopping them there." Carter says he believes no matter how President Barack Obama or European nations tried to head off the takeover, Putin would have gone ahead with it, but he shouldn't be allowed to go further.

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Woman hurt in Boston Marathon bombing going back

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A Charlotte, N.C., woman who was injured in the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year is heading back for this year's event. The Charlotte Observer reports that Nicole Gross was near the finish line last year waiting for her mother to finish the race when the bombs exploded. Gross suffered two broken bones in her left leg, a severed Achilles tendon and an injury to her eardrum. Her sister, Erika Brannock of Towson, Md., lost her right leg in the blast. Gross's husband, Michael, suffered minor injuries. Her family issued a statement saying she will attend the April 21 race to watch her mother and brother run again this year. The statement says the family wants to take back the joy of the race this year.

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Group files suit against NYC's e-cigarette ban

NEW YORK (AP) — A smokers' advocacy group says it has filed a lawsuit against New York City seeking to overturn the city's ban on electronic cigarettes. The NYC Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment said Tuesday it filed the papers in state Supreme Court. The Smoke-Free Air Act was signed into law in December, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last month in office. The law prohibits e-cigarettes in all areas where regular cigarettes are banned. The lawsuit says the ban regulates both tobacco smoke exposure and e-cigarettes. The group says that violates the "One Subject Rule" of the city's charter. The FDA plans to regulate e-cigarettes but has not yet issued proposed rules. The City Council and Law Department did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

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INTERNATIONAL
Malaysia says search for downed plane to shift to smaller area in south Indian Ocean

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia says it has narrowed the search for a downed jetliner to an area the size of Alaska in the southern Indian Ocean. The comments from the country's defense minister come a day after the prime minister announced that a new analysis of satellite data confirmed the plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 aboard. The new search area is 622,000 square miles, just 20 percent of the area that was previously being searched. But searchers still face a daunting task of combing a vast expanse of choppy seas for suspected remnants of the aircraft sighted earlier. Australia's deputy defense chief says the task is "not searching for a needle in a haystack," but "trying to define where the haystack is." Gale-force winds, heavy rain and swelling seas brought the search to a halt today, but Australia says improved weather should allow the hunt for possible debris from the plane to resume Wednesday.

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Taliban suicide bombers, gunmen attack Afghan election office in Kabul, killing at least 4

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A four-hour standoff between Taliban insurgents and security forces at an election office on the edge of Kabul is over. The assault began when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives outside the office while gunmen stormed into the building, trapping about 70 people inside. The interior ministry says a candidate for a seat on a provincial council was killed, along with an election worker and two policemen. All five insurgents were also killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The assault is the latest in the insurgents' violent campaign against the country's April 5 elections, when Afghans are to choose their next president and local council members. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the polls. Two other attacks elsewhere in the country today have killed four police and eight insurgents. Also today, Afghan police detained eight senior employees of a private security company that provided guards to the Kabul hotel attacked by the Taliban last week. The interior ministry blames the company's negligence for allowing the attackers to enter the Serena Hotel with small handguns hidden in their shoes. The gunmen opened fire inside the hotel restaurant, killing nine people before being killed by police.

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Pistorius trial: Prosecution wraps case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecution in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial closed its case Tuesday and the defense asked for time to approach some of the 107 state witnesses who did not take the stand. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel declared Tuesday "this is the state's case," setting the stage for the defense to start its arguments when court resumes Friday. Defense lawyer Brian Webber says that it's likely Oscar Pistorius will take the stand, but he did not say when the athlete would testify. Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of Valentine's Day last year. Pistorius says he mistook her for an intruder.

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US lobbies Vatican for pope visit in 2015

VATICAN CITY (AP) — U.S. officials have made their case to the Vatican for Pope Francis to visit the U.S. next year, saying his "message needs to be heard" during a massive church celebration of the family planned for Philadelphia. The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter made their pitch Tuesday to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, whose Pontifical Council for the Family is helping organize the Sept. 22-27, 2015, meeting. Popes have attended five of the seven World Meetings of the Family, and Francis has made family issues the top priority of his pontificate. But no confirmation of his participation is expected before next year. Nutter said the event offers Francis a "unique moment in our common history and a signature opportunity" to speak about family concerns to a huge audience.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 89, Indiana 77

MLB

NY Mets 5, St. Louis 3
Chicago White Sox 7, Seattle 6
San Diego 7, Chicago Cubs 1

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

St. Louis at Toronto 6 p.m.
Dallas at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis vs. Miami
LA Angels vs. Chicago Cubs (ss)
Chicago Cubs (ss) vs. San Diego
Colorado vs. Chicago White Sox

High School Softball

Salem vs. Nashville

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Bears President: Not Considering Additional Seats At Soldier Field

(Chicago, IL)  --  Despite Mayor Emanuel's plans to look into expansion at Soldier Field, Bears officials say they aren't considering the idea.  The city is exploring the possibility of adding five-thousand seats to the lakefront stadium.  The move could improve Chicago's chances of getting a Super Bowl bid in the future.  Bears President Ted Phillips told the "Chicago Sun Times" that the organization is open to listening to ideas, but nothing is in the works.

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News For Mar. 24, 2014

LOCAL
MVTHS BOE Holds Special Meeting This Evening

Mt. Vernon Township High School will hold a special Board of Education meeting this evening.  Items on the agenda include discussion on the status of the new high school project including the 95% review of Design development, a review of final Athletic Complex plan Renderings and Finishes, a review final interior and exterior finishes, and a review progress of VE items. The meeting is schedule for 4 p.m.

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Traffic Accident Fatal For St. Francisville Man

An fatal traffic accident claimed the life of a St. Francisville man on Friday at approximately 4:45 p.m. on IL Route 161 Extension, 300 Feet East of Wayne County Road 615 East.  47 Year old Samuel L. Clark of St. Francisville was travelling westbound when, for unknown reasons, he lost control of his vehicle and skidded off the roadway.  The vehicle struck a driveway culvert which caused it to become airborne and roll.  Clark was not wearing his seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle.  As a result of the traffic crash, Clark was pronounced deceased at the scene by Wayne County Coroner Jimmy Taylor. An ISP Crash Reconstruction Officer (C.R.O.) has been assigned to the crash investigation.  In addition, ISP District 19 was assisted at the crash scene by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Cisne Fire Department, Orchardville Fire Department, North Wayne Ambulance Service, Wayne County Coroner’s office, and Barry’s Towing.     

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Southern Illinois man sentenced for bank fraud

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois man has been ordered to spend two months in federal prison for defrauding a bank of $80,000. Thirty-nine-year-old Mark Troehler of Herrin also was sentenced Thursday to two months of post-prison home confinement and three years of supervised release. Troehler already had pleaded guilty to charges he submitted false lien waivers to the Bank of Marion after he had taken out a construction loan. Authorities allege that while working as a contractor at the time, Troehler used the loan money for personal and unrelated businesses expenses. False documents he supplied to the bank indicted the money was being used to build a Herrin home. Troehler has been ordered to repay the bank.

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$60M Corrections overtime payout raises questions

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — The $60 million price tag for 2013 overtime filed for employees of Illinois' prison system is drawing scrutiny. The Illinois Department of Corrections says the time-and-a-half pay is necessary when guards and other workers call in sick or are on leaves of absence. But union officials maintain a longtime belief that it's symptomatic of an understaffed and overcrowded prison system. The (Belleville) News-Democrat details one 2013 incident at a maximum security prison that concerned prison officials. The newspaper says during five consecutive work shifts during the New Year's holiday, there were 407 calls for employees reporting that they couldn't show up to Stateville Correctional Center. Each sick call meant a substitute had to be hired on overtime. The newspaper reports that time period led to $83,400 more in overtime.

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Illinois lobbies to protect Scott Air Force Base

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois members of Congress are teaming up to protect Scott Air Force Base from any attempts in the future to close, relocate or downsize the facility in southwestern Illinois. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and other federal and state lawmakers invited Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh to visit the base Friday outside the city of Belleville. Welsh did not meet with reporters afterward, but Durbin told journalists he believes the Air Force chief understands the base's role in the nation's defense. According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Durbin said the general told his hosts repeatedly that it would be "difficult, if not impossible, to imagine picking up Scott Air Force Base and moving it to another location." The base is home to the 375th Air Mobility Wing.

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Ill. lawmakers investigate drop in deer numbers

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois state lawmakers are getting involved in an effort to find out why the latest deer-hunting season saw such a decline in harvested animals and whether action is needed to increase the deer population. State Rep. Jerry Costello tells the Belleville News-Democrat that members of the Legislature's downstate caucus have met with Department of Natural Resources managers to discuss the issue. The Democrat from Smithton says the DNR told them the state may have overshot an earlier management goal to bring down deer numbers because of overpopulation. The higher numbers were blamed for increased crop damage and a spike in highway accidents. The 2013-2014 deer harvest was about 148,500. That was a drop from nearly 181,000 the previous season. Costello says DNR might adjust the deer-hunting seasons and regulations.

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Illinois spring wild turkey season to open soon


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Hunters in Illinois are preparing for the start of spring wild turkey season. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced Friday the spring wild turkey season opens April 7 in the south zone and April 14 in the north zone. Youth hunting will take place March 29-30 in the south zone and April 5-6 in the north zone. The north zone includes all counties north of Crawford, Jasper, Effingham, Fayette, Bond and Madison. The south zone includes the rest of the state. Last year, spring wild turkey hunters in Illinois bagged more than 14,000 turkeys in Illinois, including those taken during youth seasons.

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Burn Ban In Effect In St. Clair County

(St. Clair County, IL)  --  An executive order issued in St. Clair County means no open burning of any kind.  The burn ban will be in effect through at least April 1st.  Officials say there have been at least 200 fires across the county in March alone.  St. Clair joins several other Metro East counties in enacting burn bans.

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Elkville Man Sentenced On Meth Charge

On Friday, 43-year old Charles L. Scott, also known as “Boomer, of Elkville, Illinois, was sentenced in United States District Court in Benton on a one-count indictment charging conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, according to Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.   Scott, who had previously pled guilty to the methamphetamine offense, was sentenced to nearly 6 years in federal prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release and fined $200.  The offense occurred between March 2012 and March 2013 in Jackson and Perry Counties.  Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings established that Scott was involved with others in the manufacture of methamphetamine.  On March 13, 2013, he received severe burns while manufacturing methamphetamine inside an Elkville residence.  Scott’s sentence was enhanced based on the substantial risk of harm created by his criminal conduct. One co-defendant has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing.   The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Perry County Sheriff’s Office, Murphysboro Police Department, the Pinckneyville Police Department and other agencies.

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Bus Tour For Cahokia Mounds Offer In Depth Look at Area Sites

An all-day bus tour later this month will offer an in-depth look at some of the oldest Native American sites in Illinois. The March 30 tour begins and ends at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, but assistant site manager Bill Iseminger says guests will see many more sites around the region. “What we call the American Bottom, the Bottomlands, around Collinsville, Ill.,” Iseminger said. “Probably from around Mitchell, Ill. on the north to Columbia, Ill. on the south.” Iseminger says visitors will be able to get out and explore some of the sites, which predate European settlement of Illinois by several centuries. The tour follows a route once taken by archaeologist Greg Perino, who researched the area for more than 50 years. The cost of the tour is $30 per person. The deadline for reservations is March 25, and you can get a seat by calling the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site at (618) 345-6454.

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STATE
Reform group wants to change remapping process


CHICAGO (AP) — A reform group wants to put the issue of how Illinois draws political boundaries on November's ballot. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that the Yes! for Independent Maps campaign has proposed creating a bipartisan commission to draw districts, which would take the power away from lawmakers. The campaign needs to collect roughly 300,000 signatures before May 4, but organizers say they hope to get more. The remapping process has been under heavy scrutiny. Every decade, Illinois redraws political maps based on population. However, questions have been raised about lawmaker involvement, including criticism that the process is used to protect incumbents. Democrats led the remap in 2011 because they control both chambers and the governor's office. But Republicans sued and federal judges characterized the remap as a "blatant political move."

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Gov. Quinn reveals more re-election themes

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. Pat Quinn is questioning his Republican gubernatorial rival's ethics, wealth and stance on minimum wage during his re-election bid. The Chicago Democrat raised the issues in a story published in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times. Quinn has already tried to differentiate himself from businessman Bruce Rauner by playing up the venture capitalist's wealth and views on minimum wage. Quinn wants to raise Illinois' rate. Rauner initially said he wanted to cut the rate, later saying he'd raise it under certain circumstances. Now Quinn is raising questions about Rauner's business dealings and possible links to Stuart Levine, who was convicted in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption scandal. Rauner's campaign says Quinn is playing "political games" and blasts his signing of a pension overhaul cutting benefits for state employees and retirees.

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ISU President Flanagan resigns amid assault claim

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State University President Timothy Flanagan has resigned.
Flanagan is being investigated by ISU police after a former campus employee accused him of assault. He stepped down during a special Board of Trustees meeting Saturday. The resignation took effect immediately. A statement on the university's website says Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Dietz was named to replace him. It includes a brief statement from Flanagan in which he says he appreciated working with students and faculty but that after discussion with the board he's decided it would be best to "pursue other opportunities." The complaint filed against him, accuses Flanagan of assaulting a former employee while complaining about the care of the president's lawn. ISU Chief of Staff Jay Groves said the university would have no additional comment.

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U. of Illinois trying to attract rural students

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois administrators say the number of students from rural counties is shrinking — a trend they're hoping to reverse. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports 23 counties — mostly in southern and western Illinois — have sent an average of two or fewer students per year to any of the university's three campuses during a five-year period. This year, there are 600 students from 37 so-called "non-core" counties, down about 40 percent from 2003. Officials say there's a variety of issues attracting students, some of whom may not feel comfortable at a large university and may have competitive financial aid packages from smaller, private schools. They're offering scholarships to high-achieving students from underrepresented counties. And admissions officers are working on outreach to transfer students from rural community colleges.

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Deere expanding U. of Illinois research center

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Deere & Company plans to almost double the size of its on-campus research center at the University of Illinois. The Moline-based company said Friday it is increasing the size of its John Deere Technology Innovation Center to 13,500 square feet. The company plans to be able to accommodate 50 interns as well as its staff. The center is located in the university's research park. Deere said in a news release that its presence at the university gives it access to experts in engineering, computer science and other areas. Klaus Hoehn is a Deere vice president. He said the Research Park location also helps Deere attract top graduates.

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Flood insurance rate spikes to ripple across Ill.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of Illinoisans with flood insurance through a debt-ridden federal program are about to see a dramatic rise in their premiums. Under federal legislation signed into law Friday, scores of policyholders under the heavily subsidized National Flood Insurance Program will see their rates jump annually — by as much as 25 percent in some cases. An Associated Press analysis shows nearly 49,000 Illinois policies in the program, paying combined premiums of $44 million. Roughly half of those policies will see their premiums rise, with 20,000 primary residence policies that could rise up to 18 percent annually. The burden isn't just higher rates. Property owners in flood plains may have tougher times selling their homes because of the insurance costs could turn off would-be buyers.

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NATIONAL
No signs of life after huge Washington landslide

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Rescue crews in Washington state are still working amid fading hope of finding any survivors in the debris from a massive mudslide that killed at least eight people. Their spirits had been raised late Saturday night when they heard voices calling for help. But by yesterday, there were no sounds and five bodies were found. A number of people are still missing. The 1-square-mile slide also critically injured several people - including an infant - and destroyed about 30 houses in what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes — some nearly 100 years old. Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall. The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, but water began trickling downstream yesterday, easing fears of major flooding. A flash flood watch remains in effect through this afternoon.

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Health law birth control coverage before justices

WASHINGTON (AP) — Another case related to President Barack Obama's health care law is before the Supreme Court this week. At issue is whether the religious rights of employers trump the rights of women to the birth control of their choice. The court is hearing arguments tomorrow in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives as part of the law's preventive care requirement. The companies are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized. The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their religious beliefs forbid them to sell such contraceptives. The administration says a victory for the companies would prevent women from making decisions about birth control based on what's best for their health.

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Texas Officials Look To Protect Shorebirds From Oil Spill

TEXAS CITY, Texas (AP) — Officials in Texas are calling in additional help to protect shorebird habitat after a weekend oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel. A barge carrying the oil collided with a ship Saturday and spilled nearly 170,000 gallons of the tar-like oil into the waterway. The channel has been closed to ships and there's no timetable for it to reopen. The conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society says the timing couldn't be much worse because the peak shorebird migration season is approaching.

---------------------------------

9-11 Body Parts To Be Put In Museum

(New York, NY)  --  Thousands of unidentified body parts from the 9-11 terrorist attacks will reportedly be placed inside the 9-11 Museum at Ground Zero.  The New York City medical examiner's office says they're getting ready to move more than eight-thousand body parts to a "remains repository" hidden from public view inside the museum.  The "New York Post" reports it will also include a family visiting room and an M.E.'s office to continue to try and identify the remains.

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San Francisco Drive-By Shooting Wounds Seven

(San Francisco, CA)  --  Seven people are recovering this morning after a drive-by shooting in San Francisco.  Police say it happened Sunday night in the city's often violent Tenderloin neighborhood.  The seven who were wounded were taken to the hospital with wounds that police say are not life-threatening.  No one has been arrested and investigators don't have much to go on, since the make and model of the car the shots came from is unknown.

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Report: Baby On The Way For Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher

(Undated)  -- Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher may be expanding on their recent engagement news.  Sources tell "People" magazine the couple is expecting their first child together.  Kunis and Kutcher began dating quietly in 2012 but have been friends since their days co-starring on "That '70s Show."  Reports about their engagement first surfaced last month.  A source says the couple is in no hurry to tie the knot.

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Crews to cut wreckage apart after Chicago derailment

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Transit Authority officials say they'll use torches to cut a commuter train apart as they remove wreckage from an underground station after a derailment. Christopher Bushell is the transit agency's chief infrastructure officer. He says Monday's derailment means the O'Hare International Airport station will remain closed for at least "12 to 24 hours." Bushell says crews are inspecting the station's stairs and escalator, which received "significant damage" when the train plowed across a platform and scaled the escalator around 3 a.m. More than 30 people were hurt, but all of their injuries are considered non-life threatening. Workers will disassemble the train and remove it on a flatbed. Bushell says CTA inspectors are reviewing the train's video footage as well as information from the agency's signal systems.

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Supreme Court declines to hear sex registry case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of a Virginia woman who claims the state's sex offender registry law is unconstitutional. The woman was reclassified as a violent sex offender 15 years after being convicted of unlawful sex with minor in a case that did not involve any violence. The reclassification subjects her to a ban on entering her children's schools without first seeking permission from state courts and the local school board. The woman was identified only as Jane Doe in court records. She says the process unfairly risks revealing her children's identity and could take years to resolve. Lower courts had rejected her case on procedural grounds, saying she failed to first exhaust state remedies.

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GWAR frontman Brockie found dead in Virginia home

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Dave Brockie, frontman for the heavy metal band GWAR, has been found dead in his Richmond, Va., home at age 50. Richmond police spokeswoman Dionne Waugh says officers were called to home shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday for a report of a dead person. When officers arrived, Brockie — who went by the stage name Oderus Urungus — was found dead inside the home. Detectives don't suspect foul play at this time and Waugh says the medical examiner's office will determine cause of death. The Grammy-nominated band founded in 1984 is known for its comically grotesque costumes, stage antics and vulgar lyrics. GWAR released its latest album in 2013 and recently toured Australia and Japan. In 2011, lead guitarist 34-year-old Cory Smoot was found dead on the band's tour bus.

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INTERNATIONAL
Malaysia PM Says Flight 370 Believed Lost

(Undated)  --  Malaysia's Prime Minister says investigators believe Flight 370's last position was in the Indian Ocean west of Perth.  In a press conference, he described it as a remote location far from any landing site and added that the flight ended in the Indian Ocean.  All 239 passengers and crew on board the plane are believed lost.  Family members have been notified that their loved ones are thought to be dead.  The Prime Minister called this latest twist in the case "heartbreaking."  Family members received a text message from the airline earlier today that said, quote, "we deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived."  The flight vanished more than two weeks ago after take-off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.  Search crews have reported sighting debris in the area where Flight 370 is believed to have crashed, but there's no confirmation that the debris is actually part of the plane.  Bad weather has hampered search areas over a 42-thousand-square-mile area off the west coast of Australia.

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Australian, Chinese planes spot objects in Indian Ocean in search for missing plane

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Chinese and Australian planes have spotted several objects in an area of the southern Indian Ocean identified by multiple satellite images as containing possible debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the crew on board an Australian P3 Orion located two objects — the first grey or green and circular, the second orange and rectangular. An Australian navy supply ship is on the scene trying to locate and recover the objects, and Malaysia's defense minister says it could reach them within a few hours. Meanwhile, the Xinhua (shin-wah) News Agency reports the Chinese crew saw two large objects and several smaller ones spread across several square miles. China's foreign ministry says a white, square-shaped object was captured on a camera aboard the plane. U.S. Pacific command is sending a black box locator to the area. It can hear the black box "pinger" down to a depth of about 20,000 feet.

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Survey points to eurozone growth of 0.5 pct in Q1

LONDON (AP) — A closely-watched survey of business activity across the 18-country eurozone is indicating that economic growth across the region is spreading and running at a near three-year high. Financial information company Markit says Monday its purchasing managers' index for March fell modestly to 53.2 points from February's 53.3. Even so, Markit says the March figure rounds off the eurozone's best three-month period since the second quarter of 2011 and suggests a quarterly growth rate of 0.5 percent. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion. A more detailed look at the survey shows Germany, Europe's largest economy, continues to spearhead the growth and that the recovery is spreading to France. It also says that the "periphery" countries, many of which have been weighed down by government-imposed austerity programs, are staging a "robust-looking recovery."

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Old cloth ties blamed for theater ceiling collapse

LONDON (AP) — Investigators say weakened, century-old cloth and plaster ties caused a partial ceiling collapse that injured almost 80 audience members at London's Apollo Theatre. Local authority Westminster Council said Monday that the "principal cause" of the collapse was the deterioration of the hessian and plaster of Paris ties, used to bind the timber frames supporting the suspended ceiling. They had been in place since the Apollo Theatre opened in 1901. The council said it was sending advice to owners of other historic buildings on safety checks and precautions. Seven people were seriously hurt and scores more slightly injured when chunks of plaster and wood fell from the theater ceiling during a performance on Dec. 19. The venue is due to reopen Wednesday, with a protective deck installed under the ceiling.

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Irish lawmaker quits over lewd messages to women

DUBLIN (AP) — He's Ireland's answer to Carlos Danger, and now he's unemployed. Patrick Nulty, a 31-year-old lawmaker, has resigned after a tabloid newspaper caught him sending sexually suggestive messages to female constituents in Dublin. Like Anthony Weiner, Nulty initially claimed his account had been hacked. Unlike the former New York congressman, who deployed "Carlos Danger" as a sexting alias, Nulty did little to cover his tracks. He admitted responsibility once the Sunday World newspaper showed him that his geographically tagged messages came from inside Dublin's parliament building. While fielding Facebook messages from constituents seeking his help, Nulty advised one woman to come to his office wearing a skirt. He told another to mail him her underwear. He asked a 17-year-old whether she'd ever been spanked. Nulty blamed his messages on late-night drinking.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS


NBA

Chicago 91, Philadelphia 81

NHL

Philadelphia 5, St. Louis 1

MLB

St. Louis 5, Houston 2
San Francisco 8, Chicago White Sox 5
San Diego 3, Chicago White Sox 3
Cincinnati 8, Chicago Cubs 3

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

NIT

Clemson 50, Illinois 49

NHL

St. Louis 1, Pittsburgh 0
Nashville 2, Chicago, 0

MLB

St. Louis 6, Houston 3
Chicago Cubs 10, Oakland (ss) 6
Chicago White Sox 5, Colorado Rockies 5

NASCAR
------
Auto Club 400  (at Fontana, CA)

1. Kyle Busch
2. Kyle Larson
3. Kurt Busch

PGA
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Arnold Palmer Invitational  (at Orlando, FL)

1. Matt Every (-13)
2. Keegan Bradley (-12)
3. Adam Scott (-11)

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Indiana at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis vs. NY Mets
Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle
San Diego vs. Chicago Cubs

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News For Mar. 21, 2014

LOCAL
Missing Woman Found After Four Months

(Hardin County, IL)  --  The search is over for a missing Gallatin County woman.  Crews pulled Chrissy Williams’ body up from the Ohio River, near Rosiclare yesterday, just a few miles away from her home.  She was inside her SUV but her family members believe there must’ve been foul play involved.  They don’t believe Williams would’ve driven into the water on her own.  Williams was last seen leaving her home on December 2nd. 

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Ill. chief back on job after being fired twice

CASEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois police chief who's been fired and reinstated twice since last month will keep his job. Caseyville's village board on Wednesday night decided to give Jose Alvarez another chance, setting aside his outburst at a board meeting last month after Mayor Leonard Black fired him for a second time since Feb. 12. Black says he hopes to smooth out differences with Alvarez. Alvarez says Wednesday night's decision leaves him feeling "great," and that he can continue with his projects. Both times that Black had fired Alvarez, the village's governing board reinstated him. A St. Clair County judge ultimately intervened, issuing a temporary order putting Alvarez on the job. Alvarez was hired last September after his predecessor killed himself.

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Man Guilty In Deaths Of Pregnant Woman And Child

(Edwardsville, IL)  --  A Metro East man has been found guilty of murdering a pregnant woman and her four-year-old cousin in 2005.  A jury Thursday returned its verdict against Kevin Reid of Edwardsville.  Prosecutors say he stabbed the woman more than 20 times while trying to buy drugs from her, then stabbed the boy.  Reid faces up to life in prison.

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Federal Jury Finds Missouri Woman Guilty Of Health Care Fraud

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced Thursday that on March 19, 2014, Tisa V. Vaughn, 49, of Florissant, Missouri, was found guilty in United States District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, on an indictment charging that she engaged in a scheme to commit health care fraud. Sentencing is set for July 11, 2014. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to 3 years of supervised release.
Vaughn was the personal assistant for her sister, a Medicaid recipient, who resides in East St. Louis. Evidence at trial showed that Vaughn billed for hours of care when she was either not caring for her sister or when her sister was actually in the hospital. Furthermore, testimony indicated that the sisters split the payments that Vaughn billed and received from the Home Services Program for the State of Illinois.  The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Illinois State Police’s Medicaid Fraud Control Bureau. The case was tried by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Stuart J. Zander and Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Coonan. The lead prosecutor for the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Quinley.

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Jury Reaches Verdict In Murder Case After 14 Hours Of Deliberation

A jury found 40-year-old Donald Lee guilty Thursday afternoon of First Degree Murder. They believe he fatally shot his girlfriend, 23-year-old Brittany Andrews, of Bonnie, in the parking lot of Vickee's Card Shop last May. The jury deliberated for nine hours Wednesday and were deadlocked, before deliberating five more hours Thursday and handing over a guilty verdict. Moments before, the judge was preparing to dismiss the jury for the weekend, citing prior court business outside of the circuit.

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Checkpoints Tonight In The Mt. Vernon Area

In an effort to make roads safer, and to remove impaired drivers from the road, the Mt. Vernon Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff's Department have announced they will be conducting roadside safety checkpoints tonight in the Mt. Vernon area.  So, before you go out drinking, plan ahead and have a designated driver or make plans to stay overnight and don’t get behind the wheel.

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Motion Filed in Murray Center Case

Attorneys in the Clinton County case regarding the state wards living at the Warren G. Murray Center in Centralia filed a motion in court Thursday, compelling the Attorney General's office to search for and release all records regarding each of the facility's wards. State Representative Charlie Meier, an Okawville Republican says the Attorney General's office hasn't been honest and forthright in it's disclosure of evidence to the court, and was subsequently able to successfully have one Murray resident moved to a group home in Kankakee. He says the plaintiffs in the case against the state, now know that at any time in the future, the Attorney General's office will walk into court and not give all the facts they have in a case. Retired Judge David Sauer commented that it appears more and more that the Attorney General's office and Governor's office are playing fast and loose with the law, and it's disgraceful.

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Friday Morning Crash Fatal For Vandalia Man        

A vehicle crash took place on I57 South Bound at Mile Post 83.5 this at 1:17 A.M. has left a Vandalia man dead. A 2003 Jeep Liberty driven by 32 year old Germi R. Lane of Vandalia was southbound approached a 2000 Dodge Durango driven by 39 year old Thomas T. McGuire of Benton at a high rate of speed and was attempting to pass when it sideswiped the Durango causing it to slide sideways and come to rest on the right shoulder. Lane's vehicle continued on to strike the guardrail on the right side of the roadway. After striking the guardrail, the Jeep rolled over it and came to rest on its side in the tree line. The driver of the Jeep, Lane, was ejected and pinned below the Jeep causing fatal injuries. Lane was not wearing a safety belt and was pronounced dead at the scene by the Jefferson County Coroner. McGuire was transported via ambulance to a local hospital where he was treated and released. All lanes of I57 remained open through the cleanup. Assisting agencies included the Jefferson County Sherriff’s Department, Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, Litton EMS, Rick’s Towing and Abbott’s Towing.

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STATE
Democrats, Independents Back Rauner

(Chicago, IL)  --  A group of influential Democrats are backing Republican Bruce Rauner for governor.  Many of them have a vested interest in education across the state.  Former state Senator James Meeks is among the group.  He was a champion for education during his stint as a state senator and particularly wanted to address funding disparities in rich and poor school districts.  Rauner says education reform will be one of his main priorities if he becomes governor.  Democratic National Finance Committee member Manny Sanchez is also among the group.  He says Rauner is a solid candidate who can stop the quote "fiscal insanity" in Illinois. 

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Madigan Wants To Tax Millionaires To Fund Education

(Springfield, IL) -- House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to raise money for K-though-12 education by taxing millionaires an extra three-percent. The Millionaire’s tax would bring in an extra billion bucks a year for education. By law, everyone pays the same, flat tax rate in Illinois so Madigan has to push for a change to the state’s constitution if he wants millionaires to pay more. The idea needs to clear with a supermajority vote in the House and Senate in order to get on the November ballot. Voters would then have the final say.

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New Drug Spreads Onto College Campuses

(Springfield, IL) -- There’s a new drug spreading like wildfire on college campuses. It’s called 25-I and Senator Kirk Dillard is trying to make it illegal. Senator Dillard wants to add 25-I to the list of controlled substances to stop it from spreading. That would make it illegal to buy, possess, and sell the drug in Illinois. The bill was voted out of committee and is headed for a vote in the Senate.

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Minimum Wage Bill Clears Senate Committee

(Springfield, IL)  --  A plan to boost the minimum wage to ten-65 an hour is headed for a vote in the Senate.  The plan cleared committee in Springfield yesterday after testimony from a Chicago dad.  Robert Lee says he's having a hard time making ends meet while trying to take care of four daughters on eight-25-an hour.  He says his wife has been sick and can't contribute much to the family income.  Business owners testified against the bill though, claiming it could force them to start laying workers off.   

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Get Covered Illinois call center to extend hours

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois officials are reminding people without health insurance to sign up for coverage before the end of the month to avoid facing a tax penalty. A call center for people with questions about insurance coverage is extending its hours ahead of the March 31 deadline. Officials announced Thursday the Get Covered Illinois help desk will take calls from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to midnight March 29-31. The phone number is 866-311-1119. The nation's new health care law requires most Americans to get health insurance. People without insurance can be fined either 1 percent of income or $95, whichever is greater, when they file their 2014 federal taxes. Financial help is available, depending on household income.

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Survey finds 96,000 clean-energy jobs in Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) — A new survey by a Chicago-based nonprofit group finds Illinois has more than 96,000 people working in clean-energy jobs, and the number should top 100,000 this year. The survey results released Thursday by the Clean Energy Trust found the growth in those jobs stalled in 2013. The group in part blames the expiration of a federal wind-energy tax credit. The trust says it surveyed about 1,600 companies. Forty percent said they plan to add workers in 2014. The survey found that more than a third of the clean-energy jobs were in engineering, research, manufacturing and assembly jobs. Many others are in heating and air-conditioning work that includes energy-efficiency upgrades. The trust works with businesses, universities and others to promote the growth of clean-energy business in the Midwest.

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Illinois court: Eavesdropping law unconstitutional

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court has declared the state's decades-old eavesdropping law unconstitutional. In the unanimous decision released Thursday, Illinois' highest court found the statute violates the free speech and due process protections of the U.S. and Illinois constitutions. The 1961 Illinois Eavesdropping Act made it a felony for someone to produce an audio recording of a conversation unless all parties agree. But the court found the statute, as written, was far too broad. Among other findings, the court says it criminalizes recordings that are clearly public. The central figure in the ruling is Annabel Melongo. She was charged under the law in 2010 for recording a Cook County court official. She spent more than a year in jail awaiting trial. The jury in her case couldn't reach a verdict.

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Illinois Senate approves prison chief

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Senate has approved retaining the state's director of prisons. The Senate voted 37-18 to consent to Gov. Pat Quinn's appointment over complaints from Republicans about the performance of S.A. "Tony" Godinez (goh-DEE'-nez). Godinez has been Corrections Department director since April 2011. The job pays $150,200. Godinez has been criticized for a number of issues. He followed Quinn's directive to close two prisons and sell one to the federal government. The prisons are overcrowded — holding nearly 50,000 inmates in a system designed for 32,000. And he has overseen the hiring of a former congressman's son whom the executive inspector general said was not qualified. He also oversaw the hiring of a former gang member whom the Chicago Sun-Times reported had been arrested two dozen times.

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Illinois jobless rate holds steady at 8.7 percent

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Department of Employment Security says unemployment held steady across the state in February at 8.7 percent. The department said Thursday that the statewide jobless rate was unchanged from January. The federal government said earlier this month that the nationwide unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. Illinois has one of the highest jobless rates among U.S. states. The department said Illinois added a net 6,400 jobs in February. That's an improvement from January when the state lost jobs. Companies that work in the professional and business services sector added 10,400 jobs in February and leisure and hospitality employers added 4,000 jobs. But firms in trade, transportation and utilities cut 6,100 jobs. Manufacturing companies continued their decline in January by dropping a net 1,100 jobs.

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NATIONAL
No Surveillance Cameras At World Trade Center

(New York, NY)  --  Security is being tightened at One World Trade Center after a New Jersey teenager apparently roamed the top of the Freedom Tower undetected for hours.  However, it's unclear what steps are being taken beyond the firing of a security guard who was apparently asleep when Justin Casquejo [[ cass-KAY-oh ]] pulled off his escapade on Sunday.  The "New York Post" reports there's not a single working camera inside the World Trade Center construction site. 

--------------------------------

No Funeral For Westboro Church Founder Phelps

(Topeka, KS)  --  There will be no funeral for the controversial founder of Westboro Baptist Church.  Fred Phelps died of natural causes late Wednesday night, according to a church spokesman.  The 84-year old Phelps was notorious for his scathing anti-gay views and rhetoric.  He and his followers, mostly his extended family, picketed the funerals of AIDS victims and most controversially, fallen members of the military.

----------------------------------

Thousands of preschool kids face suspension

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even preschoolers are getting suspended from U.S. public schools — and they're disproportionately black. The Education Department's civil rights arm says black children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs, but they're almost half of the students suspended more than once. The data gathered by the Education Department don't explain why the disparities exist or why the students were suspended.

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With health law, workers ponder the I-Quit option

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal experts estimate that within 10 years, the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers could be working less. They say that's because the new health care law could become a powerful temptation for job-weary workers to move on to new opportunities. Experts believe that workers in their 50s and 60s, who may have accumulated savings, will be most likely to give up job-provided insurance for policies on the new public exchanges.

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Helicopter crash investigation gets takeoff video

SEATTLE (AP) — A preliminary report could be released by Monday on the fiery helicopter crash near Seattle's Space Needle that killed two men on board and burned a third on the ground. Federal investigators say they have surveillance video showing the KOMO-TV news chopper taking off from a helipad. Investigators also want to know how the pilot was able to balance his early mornings in the aircraft with a job as a technical analyst at Boeing.

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Father Blames Son's Suicide On Fraternity Hazing

(Harrisburg, PA)  --  The father of a Penn State student who committed suicide is blaming his son's death on fraternity hazing.  Marquise Braham was going to school at Penn State's Altoona campus and was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.  He died last week when he jumped from a hotel rooftop while he was home in New York for spring break.  His father believes his son was driven to take his own life by the hazing practices he had endured.

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Twitter Turns 8, Celebrates By Helping You Find First Tweet

(Undated)  --  Twitter is inviting its users to turn back the clock.  In celebration of its eighth birthday today, the social media giant has come up with a tool to let users find their very first tweet.  All people have to do is go to the website first-tweets.com and then enter in their username. 

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Hawaii law lets police have sex with prostitutes

HONOLULU (AP) — Police in Honolulu are urging lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations. Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it's unnecessary and could further victimize sex workers.

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Michigan tourist returns stolen Hulk Hogan shoe

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Police in Florida say a Michigan tourist has returned a wrestling shoe autographed by Hulk Hogan that she took from a store in Clearwater. Authorities say the woman called Hulk Hogan's Clearwater Beach store yesterday, saying she wanted to return the shoe. Sunday's theft was captured on security camera, but employees didn't realize the $5,500 shoe was missing until Tuesday. Police say the woman went back to Michigan and got three acquaintances to return the shoe to the store.

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NYPD: Boy, 14, shoots man dead on bus in Brooklyn

NEW YORK (AP) — New York police say a 14-year-old boy opened fire on a city bus in Brooklyn, fatally shooting a passenger in the head. The shooting happened at about 6:20 p.m. Thursday on a bus in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The boy was taken into custody and a firearm was recovered. No charges were immediately filed. Police say 39-year-old Angel Rojas of Brooklyn was taken to Woodhull Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. They say he was not the intended target. According to The New York Times, the shooting erupted during an argument among a group of teenagers. The newspaper reports that more than one shot was fired. Relatives say Rojas came to the United States four years ago from the Dominican Republic with his wife and two children.

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Official: At least 3 die in NJ shore motel fire

POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. (AP) — A fire official says at least three people are dead and three are critically injured after a blaze destroyed a motel at the Jersey shore. Firefighters responded to the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach just after 5:30 a.m. Friday. Ocean County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave (fahv) says investigators and firefighters are sifting through the charred rubble to determine if there are any people unaccounted for. Della Fave says the injured were taken to Jersey Shore University Medical Center. The motel, which is little more than two blocks from the beach, was destroyed. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Electrical problem sparked fatal western NY fire

PENFIELD, N.Y. (AP) — Fire investigators say an electrical problem caused the January blaze that killed four family members in a mobile home in western New York. The Monroe County Fire Bureau says either an overloaded circuit or improper work that had been done at the home in Penfield, a Rochester suburb, caused the Jan. 20 blaze. Among the victims was 9-year-old Tyler Doohan. Officials say he died trying to save his grandfather, who also was killed in the blaze along with Tyler's step-great-grandfather. The boy's great-grandmother later died from injuries suffered in the fire. Authorities say Tyler woke up several other relatives who escaped the blaze, then went back inside in an attempt to rescue his grandfather. Local firefighters honored his heroism by making him an honorary firefighter.

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INTERNATIONAL
Putin signs annexation

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin has signed bills making Crimea part of Russia, completing the annexation from Ukraine, hailing the incorporation of Crimea into Russia as a "remarkable event." Russia rushed the annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula after Sunday's hastily called referendum, in which its residents overwhelmingly backed breaking off from Ukraine and joining Russia. Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote, held two weeks after Russian troops had taken over Crimea. The U.S. and the European Union have responded by slapping sanctions on Russia.

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Ukraine signs deal to align itself with Europe

BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine is moving closer to aligning itself with Europe. Ukraine's prime minister has signed a political association agreement with the EU at a summit of the bloc's leaders. The agreement is part of the pact that former President Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) backed out of last November in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. That decision sparked the protests that ultimately led to his downfall and flight last month, setting off one of Europe's worst political crises since the Cold War.

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NATO, Ukraine join military exercise in Bulgaria

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Ukraine has joined two weeks of multinational military exercises that involve troops from 12 NATO member and partner nations, and demonstrate that cooperation continues between the alliance and the crisis-torn former Soviet republic. The drills, dubbed Saber Guardian, began today at the Novo Selo training facility in eastern Bulgaria and will include some 700 troops from 11 other countries, including the United States, representatives from NATO. The exercise was planned before the current East-West standoff over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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Australia leader say nothing spotted in air search

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Australia's acting prime minister says nothing of significance has been spotted so far by search planes flying deep into the southern Indian Ocean looking for possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines jet. Warren Truss, the acting prime minister while Tony Abbott is in Papua New Guinea, says "nothing of particular significance" had been identified in today's search. Five planes were sent to look for objects that may be from the missing Malaysian jet, and an Australian official says will be extended for another day. The search is part of an international effort to solve the nearly 2-week-old mystery of what happened to the jet, which disappeared with 239 people aboard.

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Attacks kill at least 25

BAGHDAD (AP) — At least 25 people are dead and dozens wounded in several attacks north and west of Baghdad today. In the first assault, police say a suicide bomber rammed a truck filled with explosives into a police brigade headquarters. The blast set off a firefight between other attackers and policemen. Nine police officers, including the brigade commander, were killed.

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Miami 4, St. Louis 3
Seattle 3, Chicago Cubs 0

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Chicago at Indiana 6 p.m.

NHL

Carolina at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

Washington at St. Louis
Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Philadelphia at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Philadelphia 12:00 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Houston
San Francisco at Chicago White Sox (ss)
Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox (ss) at San Diego

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Nashville at Chicago 6 p.m.

Men's College Basketball

NIT

Illinois at Clemson 10:00 a.m.

MLB

Houston at St. Louis
Chicago Cubs at Oakland (ss)
Chicago White Sox at Colorado

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Falcons sign return specialist Devin Hester

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms with return specialist Devin Hester. The team announced the deal Thursday. The 31-year-old Hester is a three-time Pro-Bowler who last year tied an NFL record with his 19th scoring return in eight seasons with the Chicago Bears. Coming off a dismal 4-12 season, the Falcons are hoping he can bolster a unit that ranked 28th in the league in kickoff return yards and 21st in punt return yards. Hester has scored on 13 punt returns, five kickoff returns and off a missed field goal. In 2013, he led the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,436) and total return yards (1,692). In addition, Hester has 217 receptions for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career. Terms of Hester's contract were not immediately available.

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Blackhawks agree to deal with Carey

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to a two-year contract with free agent forward Matt Carey. The 22-year-old Carey had 18 goals and 19 assists in 38 games this season as a freshman at St. Lawrence University. The Blackhawks announced the move on Thursday.

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In son swap, Angels, Cubs deal Scioscia, Gretzky

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs included a pair of big names in a minor league trade. The Angels dealt first baseman Matt Scioscia, the son of manager Mike Scioscia, to the Cubs on Thursday for outfielder Trevor Gretzky, the son of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky. The Cubs selected Gretzky in the seventh round of the 2011 amateur draft; the younger Scioscia was picked in the 45th round the same year out of Notre Dame. Scioscia, 25, has hit .222 with three home runs and 46 RBIs in three minor league seasons, never advancing past Class A. He batted .194 with three clubs last year. Gretzky, 21, hit a combined .274 with a home run and eight RBIs in 2013 for Class A Boise and Kane County last year.

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News For Mar. 20, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon Man Sentenced On Sex Charges

A 28-year-old Mt. Vernon man was sentenced to 4-years sex offender specific probation yesterday in Marion County Court, after pleading guilty to felony sex crimes. Nicholas A. Weikert was charged in July 2012 with Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse of a Victim Under the Age of 13 and two counts of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse of a Victim More Than Five Years His Junior, in that he fondled two young girls. Per the plea agreement, one count was dismissed and he was sentenced to concurrent 4 year probation terms. He was additionally ordered to complete substance abuse evaluation and treatment, abstain from the use of drugs, alcohol or any synthetic drugs, and submit to random drug testing. He is to have no contact with the victims, their mothers, or anyone under the age of 18, with the exception of his biological children. He was ordered to pay more than $11,000 in fines, fees and restitution, with $5,000 of that coming directly out of his $5,000 bond.

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Jury Gridlock In Franklin County Murder Trial

A Franklin County jury continued its deliberations well into Wednesday night before the judge called a halt to the first-degree murder case for the day. The jury in the trial of 40-year-old Donald Lee, accused in the May 17th shooting death of 23-year-old Brittany Andrews, of Bonnie, deliberated almost seven hours before sending Judge Thomas J. Tedeschi a note saying that after three votes, jurors were deadlocked. Defense attorneys Bryan Drew and T.J. Parrish asked for a mistrial, saying the length of deliberations indicated a hopeless deadlock. Franklin County State's Attorney Evan Owens argued in favor of bringing jurors to the courthouse this morning for another chance to deliberate. Noting the gravity of the charge, the length of the trial and the large number or exhibits, the judge decided at least another morning's work was in order for the jurors. The day began with closing arguments. Owens painted Lee as the controlling on-again off-again boyfriend of Andrews and recounted evidence presented during the trial that started March 10. Drew countered, saying prosecutors had not proven the case for murder beyond a reasonable doubt. A February trial in the case ended in mistrial when previously excluded evidence was heard.

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Former Deputy Defeats Sheriff In Madison County Election

(Edwardsville, IL)  --  Madison County's sheriff will likely be replaced by one of his former deputies.  Sheriff Bob Hertz lost his reelection bid to Glen Carbon Police Chief John Lakin in yesterday's Democratic primary.  Hertz had been sheriff since 2002.  Lakin had been with the department for 22 years until taking the Glen Carbon job three years ago.  There's no Republican candidate running against Lakin in the November, making him a virtual shoe-in for the job.

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Plea Deal For Former Judge Still A Possibility

(Belleville, IL) -- Former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook and federal prosecutors may have reached a new plea agreement deal in Cook's drug case, but we won't know until later this month. The two sides submitted their latest filings under seal to judge Joe Billy McDade, who had rejected the original plea deal because it included an 18-month prison term, which McDade considered too short. Defense attorneys for Cook wouldn't say if there's been a new deal or whether the case would proceed to trial. The next hearing is March 28.

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Illinois State Police District 13 Announces Roadside Safety Check Results

DuQuoin IL – Illinois State Police (ISP) District 13 announced the results of a Roadside Safety Check (RSC) held during the late evening hours of Friday, 03/14/14, and early morning hours of Saturday, 03/15/14.  The detail was conducted at the intersection of Illinois Route 13 and Spillway Road in Williamson County by ISP District 13 officers.  Alcohol is involved in over 40 percent of fatal crashes in Illinois.  RSCs are designed to remove alcohol-impaired drivers, however, when other violations are observed such as driving with a suspended or revoked license, operating a vehicle without a valid registration or insurance, or safety belt violations, enforcement action may be taken. The following citations were issued at the Roadside Safety Check: 5 were for registration offenses, 12 driver's license offenses, 1 occupant restraint offense, 1 DUI arrest, and 8 other alcohol/drug arrests, with 35 total citations or arrests and 15 total warnings. This project was funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.    

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Police seek public's help in unsolved 1994 killing

KARNAK, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois State Police is counting on publicity of the 20th anniversary of an unsolved southern Illinois killing to draw the public's help in solving the case. State police said in an advisory Wednesday that the milestone in the case of 26-year-old victim Lisa Ann Carnes will be March 30. Authorities say Carnes' body was found in a rural Massac County field. State police say hundreds of leads have been vetted, and the case remains active. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call state police Sgt. Chad Brown at (618) 845-3740, extension 282.

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Judge clears fingernail evidence in 1989 killing

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois judge has approved certain genetic evidence for use in the trial of a man accused in a decades-old killing of a teenager. The Belleville News-Democrat reports St. Clair County Circuit Judge Zina Cruse has ruled that possible DNA evidence found under the fingernails of 1989 murder victim Nicole Willis is admissible. An attorney for defendant 52-year-old Carlos Garrett has argued such evidence should be excluded because of admittedly questionable evidence handling in the case by Centreville police. Prosecutors allege the evidence links Garrett to the death of 16-year-old Willis. Her naked, beaten and strangled body was found in a field near her home. Garrett's trial now is scheduled to begin May 19. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Belleville City Council Approves First Microbrewery License

(Belleville, IL)  --  Belleville is getting its first microbrewery.  Main Street Brewing Company's liquor license was approved on Monday.  The company plans to open its doors at the old Amarillo Tex's building on West Main Street in May according to the "Post-Dispatch."  The brewery is expected to offer six to eight different beers.

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Writer To Discuss 140th Anniversary Of Saxtown Massacre

(Millstadt, IL) -- Today marks the 140th anniversary of the Saxtown massacre. Five members of the Stelzriede family were beaten to death and had their throats slit during what appeared to be a robbery at their home south of Millstadt in 1874. Tonight at six, writer Nicholas J.C. Pistor will be at the remains of the house on Bohlsville Road to discuss a book he wrote about the murders.

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Small Town Imposes Curfew For Teens

(Evansville, IL)  --  Teens 17 and under in Evansville are now required to be in their homes by 8:00 every night.  Officials set the strict curfew hoping to catch a few vandals.  They apparently ripped down some of the street signs in town and caused about two-thousand-dollars in damages.  The curfew will stay in place, seven days a week, until the vandals are caught.

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STATE
Quinn, Rauner Off And Running

(Chicago, IL) -- Based on the tone set during morning-after political unity gatherings, the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner is going to be loud and bitter. Rauner today told interviewers Quinn is responsible for the state's failing economy, high taxes and high unemployment rate. Quinn appeared at a construction site where he amplified the theme of his first campaign commercial, accusing the wealthy Rauner of waging class warfare by calling for a minimum wage cut, a position Rauner has since slightly modified. There have been no plans announced yet for debates between the two candidates or their running mates.

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Governor’s Race Could Be Most Expensive Ever

(Undated)  --  The fight for governor is likely going to be the most expensive in Illinois history.  Political analysts expect Governor Quinn and Bruce Rauner to spend between 80 and 100-million-bucks between the two of them.   That means voters can expect to see an overflow of TV ads from the candidates.  The mudslinging has already begun.  Quinn is attacking Rauner for being out of touch with working class people and Rauner is attacking Quinn on his failed efforts to get the state out of a financial hole. 

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Quinn And Union Rekindling Relationship

(Undated)  --  It looks like Governor Quinn and labor unions are going to have to rekindle their strained relationship.  The unions have been upset with Quinn over the past several years because he refused to give AFSCME workers their contracted wages and he signed the pension bill into law last year.  But both of them are in a bind heading into the general election.  The unions haven't officially endorsed Quinn but they plan to do everything in their power to keep Rauner from winning the race.  Governor Quinn will definitely need union support and not just for the money.  He'll need the members to show up at the polls in November in order to give him an edge over Rauner. 

-------------------------------

Health Officials Want More Gym In School

(Springfield, IL)  --  One out of three kids in Illinois is considered overweight or obese and now health officials are stepping up to change that.  The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity wants kids to take more gym classes in school.  They say more physical activity would combat childhood obesity and improve brain function.  The Alliance is backing a bill that would require schools to educate kids on how to live a healthy and fit lifestyle.  It would also require schools to measure a students' fitness progress through a unified testing and tracking system.

----------------------------

Bill Boosts Parenting Time For Non-Custodial Parenting

(Springfield, IL)  --  There's a new push in Springfield aimed at giving non-custodial parents more time with their kids.  Richard Thomas is a nurse and father who helped draft a bill that would allow parents to see their kids at least 59-hours-a-week, compared to the average of four-hours-a-week.    Thomas says ripping kids away from one parent after a divorce has a detrimental impact and can lead to increased suicide, mental health issues, and drug use.  He says upping parenting time could put a major dent in those stats and help improve a child's psychological health. 

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Vernita Gray, known for 1st same-sex marriage in Illinois, remembered as 'inspiration'

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago's mayor and the governor of Illinois are among those celebrating the life of gay rights activist Vernita Gray, who died Tuesday at age 65.
Gray and her partner, Patricia Ewert, wed in the state's first same-sex marriage in November. Her terminal cancer and her wish to marry convinced a federal judge to order an expedited marriage license. That allowed the couple to get married before the June 1 effective date of Illinois' new same-sex marriage law. Gray had worked for gay rights for decades. Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised Gray's work for equality and civil rights in a statement Wednesday, calling her "an inspiration to all who crossed her path." Gov. Pat Quinn says Gray "fought for what she believed in and made a difference for people across Illinois."

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NATIONAL
Obama arguing for women's educational opportunity

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is arguing that women need better educational opportunities as he raises political money in Florida. Obama has been focusing on women's economic issues in this midterm election year and plans to focus on higher education in a visit today to Orlando's Valencia College. Democrats are hoping that women will turn out in support of their candidates in November and say Obama's economic message appeals to them. Florida has one of the country's most competitive gubernatorial races. Obama also plans to raise money for Democrats at two evening fundraisers in Miami. Obama is hosting a Working Families Summit this summer. The Valencia visit kicks off the first regional forum planned before the summit, with future events in Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and New York.

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AMA Warns Providers Over Obamacare Grace Period

(Washington, DC)  --  A provision in the Affordable Care Act is hitting doctors in the wallet.  The American Medical Association says doctors may get stuck with unpaid bills during a 90-day grace period that allows individuals to enroll in health insurance plans without paying for them.  During that grace period, the individual will appear to be covered and could run up significant bills before the provider cancels their health plan.  Because of the rule, insurers can deny claims during the last 60 days of an unpaid plan, with the doctor forced to eat the cost.  The AMA recommends that all members find out the patient's exact grace period status before providing any services.

---------------------------------

Ex-al-Qaida spokesman recounts 9/11 aftermath

NEW YORK (AP) — Osama bin Laden's son-in-law says in the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, the late al-Qaida leader contemplated how America would respond. Al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is testifying at his terrorism trial in New York. He testified Wednesday that while hiding out in a cave in Afghanistan, he told bin Laden that if America could prove he was to blame for the attacks, the U.S. wouldn't stop until it killed him and toppled the Taliban.

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Terror Magazine Calls For Car Bombs  

(New York, NY)  --  A terrorist magazine is putting a target on New York's Times Square.  The magazine believed to have inspired the Boston Marathon bombings is calling for car bombs in major U.S. cities.  New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says the new edition of "Inspire Magazine" has a photo of Times Square in it.  The al-Qaeda written piece reportedly has instructions on how and where to set off car bombs.  According to "Times of Israel," the magazine mentions New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles as primary targets.

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Sentencing Day For Brigadier General Sinclair

(Ft. Bragg, NC)  --  An Army general is expected to ask for leniency in his sentencing today.  Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair apologized in the Fort Bragg courtroom yesterday for committing adultery.  He faces a maximum punishment of 21 years in prison.  However, he has already reached a plea deal on his sentence that will be unsealed today.

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25 years later, Exxon Valdez spill effects linger

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — It's been almost 25 years since the Exxon Valdez (val-DEEZ') oil spill in Alaska. On March 24, 1989, the 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck a reef. Within hours, it unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water, polluting the coastline of Prince William Sound. Robert Spies, a chief science adviser to governments on the oil spill restoration program from 1989 to 2002. But some wildlife, as well as the people who live in the region, are still struggling.

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Report says California targeted by cyber-gangs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — International criminal enterprises follow the money, and a new report says they are increasingly focusing on California because of its wealth and innovation. Aside from long-time trafficking in drugs, guns and people, the report being released today by California Attorney General Kamala Harris says criminals are turning to cybercrime to target businesses and financial institutions. It calls California the top target in the nation for organizations that often operate from safe havens in Eastern Europe, Africa and China. It also estimates that more than $30 billion is laundered through California businesses each year. Harris says it is the first comprehensive report outlining the effects of transnational criminal organizations on Californians and businesses in the state. She is set to formally release the report during a news conference in Los Angeles.

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Reid asks for computer examination in CIA dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked the Senate's chief law enforcement officer to examine the Intelligence Committee's computers. That's after the committee chairman accused the CIA of illegally searching the network over secret documents connected to interrogation tactics during the Bush administration. In a letter, Reid informed the CIA of his request to the sergeant-at-arms, who heads security at the Capitol. Reid says he's ordered a forensic examination of committee computers to determine when the secret documents entered the network. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California heads the committee. Last week, she questioned whether the CIA broke the law and violated the Constitution by searching the computer network. Brennan has dismissed Feinstein's criticism.

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Ohio ex-cop who was freed is sent back behind bars

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A former Ohio police captain who was freed after spending nearly 15 years in prison for his ex-wife's killing is headed back behind bars. A Summit County judge ordered that former Akron officer Douglas Prade (PRAYD) be taken to jail Thursday, a day after an appeals court said a judge was wrong to release him about 14 months ago. Prade didn't speak during the hearing and was taken away in handcuffs. His attorneys had sought to keep him free while he appeals, and they fought prosecutors' efforts to have him locked up immediately. Prade was freed when a judge decided new DNA testing of a bite mark proved he didn't kill his ex-wife. But the appeals court concluded that the test didn't give a clear answer.

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Cops: Pennsylvania man sent poisoned card to rival

HATBORO, Pa. (AP) — A suburban Philadelphia man is accused of sending a romantic rival a birthday card laced with the deadly poison ricin. Authorities in Bucks County say 19-year-old Nicholas Helman was arrested at his Hatboro home Wednesday on charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, risking a catastrophe and other counts. Investigators say Helman told a co-worker that he sent the toxic card to his ex-girlfriend's current boyfriend. The co-worker called police. Authorities say Helman had the ingredients for making ricin and that tests confirmed the presence of the deadly chemical on the card. Court documents don't list an attorney for Helman, who remains in custody pending a March 27 preliminary hearing. His father, Douglas, told The (Doylestown) Intelligencer that he knew nothing about the charges.

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Homeless Man Dies In Overheated Rikers Island Jail Cell

(New York, NY)  --  Corrections officials in New York City are investigating the death of a homeless man who literally baked to death at Rikers Island.  Jerome Murdough's mother Alma says her 56-year-old son was mentally ill and shouldn't have been in jail in the first place.  Murdough was arrested for trespassing in an East Harlem stairwell while trying to stay warm last month.  The former Marine died alone in a cinderblock cell a week later that had overheated to 100 degrees.

-----------------------

VW recalls 150,000 Passats for headlight problem

DETROIT (AP) — Volkswagen is recalling about 150,000 Passat midsize cars because the headlights can be damaged if the hoods are closed roughly. The recall affects cars from the 2012 and 2013 model years. VW says if the hoods are closed hard, the vibration or impact can cut off electricity to the low-beam headlights. Drivers would see a dashboard warning light if this happens. Volkswagen says the problem hasn't caused any crashes or injuries. VW dealers will install an improved bulb fitting and adjust the hood bumpers if needed at no cost to owners.

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INTERNATIONAL
Australia pauses search for debris until tomorrow

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Australian rescue officials say a search in the southern Indian Ocean for possible objects from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has ended for the day but will resume in the morning. A statement from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says four planes searched an area about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) southwest of Perth on Thursday. The four planes were checking to see if two large objects spotted in satellite imagery bobbing in the ocean were debris from Fight 370 that disappeared March 8 with 239 people on board. The statement says the search covered an area of 23,000 square kilometers (8,800 square miles) on Thursday. One of the objects they were searching for was 24 meters (almost 80 feet) in length and the other was 5 meters (15 feet).

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EU summit looks at boosting Kiev, punishing Russia

BRUSSELS (AP) — The EU Commission president wants a two-day summit of European Union leaders to center on boosting the fledgling government in Ukraine, rather than focus exclusively on sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Thursday the 28 nations need to bolster the new authorities in Ukraine with political commitments and economic aid. Barroso said that the most urgent thing is to make sure a "credible, stable, viable, democratic, prosperous Ukraine" survives after President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia Feb. 21 and an interim government under prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was installed. Yatsenyuk arrived in Brussels to sign a political agreement with EU leaders on Friday.

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Afghans release prisoners formerly held by British

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan authorities have freed dozens of prisoners who had been detained by British troops but were turned over to the government in Kabul as part of the foreign forces' withdrawal process. A British Embassy spokesman says Britain disagrees with Thursday's release but "has to respect it because it is an Afghan decision." Maj. Tim James declined to discuss specific charges facing the men but says the British believed they "had enough evidence against these individuals to merit them going into the Afghan judicial system." Abdul Shakoor Dadras, a member of the Afghan panel reviewing the cases, says 55 inmates were freed, including 40 detained by British forces in the volatile Helmand province.

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Syrian troops capture Crusades-era citadel

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say Syrian troops have captured a famous Crusades-era citadel near the border with Lebanon after days of intense fighting against opposition fighters. Lebanese private broadcaster Al-Mayadeen TV aired live footage of Syrian troops raising the national flag on the towering hilltop perch of the Crac des Chevaliers. A Homs-based activist who goes with the name of Beibares Tellawi told The Associated Press that the castle fell into the hands of government troops on Thursday. Syrian state television also said troops captured the castle. The citadel, one of the world's best-preserved castles from the era of the Crusades, had been held by rebels since 2012. Syrian troops have been on the offensive over the past months in areas close to the Lebanese border, aiming to cut rebel supply lines.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

Chicago 4, St. Louis 0

NBA

Chicago 102, Philadelphia 94

Men's College Basketball

NIT

Illinois 66, Boston U. 62

MLB

St. Louis 3, Minnesota 1
Colorado 9, Chicago Cubs 6
LA Angels 14, Chicago White Sox 10

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

St. Louis vs. Miami
Seattle vs. Chicago Cubs


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Ballpark Village Ticket Sales Begin Today

(St. Louis, MO)  --  Tickets for Ballpark Village's rooftop go on sale today.  The giant deck overlooking Busch Stadium accommodates more than 300 people.  Tickets include access to an all-you-can eat buffet and a full service bar.  You can get yours beginning at 10:00 a.m. at cardinals.com.

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Kane Out At Least Two Weeks

(Chicago, IL)  --  Patrick Kane is out for at least two weeks.  He was injured in the second period of the game as the Hawks took on the Blues last night.  Kane apparently suffered an injury after Brendan Morrow fell on his left leg.  Kane went out and never returned to the game

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Quenneville Joins 700-Win Club

(Chicago, IL)  --  Joel Quenneville is the third NHL head coach to win 700 games.  He achieved the mark after the Blackhawks defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-0 at the United Center on Wednesday night.  He trails only Hall of Famers Scotty Bowman, who has 1,244 wins, and Al Arbour, who sits with 782.  Quenneville has led the Blackhawks to a pair of Stanley Cup championships since taking over in 2008.

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News For Mar. 19, 2014

LOCAL
Uncle Pleads Guilty To Killing Niece

(Effingham, IL)  --  The Watson man accused of killing his seven-year-old niece is changing his plea.  Justin DeRyke now says he’s guilty.  He stabbed Willow Long several times back in September then put her body in a garbage bag and dumped it near the Little Wabash River.  DeRyke was arrested days after the girl went missing and at that time, he admitted that he’d killed her to put her out of her misery.  He’d claimed she fell on a pile of brush and got a branch lodged in her throat.  DeRyke will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

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Belleville school district announces layoffs

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois school district is laying off three first-year teachers and nine teaching assistants because of uncertainty about state funding to the district. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that the Belleville district's board made the cuts during its meeting Monday. Superintendent Jeff Dosier calls it "an unfortunate thing" but a necessary "precaution." For three years, Illinois public school districts haven't gotten the full share of general state aid as promised to them by state law. Assistant Superintendent Brian Mentzer says the state owes the district nearly $2.1 million. He expects that figure to grow to $3.3 million by April 1. Dosier estimates the layoffs and the expected retirements of seven teachers at the end of the school year should save the district $1 million.

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Mt. Vernon Men Prepare For Service As Rotary Club Presidents

EFFINGHAM – Mt. Vernon City Manager Ron Neibert and Mt. Vernon resident Dick Keegan received two days of intensive training and preparation for their anticipated service in the Mt. Vernon Rotary Clubs’ presidencies here last weekend. Neibert and Keegan will assume the presidency of their respective clubs July 1 and attended the President-Elect Training Seminar in preparation for that service, Rotary District 6510 Governor-Elect Lane Harvey explained.  They were among 37 Southern Illinois presidents-elect to attend the seminar, Harvey noted. Rotary conducts the president-elect training so that local presidents can better carry out their tasks in fulfilling Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self,” Harvey said. “The presidents are the sparkplugs of the 34,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide and the clubs are the foundation of our global organization,” Harvey commented.  “The better trained the presidents are, the better the clubs perform, and the better we carry out our mission, both locally and globally.” Neibert is set to become president of the original Mt. Vernon Rotary Club and said that one of his principal goals for his club next year would be to “increase Rotary’s positive impact in the community by continuing and expanding the Club’s outreach service programs.”  The original Mt. Vernon Rotary Club meets weekly at noon on Tuesdays at the Elks Lodge in Mt. Vernon.  For further information concerning its activities, contact Neibert at 316-0155. Keegan is scheduled to become president of the Mt. Vernon West Rotary Club and said one of his principal goals for his club next year would be community service.  The Mt. Vernon West Club meets weekly at 7 a.m. on Mondays at the Fairfield Inn.  For information concerning its activities, contact Keegan at 242-3237.

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IDNR Awards Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grants to Schools

SPRINGFIELD, IL - Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller today announced the awarding of more than $96,000 in Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grants. The 103 grants to schools in 41 counties, made possible through private donations, will assist more than 7,700 students to visit Illinois state parks, museums and other natural resources sites to learn about nature and conservation.“This program allows students to visit locations throughout the state to see first-hand what they’ve been learning about in the classroom,” Miller said. “These grants help facilitate a whole new world for students, who may not otherwise have such an opportunity and they support the goal of leaving no child inside.” The Biodiversity Field Trip Grant Program has distributed more than $688,000 and reached more than 68,700 students since its inception in 2001. Grant recipients are located throughout Illinois and represent students from pre-kindergarten through high school. Area schools receiving grants,
In Marion County: Franklin Park Middle School, Salem; Grade: 6; Destination: Ballard Nature Center, Altamont; Grant Award: $1,403.47,
Also in Marion County: Sandoval High School, Sandoval; Grades: 9-12; Destination: Cache River Wetlands Center, Cypress; Grant Award: $840.00
In Washington County, Nashville School District #49, Nashville Grade: 4; Destination: Kuhl Lumber, New Minden; Grant Award: $150.00

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2 firearm instructors investigated by state police

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State Police say two southwestern Illinois firearms instructors were improperly certifying students trying to get concealed carry permits. The agency says Tuesday that nearly 100 students who were taught by the pair will have their training invalidated and their applications denied. The instructors won't be able to teach and the agency is forwarding its findings to the St. Clair County State's Attorney's office. More than 2,700 firearms instructors have been certified by the state to teach gun safety classes as part of Illinois' new concealed carry law. All applicants have to attend at least 16 hours of training before they can apply for the licenses. The first licenses were distributed earlier this month. About 46,000 applications have been submitted. Officials expect about 300,000 applications to be filed this year.

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Illinois State Police District 19 Announces Roadside Safety Check Results

Carmi, IL – Illinois State Police (ISP) District 19 announced the results of a Roadside Safety Check (RSC) held during the late evening hours of Saturday, 03/15/14, and early morning hours of Sunday, 03/16/14.  The detail was conducted at the intersection of Illinois Route 34 and Illinois Route 13 in Saline County by ISP District 19 officers.  Alcohol is involved in over 40 percent of fatal crashes in Illinois.  RSCs are designed to remove alcohol-impaired drivers, however, when other violations are observed such as driving with a suspended or revoked license, operating a vehicle without a valid registration or insurance, or safety belt violations, enforcement action may be taken. A total of 126 vehicles were checked and the following citations were issued at the Roadside Safety Check.  Twelve were for registration/insurance offenses, 3 occupant restraint offenses, 1 DUI arrest, and 3 other alcohol/drug arrests, with 21 total citations or arrests and 10 total warnings. This project was funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Safety.    

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Local Marching Band Raising Funds For Rose Bowl Parade

(O'Fallon, IL)  --  A local high school marching band will be taking part in next January's Rose Bowl Parade, if they can afford it.  The O'Fallon Township High Marching Panthers are turning to the community to help raise the 25-thousand dollars needed to get the band and their instruments to Pasadena.  They're one of just 20 schools chosen nationwide to take part in the 126-year-old New Year's Day parade.  They'll be holding a number of fundraisers this year, including one at the Texas Roadhouse in Shiloh next Monday.

 

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Illinois county's voters reject fracking measure


VIENNA, Ill. (AP) — Voters in southern Illinois' Johnson County have rejected a ballot referendum that could have prompted the county's governing board to restrict a form of oil drilling. The ballot measure involving hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was defeated by a 600-vote margin. More than 2,220 people voted against the provision, while about 1,600 supported it. The non-binding referendum was meant to advise the Johnson County Commission whether it should resist efforts to open the county to fracking. The process involves blasting rock formations deep underground with water, sand and chemicals to release trapped oil and gas. The issue for months has hijacked the County Commission meetings, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Annette McMichael of Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment says it's unclear where the anti-fracking effort in the county goes from here.


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STATE
Bruce Rauner Ready To Take On Quinn

(Chicago, IL)  --  Bruce Rauner is the GOP nominee for governor and will take on Governor Pat Quinn in November.  He says he's already looking past that election and looking forward to making some changes in Springfield. Rauner says Quinn puts corporate interests before the people's interests and that strategy has failed.  He says he wants to end the old status quo and breathe new life into Illinois' economy.  He says the election starts today, but Governor Quinn beat him to the punch.  Quinn launched an attack ad on Rauner yesterday, hours before the election was called.

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Quinn Faces Uphill Battle

(Undated)  --  Governor Quinn will have an uphill battle in an effort to keep his job.  He'll be up against multi-millionaire Bruce Rauner in the general election.  Rauner dumped six-million-dollars of his own money into the primary race.  He's expected to dish out even more to beat Quinn.  Quinn knows he has a tough fight on his hands.  He's already released an ad attacking Rauner on the issue of minimum wage.

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Tom Cross wins GOP bid for treasurer over Grogan

CHICAGO (AP) — Former House Republican Leader Tom Cross has defeated DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan to win the Republican nomination for state treasurer. Cross is from Oswego. He has been a member of the General Assembly since 1993, and spent a decade in the House leadership post. He highlighted his legislative experience on the campaign trail. Grogan is an accountant who has worked as an auditor for DuPage County since 2008. The Downers Grove resident said he had the financial expertise best serve in the role. The seat is being vacated by current treasurer Dan Rutherford, who made a GOP primary bid for governor. Cross will take on Democratic state Sen. Michael Frerichs of Champaign in the November general election.

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Illinois Republicans nominate Oberweis for Senate

CHICAGO (AP) — State senator and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis says he's ready for a tough race against powerful Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Oberweis defeated Downers Grove businessman Doug Truax in the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, and says he's "looking forward to the battle continuing" against Durbin. He says if he wins, he believes Republicans can retake control of the U.S. Senate and says "that will change the direction of this country." Oberweis is from the western Chicago suburb of Sugar Grove and his family owns a chain of ice cream shops. He was elected to the Illinois Senate in 2012 and had made previous unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate and governor. Truax has never held political office but had support from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

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Rutherford Says He'll Be Vindicated

(Pontiac, IL)  --  It didn't take long for Dan Rutherford to realize his bid for governor wasn't going anywhere.  He conceded the race about 15-minutes after the polls closed last night.  Rutherford was considered a major contender in the race early on but lost steam after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against him.  He denies the claims and says he will be vindicated.  Rutherford vows to make a comeback and says Illinoisans have not seen the last of him.

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Public health officials want smoke-free apartments

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Public health officials in Champaign are hoping to convince landlords to ban smoking in apartments. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District says making apartments smoke free would improve the health of residents who can be exposed to secondhand smoke from their neighbors. Julie Pryde is the district's administrator. She tells the Champaign News-Gazette that the effort comes as the University of Illinois bans smoking on campus. Health officials say at least 20 area rental companies already ban smoking on their properties and are hoping that other landlords follow suit. The public health district is offering landlords information about how to amend leases along with smoke-free signs for their properties. The American Lung Association says about 1.3 million people living in multifamily buildings in Illinois are exposed to secondhand smoke.

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Quinn's prison chief gets OK from Senate panel

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois Senate panel has approved Gov. Pat Quinn's choice to oversee the state Department of Corrections despite objections from Republicans. Monday's 7-2 vote on Corrections Director S.A. "Tony" Godinez came during a hearing in Chicago. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the approval came after Senate President John Cullerton appointed temporary members to the 12-person panel because at least four central and southern Illinois lawmakers didn't attend. The Senate Executive Appointments Committee meeting was held a day before Tuesday's election. State Sen. Tim Bivins from Dixon is the panel's ranking Republican. He says Monday's vote creates an unusual appearance. Godinez has been criticized for hiring an alleged ex-gang member as an adviser before the man was fired. The full state Senate must approve Godinez's appointment.

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NATIONAL
Fed to wrap up today

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most analysts expect new Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to continue with her predecessor's reduction in the monthly pace of bond purchases when the Fed wraps up its meeting today. Those reductions are expected to continue this year until the bond purchases end altogether by December. Many analysts think the Fed could drop a reference to a specific unemployment rate that might cause it eventually to begin raising short-term rates.

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Winning Mega Millions in Maryland and Florida

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) —Lottery officials say two winning tickets were purchased in last night's $400 million Mega Millions drawing. They say one ticket was sold at a Sunoco convenience store in Merritt Island, Fla. The ticket was sold in Maryland. The jackpot is the sixth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history, with a lump-sum option of $224 million. The winning numbers are 11, 19, 24, 33 and 51 with a Mega Ball of 7.

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Seattle looks at helipad rules after deadly crash

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle's mayor says officials will review rules for helicopter pads in the city following Tuesday's chopper crash that killed the two people on board and seriously injured a third man who was on fire when he escaped from his car. The helicopter had just stopped to refuel when it crashed and burst into flames at a busy intersection and set three vehicles on fire.

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Obama unleashing power of data on climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House plans to announce an initiative today to give private companies and local governments better access to public climate information. The idea is that with that data they can help the public understand the risks they face, especially in coastal areas where flooding is a big issue. The government also is working with several high-tech companies to come up with tools to help communities better deal with weather extremes.

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Minn. court ruling expected in aiding suicide case

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minnesota nurse accused of visiting online chat rooms and encouraging people to kill themselves, may learn today whether the state's highest court accepts his argument of free speech. William Melchert-Dinkel was ultimately convicted of aiding two suicides, but his lawyer says the law that makes it illegal to intentionally advise, encourage, or assist someone in taking their life is too broad.

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Yellen Set For First Press Conference As Fed Chair

(Undated)  --  Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's first press conference as head of the nation's central bank is set for today.  It's the first time Yellen will answer reporters' questions in real time, with her answers televised live on Wall Street, since taking over for retired Fed chairman Ben Bernanke.  The biggest financial news of the day could come before Yellen meets with reporters this afternoon.  The Fed is due to release its policy statement at eleven a.m. Eastern and many economists expect the central bank to cut its 65-billion dollar a month bond-buying program.

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Many Americans Back Medical Conspiracy Theories

(New York, NY)  --  Many Americans are buying into medical conspiracy theories.  A survey published this week in "JAMA Internal Medicine" shows about half of adults in the U.S. believe in at least one medical conspiracy.  Nearly 40-percent say they believe U.S. regulators are keeping people from accessing natural cures and alternative medicines.  The least accepted theory, although some did admit buying into it, was that an American spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with HIV. 

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AP source: US to announce $1.2B Toyota settlement

WASHINGTON (AP) — A person close to a four-year criminal investigation of Toyota Motor Corp. says the U.S. Justice Department will announce Wednesday a $1.2 billion settlement with the Japanese automaker over its disclosure of safety problems. Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara are expected to announce the settlement Wednesday morning. The official spoke of condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the settlement on the record before its official announcement. Toyota declined comment Wednesday on a Wall Street Journal report of the settlement. The four-year criminal investigation focused on whether Toyota was forthright in reporting problems related to unintended acceleration troubles.

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US current account deficit falls to 14-year low

WASHINGTON (AP) — Large increases in exports and overseas investment income narrowed the U.S. current account deficit to the lowest level in 14 years in the October-December quarter. The Commerce Department says the imbalance fell to $81.1 billion in the fourth quarter, down from $96.4 billion in the July-September quarter. That's the smallest gap since the third quarter of 1999. The rise in goods exports was driven by petroleum and agricultural products. The current account is the country's broadest measure of trade, covering not only goods and services but also investment flows. A smaller trade deficit usually means that U.S. companies are producing more to meet domestic and overseas demand. U.S. exports of goods and services rose 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, while overseas investment income rose 4.3 percent.

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Obama unleashing power of data on climate change

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House plans to announce an initiative today to give private companies and local governments better access to public climate information. The idea is that with that data they can help the public understand the risks they face, especially in coastal areas where flooding is a big issue. The government also is working with several high-tech companies to come up with tools to help communities better deal with weather extremes.

--------------------------------

Maine man's 'gun' turns out to be a tattoo

NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine (AP) — Police armed with assault rifles descended on a Maine man's home after members of a tree removal crew he'd told to clear off his property reported that he had a gun. Turns out the "gun" the tree crew had seen on Michael Smith of Norridgewock was just a life-sized tattoo of a handgun on his stomach. Smith, who works nights, was asleep when the tree crew contracted by a utility to trim branches near power lines, woke him up at about 10 a.m. Tuesday. He went outside shirtless and yelled at the workers to leave. When he's not wearing a shirt, the tattoo looks like a gun tucked into his waistband. Smith tells the Morning Sentinel the tattoo has never been a problem before. Police didn't charge him.

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Stolen Colorado hotel cat found safe, scared

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A beloved hotel cat that was snatched over the weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado, has been found safe but scared. Two Armstrong Hotel guests found Oreo on Tuesday crying out from behind an art museum about a block away. Hotel general manager Nick Gliszinski says Oreo's return marks the end of a citywide search for the famed feline, but authorities are still trying to find the perpetrators. According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, videos showed two men catnapping Oreo from the hotel lobby on Saturday. Oreo first came to the hotel in 2004. Since then, she has warmed her way into the hearts of hotel guests and owners.

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INTERNATIONAL
Biden says US will respond to aggression on allies

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is warning Russia that the United States will respond to any aggression against NATO allies. Biden told reporters during a visit to the Baltic region Wednesday that there are, quote, "growing costs that come with naked aggression." Biden spoke a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Ukraine's Crimea region. The United States and other nations are calling that a violation of international law. Biden says the United States takes its responsibilities under the NATO treaty to help defend member nations "very,very seriously." Biden spoke at Lithuania's presidential palace after meeting with the presidents of Lithuania and Latvia.

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Crimea treaty rule valid

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (AP) — The chairman of the Russian Constitutional Courts says they've ruled that the treaty to annex Crimea is valid. That clears yet another hurdle for the Ukraine peninsula to become part of Russia. And it only needs to be ratified by the Russian parliament. Meanwhile, Crimea's self-defense forces have stormed the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. The Crimeans took over the building today, following the arrival of the commander of the Russia Black Sea fleet.

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Malaysia: Files deleted from flight simulator

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's defense minister says files were recently deleted from the home flight simulator belonging to the pilot aboard the missing Malaysian jetliner. The defense minister says investigators are trying to retrieve the files deleted Feb. 3, but says the pilot is considered innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people aboard went missing March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

MLB

Oakland 16, Chicago White Sox 6
Texas (ss) 7, Chicago Cubs 6 (10 innings)

NHL

Philadelphia 3, Chicago 2 (OT)

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Chicago at Philadelphia 6 p.m.

Men's College Basketball

NIT

Illinois vs. Boston U. 6 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

Minnesota vs. St. Louis
LA Angels vs. Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs vs. Colorado

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Bears On The Move

(Lake Forest, IL)  --  The Bears terminated the contract of veteran wide receiver Earl Bennett yesterday.  Bennett, who's spent his entire six-year career with Chicago, appeared in 15 games last season and hauled in 32 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns.  He has 185 receptions for 2,277 yards and 12 TDs in his career. Meanwhile, The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to terms with former Bear Henry Melton, the third defensive lineman to join them in free agency since the release of franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware.

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News For Mar. 18, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon City Council Met Monday

Mt. Vernon City Council met Monday evening.  Among items on the agenda, The Council approved a bid from Ginsey Construction for $1,999,984.03 for the 34th Street Roadway Project. Assistant Chief Chris Diechman presented a plaque to the Officer of the Year Patrolman Matt Hoelscher. An approval was made to seek bids on uniforms and floormat service for fleet services, public works, public utilities, and City Hall departments.  Also, the Council approved the addition of a liquor license for a new Cajun restaurant coming to Mt. Vernon. 

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Metro-East Leaders Want Piece Of Air Force Program

(St. Clair County, IL)  --  Metro-East leaders are trying to get part of an Air Force 52-billion-dollar program for an air refueling tanker at Scott Air Force Base.  The "Belleville News-Democrat" reports Scott was not listed as one of the Air National Guard bases eligible for the tankers, which are Boeing KC-46As, coming in 2018.  The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is asking local cities to help pay the bill for its three-point-two-million dollar campaign to keep and expand programs at Scott Air Force Base.  Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh will visit Scott on Friday to talk to base and community leaders about the program.

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FEMA To Help With Flood Buyouts

(Alexander County, IL)  --   FEMA is pitching in more than four-million-bucks to help rebuild communities that were hit by severe flooding.  The state will divvy up the money among towns in Alexander County.  It will be used to buy up 167 flood-prone properties.  The money will also be used to raise four buildings above the flood danger zone.  Southern Illinois was hit hard during floods back in 2011.  

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Grass Fire Destroys Buildings In Mascoutah

(Mascoutah, IL)  --  Several buildings in Mascoutah are a total loss after a grass fire raged out of control.  The initial fire began Monday evening at Highway 161 and St. Charles Road, but the flames quickly spread to the Mid America Storage Facility.  The fire destroyed a shed and three RVs and also damaged a nearby house.  The highway was closed down as firefighters from several departments fought the flames. 

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Shobonier Teen Charged In Shooting

A 15-year-old Shobonier teen was charged as an adult Monday in Fayette County Court, with the February 3, shooting in Vandalia of another male teen. Nathan T. Wiseman has been held in the Madison County Juvenile Detention Center since the incident in a Vandalia residence, in which another teen suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the chest. According to Fayette County Assistant State’s Attorney Amanda Ade Harlow, Wiseman is accused of the non-fatal shooting the other boy in the chest with a 32 caliber revolver. Harlow says because of the violent nature of the allegations against Wiseman, the law prohibits her from charging him as a juvenile. He is charged with Class X Felony aggravated battery through the discharge of a weapon — punishable by between 6 and 30 years in prison — and Class 1 Felony aggravated discharge of a firearm in the direction of a person. Bail for Wiseman was set Monday at $25,000, with 10 percent cash to apply. If he is able to post bond, he will first have to be outfitted with an electronic home monitoring device, or ankle bracelet, before being released. According to reports, Vandalia Police and Fayette County Deputies responded to a Vandalia home on the afternoon of Monday, February 3, on a report of a juvenile suffering a gunshot wound to the chest. The victim was taken to the Fayette County Hospital, but was transferred to a St. Louis area hospital, where he underwent surgery. Wiseman is next scheduled in court on Wednesday for a status hearing.

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Illinois Republicans say they're ready for change

GODFREY, Ill. (AP) — Republicans in Illinois say they're anxious to pick a candidate to run in the general election. Southwestern Illinois retiree Gary Ledford says he always votes and was among the first to show up at a Godfrey polling place Tuesday morning. The 67-year-old says he's fed up with Illinois' indebtedness and change is on his mind. He voted for state Sen. Kirk Dillard for governor and political newcomer Erika Harold in the congressional race against incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis. He said he expects people to vote because of concern about the federal health care overhaul. In northern Illinois, 63-year-old Reid Reynolds said he felt Republicans have "a good opportunity" to win November's general election if they select a strong candidate Tuesday. The Hinsdale man says Illinois is "a disaster."

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STATE

Illinois Voters To Pick GOP Governor, Senate Nominees

(Undated)  --  It's primary election day in Illinois. Republicans will nominate candidates for governor and U.S. senator today.  In the governor's primary, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the favorite to win the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Pat Quinn.  The GOP Senate primary matches multimillionaire dairyman and state senator Jim Oberweis and businessman and political newcomer Doug Truax.  The winner will face a tall order in the general election against powerful Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.  Durbin's favored to win a fourth term.

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Flood App: Newest American Red Cross App for Mobile Devices

ST. LOUIS— During National Flood Safety Awareness Week, the American Red Cross announces its new Flood App to help save lives and reduce losses from floods and flash floods. This free app gives iPhone, iPad and Android smart phone users instant access to local and real-time information, so they know what to do before, during and after a flood. The content is available in English and Spanish based on the user’s language settings on their mobile device. The app includes location-based, audible NOAA flood and flash flood watches and warnings – even if the app is closed. “Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, and affect people right here in Missouri and Illinois throughout the year,” said Cindy Erickson, CEO of the American Red Cross Greater St. Louis Region. “Everyone can use this free Red Cross app to create emergency plans so all household members know what to do if flooding threatens their homes and families.” The new Red Cross Flood App is being released during National Flood Safety Awareness Week, which runs from March 16-22. “Here in St. Louis and the surrounding areas, we know we can experience flooding concerns at any time,” Erickson said. “National Flood Safety Awareness Week is the perfect time to download the app and to start preparing.”

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State Health Insurance Pitch Targeting The Funnybone

(Springfield, IL) -- State leaders in the effort to get people signed up for health care are following the lead of President Obama. The President's appearance on the website "Funny or Die" led to thousands of hits on the federal website. The Illinois health insurance marketplace, Get Covered Illinois, is trying to reach young people through satirical ads on websites like The Onion, BuzzFeed and Pandora. Executive Director Jennifer Koehler says these efforts led to 43-thousand new visits to the state's website in a recent four-week period. The deadline for enrollment is March 31st.

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Lisa Madigan Joins Effort To Curtail Tobacco Sales

(Springfield, IL) -- Illinois' Lisa Madigan is one of 28 state attorneys general across the country who are urging five major retailers to stop selling tobacco products. The attorneys general put their names to a letter sent to Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Walgreens and Rite Aid, arguing that it's contradictory to sell tobacco in stores that provide healthcare services. There's been no comment from the stores. Last month, CVS Caremark said it would stop selling tobacco products by October 1st.

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Prescribed fires set to begin across Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Crews from the Department of Natural Resources are set to begin prescribed fires in habitats across Illinois for the next several weeks. Natural resources officials say the annual burns control invasive plant species and stimulate the growth of native vegetation. The spring burn season typically runs until mid-April. Fires can only be conducted when conditions are just right in the spring. That means the temperature, humidity and wind speed must be appropriate to conduct a burn. The managers who lead the crews must also be trained by federal standards and certified according to state law. Officials say most of the state's habitats are adapted to periodic fires. They say this form of management is a cost-effective way to keep Illinois woodlands and prairies in a healthy condition.

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March Colder Than Normal

(Undated)  --  March is shaping up to be much colder than normal. State Climatologist Jim Angel says the temps have been averaging around 29-degrees.  That’s about nine-degrees lower than normal.  The state is also getting less rain than normal.  According to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor, some areas of central Illinois are experiencing a moderate drought.  Parts of northwestern and western Illinois are classified as abnormally dry.

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State Fairgrounds Garden To Open April 1st

(Springfield, IL)  --  The Illinois Department of Ag is preparing for the sixth season of its Illinois State Fairgrounds Community Garden.  A meeting has been scheduled March 25 at 5:30 p.m. for new and returning gardeners.  The meeting will be held in the IDOA Auditorium, located at the corner of Sangamon Avenue and 8th St. on the Illinois State Fairgrounds inside Gate 11.  The garden is expected to open April 1st.  Call 217-785-5594 for more details. 

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Illinois honors communities for fluoride levels

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Health officials are recognizing 430 Illinois communities for maintaining state-mandated fluoride levels in drinking water. The Illinois Department of Public Health presented the awards Monday in Springfield. Health experts say drinking fluoridated water from birth can reduce tooth decay by up to 65 percent. The department's director, Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, says fluoridation saves money for families and the health care system. In Illinois, nearly all residents served by public water systems get the benefit of fluoridated drinking water, compared to the current national average of about 72 percent.

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NATIONAL
Out-of-sync response to LAX shooter

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new report says there were serious shortcomings in communication between agencies during last year's deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. The report cites the "heroism" of officers who shot and took suspect Paul Ciancia into custody after he'd killed a Transportation Security Administration officer and injured three people. But it also says when police and fire commanders arrived at the scene, they had no idea where to go or what others were doing.

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Obama giving Medal of Honor to 24 vets from 3 wars

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will be awarding the Medal of Honor today to 21 Army veterans who are no longer living. They served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Another three veterans, who also are receiving the award, are still alive. The honors come after Congress ordered a review of whether service members of Jewish or Hispanic heritage, and others, were wrongly denied the medal because of prejudice.

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2nd day of sentencing in Army general sex case

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — The sentencing hearing for an Army general who admitted to emotionally harming a subordinate during an affair will continue today at Fort Bragg. Prosecutors have a few more witnesses to testify against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair. Sinclair's lawyers will argue that the 27-year veteran shouldn't go to jail. Defense attorneys say they have about 20 witnesses. Sinclair will read a statement and could testify. The woman who accused Sinclair of forcing himself on her testified Monday that she can't trust anyone and fears her superiors are always going to take advantage of her. The most serious charges against Sinclair were dropped. He still faces a maximum of more than 21 years in prison, but will likely face far less time and may not go to jail at all.

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Naval Academy sexual assault case to begin

WASHINGTON (AP) — The military trial of a former U.S. Naval Academy football player accused of sexually assaulting a classmate is scheduled to begin after a daylong weather delay. Lawyers are expected to give opening statements today in the court-martial of Joshua Tate of Nashville, Tenn. Opening statements had been scheduled for Monday but were delayed because of snow. Prosecutors initially accused Tate and two other students of sexually assaulting a female student during a 2012 party at an off-campus house in Annapolis, Md. The woman said she didn't remember being assaulted after a night of heavy drinking but heard from others she had had sex with multiple partners at the party. Tate faces charges of aggravated sexual assault and lying to investigators. He is now the only one charged in the case.

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California National Guardsman Arrested In Plot Against L.A. Subways

(Blaine, WA)  --  A California National Guardsman is now in federal custody for allegedly trying to help terrorists attack the city of Los Angeles.  FBI officials say Nicholas Michael Teausant was captured Monday near the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington.  Federal officials say Teausant had been working with co-conspirators on a foiled plot to bomb the subway system in Los Angeles in a targeted attack on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. 

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New York State Senate Ends Dream Act

(Albany, NY)  --  The Dream Act has come to an end in New York.  The state Senate called a surprise vote Monday on the bill that would allow the children of illegal immigrants to receive state financial aid to attend a New York college.  The measure went down in a narrow defeat by a 30 to 29 vote, a tally that was allowed and then rejected by Senate Republicans. 

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Walmart To Let Customers Trade Used Games

(Undated)  --  There's a plan in the works that will let Walmart shoppers trade in used video games for store credit.  The retailer is expected to announce today that it will implement the trade-in policy in most of its U.S. locations.  Starting March 26th, people will be able to swap their games at more than 31-hundred stores nationwide.  The move is part of a push by Walmart to break into the gaming business and boost the sale of new items. 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Obama invites G7 leaders for meeting on Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is gathering allied leaders for a meeting in Europe next week to discuss further action in response to Russia's involvement in Ukraine. White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama on Tuesday invited leaders of the G-7 and European Union to meet on the sidelines of a nuclear summit next week in the Netherlands. Hayden said it will focus on what steps the group can take to respond to developments in Ukraine. Members of the G-7 include the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain. The group already has suspended preparations for a G-8 Summit hosted by Russia in Sochi that has been scheduled for June.

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1st lawsuit filed in deadly NYC blast

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City woman has sued Con Edison over the explosion that leveled two apartment buildings last week. The New York Post reports that 46-year-old Michelle Nelson of Harlem filed the civil suit Monday, becoming the first to sue over the deadly blast. Nelson's lawsuit says she sustained "severe and permanent injuries" when the explosion caused her to fall in her apartment more than a block away. The lawsuit names Con Edison and the owner of 1646 Park Ave., one of the collapsed buildings. It says they neglected their "duty to keep ... the premises in a safe, proper and secure manner." Con Ed says it has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. The owner of 1646 didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

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Viacom and Google settle YouTube lawsuit

NEW YORK (AP) — Viacom says it's settled its $1 billion copyright lawsuit against YouTube. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. New York-based Viacom Inc. filed the suit in 2007, claiming that YouTube was aware that thousands of videos on its site were stolen from its TV networks such as Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon. Litigation dragged on for years, but a federal judge ruled last year that the online video site didn't have to police itself as long as it removed infringing videos when copyright owners gave it notice. Viacom and Google Inc., which bought YouTube in 2006, say the settlement reflects increasing talks between the two companies related to important opportunities.

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Toy company settles suit against Beastie Boys

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A California toy company has settled its lawsuit against the Beastie Boys over its parody of their song "Girls" in a promotional video that went viral. The Oakland Tribune says an agreement to dismiss the claim was filed Monday in U.S. District Court. No details of the settlement were released. Oakland-based Goldieblox filed suit in November, seeking to pre-empt any possible claims of copyright infringement over the repurposed song. The video, which shows young girls singing about science and engineering, was viewed millions of times before it was removed from YouTube. The Beastie Boys countersued Goldieblox in December. The newspaper says it was not immediately clear if Monday's settlement would have any effect on that claim. The hip-hop group has a blanket ban on using their songs in advertisements.

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INTERNATIONAL

Thailand gives radar data 10 days after plane lost

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military says its radar detected a plane that may have been Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 just minutes after the missing jetliner's communications went down, and that it didn't share the information earlier because it wasn't specifically asked for it. Thai air force spokesman Montol Suchookorn said Tuesday the plane followed a twisting flight path to the Strait of Malacca, which is where Malaysian radar tracked Flight 370 early March 8. But Montol said the Thai military wasn't sure whether it detected the same plane. Asked why it took so long to release the information, Montol said, "Because we did not pay any attention to it." He said the plane never entered Thai airspace and that Malaysia's initial request for information was not specific.

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UK suspends military cooperation with Russia

LONDON (AP) — British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. is suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis over Ukraine. Speaking shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea from neighboring Ukraine, Hague told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is regrettable that Putin is choosing a path of isolation in the annexation of Crimea and denying Russian and Crimean citizens of a partnership with the international community. Hague said the U.K. is suspending military export licenses to Russia, has canceled naval exercises and suspended a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to Russia. He said this is not the relationship Britain wants with Russia, but one it is being forced to have.

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Biden says more sanctions coming for Russia

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says the world has seen through Russia's actions in Crimea and will impose more sanctions on Russia. Biden spoke Tuesday after meeting in Warsaw with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. He says the U.S. joins Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine's sovereignty. He says it's a blatant violation of international law. Biden says virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea that cleared the way for Russia to annex the peninsula in Ukraine. Biden's comments come just after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea in neighboring Ukraine.

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Reports: Bombing hits Israeli military vehicle

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says several soldiers have been wounded by a bomb in the Golan Heights along the Syrian frontier. The military gave no additional details on Tuesday's incident. But Israeli TV stations described it as a roadside bomb that struck a military jeep as it was conducting a patrol, to which Israel responded with artillery fire. The reports said three soldiers were wounded in the bombing, one seriously. The incident comes days after a roadside bomb exploded along Israel's border with Lebanon. Israel blamed Hezbollah militants for the attack and fired at Hezbollah positions across the border.

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Officials: Bombings kill 8 people in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials say a series of bombings targeting commercial streets and security forces in and south of Baghdad has killed eight people. Police officials say a parked car bomb went off near shops in the southern holy Shiite city of Karbala on Tuesday, killing three people and wounding 16. Also, police say a car bomb killed one person in the town of Hafriyah, just south of Baghdad. Minutes later, another car bomb exploded near a bus stop in the same town, killing two people and wounding five. In southern Baghdad, a car bomb targeting a security checkpoint killed two policemen and wounded nine. Hospital medics confirmed the casualty figures. All officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Oklahoma  City 97, Chicago 85

NHL

St. Louis 3, Winnipeg 1

MLB

Boston 10, St. Louis 5
Oakland 6, Chicago Cubs 2
Chicago Cubs 4, LA Angels 2
Chicago White Sox 9, Milwaukee 0

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Chicago at Philadelphia 6:30 p.m.

MLB

Oakland vs. Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs vs. Texas Rangers (ss)

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Bears To Meet With Idonije

(Lake Forest, IL)  --  The Bears could be set to bring back defensive end Israel Idonije. NFL Network reports that the free agent will visit the Bears today and take a physical.  Chicago wanted to re-sign Idonije last offseason before he went to play for the Lions.

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Rams Considering Variable Ticket Pricing

(Earth City, MO)  --  The Rams are considering a change for single-game ticket prices.  Variable ticket pricing is new to the NFL this season, with just four teams having committed to it so far.  The program would make marquee games on the team's schedule more expensive to attend.

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News For Mar. 17, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon City Council Meets This Evening

Mt. Vernon City Council meets this evening.  Among items on the agenda, The Council will hear bid results for the 34th Street Roadway Project, The City Manager will present a plaque to the Officer of the Year and request permission for bids on uniforms and floormat service for fleet services, public works, public utilities, and City Hall departments.  Also, The City Attorney will give ordinance readings on a revised code regarding liquor licenses and a rezoning for Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity.  The meeting is at 7 p.m at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building at Veterans Park.

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MVTHS BOE Meeting Scheduled For Monday

Mt. Vernon Township High School Board of Education will conduct their regular board meeting on Monday at 7 p.m.  Among items on the agenda are actions on several student trips, discussion of resignations, a report from the Finance Committee, and a proposal of the 2014-2015 school calendar.

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Hikers Rescued in Little Egypt

(Jackson County, IL)  --  Officials in southern Illinois are reminding all hikers to be prepared in case they get lost.  The call comes after two hikers got lost in Little Grand Canyon Saturday night.  They tried to find their way back for more than two hours but ended up calling authorities for help around 5:00 p.m.  First responders went out and rescued them.  Officials say hikers should never wander off the trails and should always have extra water and a cell phone with them.

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Hearing delayed in deadly Percy fire trial

CHESTER, Ill. (AP) — A pre-trial hearing has been delayed for a man accused of setting a southern Illinois house fire that killed four children last year. The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports Sunday that Monday's hearing for Derrick Twardoski has been rescheduled for April 17. Twardoski has pleaded not guilty to four first-degree murder counts in the deaths last May in Percy, a village 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. Eight exhibits are still being tested for DNA evidence in the case. Randolph County prosecutors say the testing will be done Monday and results should be available in 30 days. The fire killed siblings ages 12, 9 and 5-year-old twins. Their parents and a 6-year-old escaped.

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Collinsville Track Slots Not In The Plan

(Collinsville, IL) -- Fairmount Park race track in Collinsville is out of the running for slot machines in the latest version of a gaming expansion bill pending in the legislature. State Representative Bob Rita dropped Fairmount Park after hearing complaints from the Casino Queen and the city of East St. Louis about the impact on them if slots came to the track. Track supporters argued that they need the revenue from gaming machines in order to offer better purses so they can remain competitive. East St. Louis said it counts on the casino for 40-percent of its operating revenue. Rita is offering several options, including one to bring a casino to Chicago, but nowhere else, and another that would include casinos in Chicago and four other locations.

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Schools At Risk Of Closing

(Fairview Heights, IL)  --  A couple of schools in the Metro-East are at risk of closing.  Officials in Fairview Heights say they need to raise property taxes in order to keep Grant Middle and Illini Elementary schools open.  Voters shot down a proposal to boost the property taxes last year but they’ll be faced with the same question when they head to the polls tomorrow.  If the measure clears, property taxes will go up by about eight-dollars-and 25-cents-a-month on a 100-thousand-dollar home. 

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Louisville Man Arrested After Two County Chase

A multi-county police chase has landed a 49-year-old Louisville man in the Marion County Jail, and resulted in at least two squad cars being damaged. According to reports, Carl Lee Swift, of Louisville, fled from a Casey's General Store in Clay City, after a Clay County Deputy responded to a call of a suspicious man, and continued to flee law enforcement down U.S. Highway 50 into Marion County, where he was finally apprehended in Salem. Swift reportedly rammed the Clay County squad car nearly head on, before the chase continued on U.S. 50 into Salem, where Marion County Deputies joined in the chase. He allegedly came close to hitting a civilian vehicle head on while fleeing down Route 37, and a short time later rammed a Marion County squad car in the driver's side, as the deputy tried to block the road. But Swift wasn't stopped there; he continued down Highway 37 until the car he was driving apparently ran out of gas. He then refused to get out of the car that had been reported stolen Saturday night in Flora, and had to be pulled from the car by deputies. Swift remains in the Marion County Jail, charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, reckless driving, fleeing and attempting to elude police, criminal damage to state property and driving while license revoked.

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Ill. county to vote over 'fracking' prospects

VIENNA, Ill. (AP) — Voters in far southern Illinois' Johnson County are getting ready to weigh in on the high-volume oil extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing. The debate for months has dominated board meetings in a county that's long had among the state's highest unemployment rates, by many accounts turning neighbor against neighbor. Fracking proponents there insist it could help the county's economy. Critics counter the drilling method's reliance on chemicals and vast amounts of water to free trapped oil pose irreversible environmental risks to groundwater and public health. State lawmakers approved fracking last year, though the Department of Natural Resources still must adopt rules. The ballot measure essentially serves as an advisory to the county's commissioners about how their constituents feel about fracking, with a "Yes" vote basically reflecting apprehensiveness about or opposition to the debated drilling technique locally. The ballot's question reads: "Shall the people's right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health, safety and a clean environment?"

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STATE
Candidates out on last campaign day before primary

CHICAGO (AP) — Most Republican candidates running for Illinois governor are spending the last day before the primary election day traveling around the state. State Sen. Kirk Dillard plans to be in East Alton, Marion, Champaign and suburban Chicago on Monday. State Sen. Bill Brady's schedule includes stops in Springfield, Peoria, Urbana, Marion and Chicago. Businessman Bruce Rauner is wrapping up a three-day statewide tour and has get out the vote rallies in Chicago, Rockford, Moline, Edwardsville and Hickory Hills. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford doesn't have a public campaign schedule on Monday. His spokesman has said he's focused on making phone calls. Gov. Pat Quinn is seeking re-election against a lesser-known candidate, activist Tio Hardiman. Hardiman will visit universities in Peoria, Champaign and Bloomington on Monday. The primary election is Tuesday.

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Ill. House passes measure to change GED testing

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A measure allowing high school testing companies other than GED Testing Services to operate in the state is advancing in the Illinois Legislature. Lawmakers say a recent GED price increase from $50 to $120 strains low-income test takers. They say changing the law could drive down costs. The proposal aims to open up competition by substituting "GED" with "high school equivalency tests" in the current law. New tests would still need to pass the state's education standards for approval. Kari Docherty is a GED examiner in Jefferson and Hamilton counties. She tells WSIL-TV the state could run into problems if the rest of the country still only uses the GED program. The bill passed the House last week and now moves to the Senate.

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Injured Illinois farmer guides agriculture safety

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A former farmer who was injured in a hay baling accident more than 35 years ago is using his experience to help others. Robert "Chip" Petrea is a research specialist at the University of Illinois. He focuses on agriculture safety and health. The News-Gazette reports that he studies why farm injuries happen and helps injured farmers adapt. He says many farmers want to continue farming right away after an injury. Petrea lost both of his legs above the knee while baling hay in south-central Illinois in 1978. Part of his job includes evaluating the national Teaching Ag Safety to Kids program. He earned both his master's and Ph.D. degrees from Illinois. Petrea says he thinks increasing regulation on smaller farms would help eliminate unsafe farming practices.

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Attorney General's office to monitor Ill. primary

CHICAGO (AP) — Attorney General Lisa Madigan says staff from her office will monitor Illinois' primary election to ensure voting rights are protected and polls are accessible. In a statement, Madigan says voters should call her office if they suspect illegal or improper activity. Illinois' primary is Tuesday, and polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Madigan says voters have the right to cast a ballot if they're in line when polls close at 7 p.m., or at any other time during voting hours. If a voter can't read, has a disability or has trouble understanding English, they have the right to request assistance. Madigan also says no one is allowed to try to influence a voter within 100 feet of a polling place.

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Highland Marine To be Remembered At Arlington

(Arlington, VA)  --  A Marine from Highland, Illinois is being honored at Arlington National Cemetery.  Aaron Ripperda was one of seven Marines killed during a training exercise in Nevada last March.  He’d served a couple overseas tours in Haiti and Afghanistan.  A memorial ceremony will be held at Arlington tomorrow.

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Quinn names Scott ICC chairman a second time

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has named Doug Scott to a second term as the Illinois Commerce Commission's chairman. The Democratic governor said Friday that Scott helped Illinois become a leader in the use of renewable energy and saved consumers "hundreds of millions of dollars" in proposed utility rate hikes and consumer refunds. Scott was first appointed in 2011. Quinn says Scott "has proven himself time and time again as a strong advocate for Illinois' working families." Scott's term ends in 2019. Prior to his tenure at the ICC, Scott headed the state's Environmental Protection Agency. He was also Rockford mayor and a state representative. Quinn says that as chairman, Scott saved Illinois residents $680 million in proposed utility rate hikes and secured $109 million in utility refunds.

 

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Poison Control Center Facing Possible Shutdown

(Undated)  --  Illinois’ poison control center may soon be shutting its doors.  They’re facing a financial shortfall like most other entities within the state.  Their budget has been slashed by more than half-million-dollars over the past five years.  The center answers thousands of calls every year from people who think they’ve ingested some type of poisoning and, the reps even provide training for medical professionals.  Officials at the center say their budget is tight and if they don’t get an increase for next year, they’ll have to close at the end of June. 

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NATIONAL
Winter not yet done, more snow for parts of US

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Snow has started falling in parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast as winter-weary motorists faced another potentially treacherous commute today morning, just days before the start of spring. At least a few inches of snow have been reported in the Washington area and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Forecasters warned that travel in the snowy areas could be dangerous and urged drivers not to let their guards down. Federal offices in the Washington area were closed for the day Monday. Winter's return follows several days of spring-like temperatures. With spring officially starting Thursday, people weary of shoveling snow are hoping that the latest storm will be winter's final encore.

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Defense: General's deal drops sex assault charge

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An Army general is expected to enter pleas in a deal that includes the dismissal of sexual assault charges stemming from accusations he forced a subordinate officer to perform oral sex. The hearing today at Fort Bragg would cap the prosecution of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair in a closely watched case that came as the military grapples with sex crimes in its ranks. Lawyers representing Sinclair say he'll plead to lesser charges in exchange for the dropping of the sexual assault charges and two other counts that might have required Sinclair to register as a sex offender. At an upcoming hearing, a military judge will give Sinclair a sentence that can't exceed terms in an agreement struck between defense lawyers and military attorneys.

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Suicide, allegations stun border agent's family

MISSION, Texas (AP) — Law enforcement officials are trying to figure out a Texas mystery story on the border of Mexico. Esteban Manzanares (mahn-zah-NAH'-rays) was a U.S. Border Patrol agent on patrol this past week when a trio of Honduran immigrants spotted him and offered to surrender. A woman, her teenage daughter and a teenage family friend told authorities they were driven to a remote area. The older woman says the group was assaulted by a man who left the area with one of the girls. Several hours later, police found Manzanares dead in his apartment from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The missing teenager was there, too, bound and naked. Authorities are trying to determine what could have led to his apparent suicide, and are investigating the allegations of assault.

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9/11 mastermind: spokesman had no military role

NEW YORK (AP) — The self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks says an Osama bin Laden son-in-law on trial in New York had no role in planning military operations for al-Qaida. Mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (says in a statement filed in Manhattan federal court late Sunday that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith served as an al-Qaida spokesman because he was "an eloquent, spellbinding speaker." Abu Gaith is charged with conspiring to kill Americans.

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Obama, Palestinian leader meet as deadline nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is seeking to ease the logjam in elusive Mideast peace talks as a deadline nears. Obama meets at the White House today with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting marks a renewed foray by Obama into a diplomatic minefield that he's mostly left up to Secretary of State John Kerry. There are just weeks left before a U.S.-imposed April deadline expires for completing a framework for peace talks. Obama held a similar Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the president urged Israel to make the "tough decisions" needed to move forward. Absent clear signs of progress, attention has turned to whether the parties might agree to extend the deadline if a written framework can't be forged in time.

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US announces sanctions against Russian officials

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is imposing sanctions against Russian officials after Crimea's vote to secede from Ukraine. Obama's executive order issued Monday names seven Russian government officials. The United States also says it identifies and targets the assets of other individuals who aren't government officials but are supporting them. The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians, including former President Viktor Yanukovych and two Crimea-based separatist leaders. The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people. The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of the split.

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Delta flight loses piece of wing, lands safely

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A Delta flight from Orlando, Fla., landed safely in Atlanta after declaring an emergency because a part of the plane's wing was missing. The Federal Aviation Administration says Flight 2412 landed about 7:10 p.m. Sunday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The airplane, a Boeing 757, stopped on the runway and was towed to the gate. After the flight landed, Delta officials told the FAA that a four-foot by eight-foot panel from one of the airplane's wings was missing. The FAA is investigating. There was no word from Delta on how many passengers were on the plane. No injuries were reported.

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Winter's final encore? More snow for parts of US

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a harsh winter that closed the federal government, schools and offices for several days this year, Washington and other parts of the U.S. seem to be getting used to digging out of the snow and cold. With spring days away, a storm below into the Mid-Atlantic and up the East Coast on Monday. In Washington, the commute on the Metro transit system was light. Sidewalks were cleared faster compared with past storms. More homeowners and businesses had given up on snow shovels in favor of snow blowers to clear sidewalks. With the temperature rising, the latest snow is likely to turn into a slushy mess faster as well. At least a few inches of snow were reported in the Washington area and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey by Monday morning.

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Earthquake strongly felt across Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seismologists now say the earthquake that rolled across Los Angeles before dawn was magnitude 4.4. The 6:25 a.m. Monday temblor was initially estimated at 4.7. The quake was centered 15 miles west-northwest of the downtown civic center and occurred at a depth of about 5 miles. The Los Angeles Fire Department has received no immediate reports of damage.

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US factory output rose in Feb. by most in 6 months

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output rebounded strongly in February after harsh winter storms caused a steep drop-off in production in January. Manufacturers produced more autos, home electronics and chemicals. The Federal Reserve says factory production surged 0.8 percent, nearly reversing a 0.9 percent plunge in January that was due mainly to weather. February's gain was the largest in six months. The figures suggest that factories are poised to boost output and drive more economic growth as the weather improves. Overall industrial production, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, rose 0.6 percent in February, the biggest increase since September. Industrial production had fallen 0.2 percent in January. Utility output dipped 0.2 percent despite the cold weather. The drop came after a sharp jump of 3.8 percent in January.

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US homebuilder confidence edges higher in March

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market edged higher this month, reflecting improved demand for new homes as the traditional spring home-selling season ramps up. But the outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months dimmed slightly as builders continue to grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, ready-to-build land and rising building materials costs. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index rose to 47. That's up from February's reading of 46. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good. Builders' view of current sales conditions for single-family homes and traffic by prospective buyers edged higher since February. Sales of new homes rebounded in January to the fastest rate in more than five years.

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INTERNATIONAL
EU sanctions people linked to Ukraine unrest

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union foreign ministers have slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the push for the secession and possible annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The sanctions came hours after Crimea's parliament declared the region an independent state, following its residents' overwhelming vote to break away from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. The ministers meeting in Brussels did not immediately release the names and nationalities of those facing sanctions. Two diplomats said the sanctions targeted 13 Russians and eight people from Crimea. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the breakdown of the nationalities had not been officially announced. The 28-nation EU and the United States say Sunday's Crimean referendum was illegitimate and unconstitutional.

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NATO pledges close cooperation with Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO has vowed to intensify cooperation with Ukraine after residents in the Crimea peninsula voted overwhelmingly to secede and try to join Russia. Ukraine's foreign minister (Andriy Deshchytsya) visited NATO headquarters Monday with a request list for technical equipment that Ukraine's government needs to deal with the secession of Crimea and the Russian incursion there. It was not immediately clear what equipment Ukraine was asking for. He said that in talks with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen he "discussed our possible cooperation in the field of sending monitors to Ukraine." NATO said in a statement the alliance was determined to boost cooperation, including the "increased ties with Ukraine's political and military leadership, strengthening efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military and more joint training and exercises."

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Australia takes up southern search for lost plane

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The search for the missing Malaysian Airlines jet has pushed deep into the northern and southern hemispheres. Australia is scouring the southern Indian Ocean while Kazakhstan, more than 6,000 miles) to the northwest, has answered Malaysia's call for help in the hunt. Investigators say the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 239 people was deliberately diverted and its communications equipment switched off. Suspicion has fallen on the pilots because of their aviation experience, although Malaysian officials have said they are seeking background checks on everyone aboard the flight. Malaysia Airlines believes it was the co-pilot aboard its missing plane who spoke the last words to ground controllers. The airline says initial investigations indicate that the co-pilot is the one who calmly said, "All right, good night." Officials said previously that those words were spoken after the jetliner's data communications systems had been switched off. However, Malaysia Airlines' CEO says it remains unclear at what point the system was switched off.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS


NBA

Chicago 94, Sacramento 87

NHL

St. Louis 4, Nashville 1

MLB

St. Louis 6, Atlanta 2
Chicago Cubs 6, Kansas City 5
NY Mets 9, Chicago Cubs 4
Chicago White Sox 5, LA Dodgers 4

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

Chicago 4, Detroit 1

MLB

NY Mets (ss) 10, St. Louis 4
Chicago Cubs (ss) 6, NY Mets (ss) 3
Cleveland (ss) 3, Chicago Cubs (ss) 2
Texas 14, Chicago White Sox 8

NASCAR
Food City 500  (at Bristol, TN)

1. Carl Edwards
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3. Aric Almirola

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Oklahoma City at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

Winnipeg at St. Louis 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Boston
Chicago White Sox at Milwaukee
Chicago Cubs (ss) at Oakland
LA Angels (ss) at Chicago Cubs (ss)

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Illinois Heads To NIT

(Boston, MA)  --  Illinois won't be going to the big dance this season, but does have a date in the NIT.  The Fighting Illini earned a number-two seed and will travel to face Boston University on Wednesday night.  The Illini can't play at home due to renovations at the State Farm Center.

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State Shut Out In NCAA Tournament

(Undated)  --  The state of Illinois won't be represented in this year's NCAA Tournament.  No teams landed a spot in the field of 68 teams.  Illinois is joined by neighboring state Indiana having no teams in the big dance.  The Big Ten landed six teams in the tournament.

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Blues Lose Tarasenko To Hand Injury

(St. Louis, MO)  --  The Blues have lost forward Vladimir Tarasenko to a hand injury.  The 22-year-old will have surgery on Wednesday and be re-evaluated in six weeks.  Tarasenko injured the hand in Saturday's win at Nashville.  Dmitrij Jaskin was recalled from the AHL to fill the roster spot.

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Bears agree to 1-year deal with Tillman, Peppers Signs With Packers

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have agreed to a one-year contract with two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman. Tillman's status was one of the biggest questions hovering over the team this offseason after the Bears went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. But they answered that on Friday, announcing he will be back for a 12th season. The Bears have been overhauling a defense that struggled last season, releasing eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers, who inked a three-year deal worth 30-million-dollars with the Packers this weekend. The Bears decided to bring Tillman back even though he is 33 and is coming off a season in which he was limited to eight games because of a torn right triceps.

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News For Mar. 14, 2014

LOCAL
Candidates Forum Highlights 3 Key Races

Wednesday night, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Candidates Forum for the current candidates running for the offices of Sheriff of Jefferson County, Representative of the 115th District of Illinois and the Regional Superintendent Position.  The forum was held as a traditional debate with each candidate being able to answer the question and then rebut if they felt it necessary. In the Sherriff’s portion of the forum, the question everyone wanted to know the answer to was how the candidates felt about recent legislation for Concealed Carry as well as Medical Marijuana.  For concealed carry, the answer from each candidate was overwhelmingly positive and in support of the program given the strict rules that came along with it. As for Medical Marijuana, the answers were more of a mixed bag. Roger Mulch and Joseph Porter were very against the law stating that Marijuana is a “gateway drug” and that “nothing good can come of it.” The remaining candidates, David Morris, Travis Allen and John Lewis all more or less stated that it is law now, and we can’t change that. So they are supporting the law while recognizing that it needs to be heavily watched and regulated. During the Representatives portion of the forum, the questions were more open ended.  The first question asked the candidates what they thought the top three issues were for the current legislature and all candidates answered with Jobs or Taxes, Pension Reform and Education. The real controversy came up while the candidates were talking about their experience and what their first action in the legislature would be. Terri Bryant and Robert White had somewhat of a standoff refuting each other’s statements which ultimately led to the audience supporting Bryant with rounds of applause. The last portion of the forum was with the candidates for Regional Superintendent.  The major talk items were all about money and policy changes. Candidate Carrie Garrett had a lot to say on the issue of money saying that the schools need to work with legislation to let them know how important the funding is to all schools and not just larger districts near Chicago.  Ron Daniels spoke of how almost 80% of the budget goes to staff and how that is often why budget cuts lead to cutting staff. In regards to policy changes, all candidates want to work with legislators to help them understand that mandates with no funding or time to implement them, ultimately hurt the districts.

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Leads Found In Case Of Missing Hardin County Woman

There are some new developments in the case of a missing Southeastern Illinois woman.
Chrissy Williams of Shawneetown had last been seen in early December of last year leaving a home in Rosiclare in Hardin County. Search crews gathered again yesterday near the Pope/Hardin county line and were able to find fake fingernails which Williams was known for having. Authorities are still investigating that area for more answers.

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Supreme Court Appoints 4th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Schwarm To 5th District Appellate Court

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday the appointment of Chief Circuit Judge S. Gene Schwarm to the Appellate Court in the Fifth Judicial District. Chief Judge Schwarm will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Appellate Justice James M. Wexstten, effective January 29, 2014.  The appointment is effective April 1, 2014 and will expire December 5, 2016, when the position will be filled by the winner of the 2016 General Election. “I am honored to be selected to fill the vacancy in the Fifth District Appellate Court," Chief Judge Schwarm said. "My humble thanks go to Justice Lloyd Karmeier and the Supreme Court for giving me this opportunity. The Fifth Judicial District is made up of 37 counties in southern Illinois. They are: Alexander, Bond, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Har-din, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, Shelby, St. Clair, Wabash, Wayne, Washington, White, Williamson, and Union.

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Connect SI Hosts Rural Telemedicine Conference

Marion, Illinois (March 11, 2014) — Healthcare leaders from throughout southern Illinois will hear presentations by regional and national experts at a rural telemedicine conference to be held on Thursday, March 20, 2014, at the Williamson County Pavilion in Marion. The Connect SI Foundation is hosting the conference with funding from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Nina Antoniotti, PhD, RN, MBA, is the featured speaker. Director of Telehealth at Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, she has been instrumental in helping many programs initiate and become sustainable in their telemedicine applications. Dr. Antoniotti will be sharing her vast experience in this field with conference attendees, helping them explore ways to increase the use of telemedicine in southern Illinois.  Main presenters include: Becky Sanders, director, Operations, Indiana Rural Health Association, and program director, Upper Midwest Telehealth Resource Center; Nancy Nahlik, senior coordinator, Physician Services, Missouri Baptist Medical Center; Dave Steward, MD, MPH, associate dean, Community Health and Service, Southern Illinois University; Lori Williams, vice president, Membership, Illinois Hospital Association. Additional speakers will present and participate in panel discussions. In addition, area legislators have also been invited to attend the conference. According to a report by NTT Data, entitled Trends in Telehealth, “The current healthcare system focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of acute disease and emergency care. Telehealth is patient centric. It focuses on health rather than sickness… telehealth affords a means for the industry to cope with forecasted increases in healthcare demand and for offering care to remote and rural areas.” 

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Red Cross Helping After House Fire In Bluford

Disaster volunteers with the American Red Cross St. Louis Area Chapter are providing emergency assistance after a house fire Wednesday night in the 600 block of North Avenue in Bluford. They are asking for assistance with food, clothing and shelter for one adult The Red Cross is able to respond quickly when emergencies happen thanks to our generous donors.

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Last Day For Early Voting Tomorrow

(Undated)  --  Tomorrow is the last day to vote early for the primary election.  People can head to their county clerk's office if they want to avoid the lines on Tuesday.  Tomorrow is also the last day for grace period registration.  Those who missed the registration deadline can get that done in their county clerk's office as well, but they'll have to cast a ballot at the same time.

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Scam Targets Brookport Tornado Victims

(Brookport, IL)  --  Brookport tornado victims are the targets of a new phone scam.  Con men are calling them claiming to be representatives of the U.S. Treasury Department.  They offer to provide up to 84-hundred bucks to help with tornado recovery, but the catch is, the person has to pay 250-dollars in order to get it.  At least one person has handed over banking information hoping to take advantage of the deal.  Officials are reminding people to never give their information out over the phone.

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Classic Cars In O'Fallon

(O’Fallon, IL)  --  Hundreds of classic cars are moving into the O'Fallon area.  The president and CEO of Gateway Classic Cars says he's packing up shop and moving out of Fairmont City and into a larger spot in O'Fallon.  He wants to put a lounge and a library in the new place.  He's also hoping to host weddings and receptions there.  He says it'll be an economic booster for the area.

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Centralia Man Charged With Felonies

A 49-year-old Centralia man was charged Thursday in Marion County Court with multiple felonies, after he reportedly led Centralia Police on both a foot and vehicle chase.  Bail for Michael Harris was set at $25,000 on charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a non-narcotic controlled substance and aggravated fleeing through two or more traffic control devices, as well as traffic violations for driving while license suspended and disregarding traffic control devices. According to police reports, they identified Harris as a person wanted for buying drugs last week outside the Family Dollar store on North Elm in Centralia. Officers later located the vehicle and attempted to make a traffic stop. However, the vehicle instead sped away, and ran through five stop signs before finally coming to a stop between Franklin and Lincoln Streets. Harris then reportedly exited the vehicle and ran on foot, but was quickly apprehended. Police reportedly found a baggy with white pills that field tested as a controlled substance, as well as a set of keys nearby, and a baggie containing what field tested as cocaine was reportedly found in Harris’ pocket. The alleged drug deal that took place in front of an off-duty officer last week in the parking lot of the Family Dollar store resulted in the separate charge of possessing a non-narcotic controlled substance. The person who allegedly bought the drugs was arrested at the time of the incident for possession of a controlled substance.     

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STATE
Lawmakers Consider Alternative GED testing


(Springfield, IL) -- People are shying away from getting their GED because the price of the test has more than doubled. Bridget Phillips, an Adult Education Coordinator in Cobden, says the recent price hike has been a burden for those she helps. It now costs 120-bucks to take the GED test, that’s up from just 50-dollars last year. State Rep Naomi Jakobsson is pushing a bill that would allow the state to shop around for alternative tests that are less expensive. But community counselors say the state will need to make sure employers will accept the new test before they approve a different one. The bill cleared the House last week and is waiting for a hearing in the Senate.

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Gambling plan offers Illinois lawmakers a choice

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A state lawmaker is offering two options to expanded gambling in the state — including one in which Chicago would get a casino with up to 10,000 positions.
Blue Island Democratic Rep. Bob Rita says he will file legislation Thursday that also offers the General Assembly a second choice: casinos in Chicago, its suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville. Legislators have approved two large gambling expansions in recent years but Gov. Pat Quinn has opposed them as too weak to combat possible corruptive influences. The Chicago-only casino would be state-owned and -regulated. Rita says that would answer a concern from past bills about a gambling house owned by the city. State revenue would be split between per-student education funding and capital construction

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Ill. lawmakers seek deal on waterways projects

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers say congressional negotiators are moving toward an agreement on legislation authorizing improvements to shipping channels, flood protections and other waterways projects around the country. Among the Illinois projects are Peoria's 75-year-old lock and dam and the Olmsted Lock and Dam between Illinois and Kentucky. House and Senate versions differ in how much money would be spent. In interviews in Washington with the (Peoria) Journal Star, lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, say a deal is important. The East Moline Democrat says it will create construction and engineering jobs. Peoria Republican Aaron Schock says a failure of a lock in Illinois' system would halt shipments of everything from corn to jet fuel. Channahon Republican Adam Kinzinger says many people in Illinois don't realize the importance of the issue.

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Ill. sites listed as significant to St. Louis

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — As St. Louis celebrates its 250th birthday, some Illinois historic sites are being recognized for their significance to the city. Three historic sites and one monument from Illinois are on a list of 250 places compiled by stl250. The group's list includes sites, tourist attractions and businesses they say have made St. Louis what it is today. Cahokia Mounds, Cahokia Courthouse, and Lewis and Clark state historic sites all made the cut from Illinois. The Elijah Lovejoy Memorial in Alton, Ill. also made the list. Amy Martin is the director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. She says the Illinois sites represent important eras in St. Louis history, from Native American achievements to battles against slavery. The list also includes places such as the Gateway Arch and Fox Theatre.

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State police: Use designated drivers on St. Pat's

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois State Police, local law enforcement agencies and transportation officials are urging those attending St. Patrick's Day celebrations to use a designated driver after drinking. State and local police plan an increased presence on roadways across the state through the March 17 holiday in order to crack down on drunk drivers. Officials say about $650,000 in federal highway safety dollars will fund roadside safety checks, impaired driving checks and seat belt enforcement efforts. Illinois Department of Transportation data shows that ten people over the past five years have lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes on St. Patrick's Day. Officials say two of those fatalities resulted from crashes in which a driver had been drinking alcohol.

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Firm working on state-owned resort backs out

SHELBYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Plans to reopen a state-owned eastern Illinois resort with a long history of problems are on hold again. BMDD Resorts Corp. of Decatur has pulled out of work with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to rehab and reopen the Eagle Creek Resort on Lake Shelbyville. Company President Dennis Ballinger told The News-Gazette in Champaign he was disappointed. But he says his company had tired of trying to reach agreement with the department on work at the resort. Department spokesman Chris McCloud says the company "abandoned" the resort. He says the department is checking to see if the company has any remaining financial obligations. The resort has been closed since 2009 because of mold and financial troubles.

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DOC Facing Lawsuit Over Lockup Policy

(Springfield, IL)  --  The DOC is being sued for a policy that keeps some inmates locked up beyond their parole date.  The lawsuit claims the “turnaround” policy unfairly targets sex offenders.  In fact, more than a-thousand-of the 11-hundred inmates who were turned around last year had been locked up for sex crimes.  A DOC spokesman says they’re kept inside because their potential housing situation is unacceptable and may break state law.  He says the offenders are not allowed to live within 500-feet of a school, park, or daycare so they stay in the system until they can find acceptable housing. 

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Interest on Illinois' unpaid bills reached $318M

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Interest payments on Illinois' late bills cost the state $318 million last year — enough to cover the annual budget of the Illinois State Police. That's according to a report by the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers. The state auditor's overview of Illinois' finances shows interest payments from fiscal year 2013 were more than double what was paid in the previous year. In 2012, the interest amounted to $136 million. It was $91 million in 2011. A spokesman for Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka says this year's interest payments should be much lower because the state is working to reduce the backlog of unpaid bills. The state's backlog is expected to fall to $5.6 billion by June 30. That's down from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010.

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Rifle Association Backing Dillard

(Springfield, IL)  --  Kirk Dillard is getting a final round of endorsements ahead of the primary election.  The Illinois State Rifle Association is asking its one-and-a-half-million members to cast a vote for Dillard next Tuesday.  They say he’s been a staunch, long standing proponent of the Second Amendment and he has the best shot at beating Governor Quinn in November.  Pro-life groups are also backing Dillard in the final push before the election.

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NATIONAL
Rescuers continue searching rubble from NYC blast

NEW YORK (AP) — Workers searching a pile of rubble from a gas explosion are using sound devices to probe for voices and telescopic cameras to peer into small spaces. Fire Department of New York Chief Edward Kilduff says they're working "with hope" for the possibility of finding survivors. The search is slow going. Forty percent to 50 percent of the debris was removed by Thursday evening. Kilduff says a fire is still burning, and the force of the explosion collapsed and pancaked layers of floors. A back wall is still freestanding and poses a collapse hazard. Workers are planning a full day of work Friday removing debris. They're hoping to make it down to the first floor by Saturday and then move onto the basement. At least eight people died in Wednesday's blast.

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Obama Orders Review Of Deportations

(Washington, DC)  --  President Obama is ordering a review of what he calls the "broken immigration system."  Obama says the effort is part of a push to make the deportation of illegal immigrants more humane.  Activists and Latino lawmakers are putting pressure on the President to rethink the aggressive efforts to deport people who entered the country illegally.  Some groups say the review isn't going far enough.

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US Airways Jet Aborts Takeoff At Philadelphia Airport

(Philadelphia, PA)  --  There are still some flight delays at Philadelphia International Airport after a US Airways jet had its nose gear collapse during takeoff.  An airline spokesman says the plane blew a tire as it was about to take off Thursday evening.  Flight 1702 was headed to Fort Lauderdale when the landing gear collapsed.  There were 154 people on board but there are no reports of serious injuries.

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Cooks saved nuke missile crews from test failure

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press has learned that failings last spring by nuclear missile operators at an Air Force base in North Dakota were worse than first reported. Airmen responsible for missile operations at Minot Air Force Base would have failed their portion of a major inspection in March 2013 but managed a "marginal" rating because their poor marks were blended with the better performance of support staff — like cooks and facilities managers. And they got a boost from the base's highly rated training program. Problems inside the ICBM force at several bases prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in January to order two reviews. A Pentagon team is seeking to define and fix the trouble.

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Obama to sign relief from flood insurance hikes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is set to sign into law a bipartisan bill relieving homeowners living in flood-prone neighborhoods from big increases in their insurance bills. The legislation reverses much of a 2012 overhaul of the government's much-criticized flood insurance program after angry homeowners facing sharp premium hikes protested. A Senate vote Thursday sent the House-drafted measure to Obama. White House officials say he'll sign it. The bill will scale back big flood insurance premium increases faced by hundreds of thousands of homeowners. The measure also will allow below-market insurance rates to be passed on to people buying homes in flood zones with taxpayer-subsidized policies. Critics say Washington is caving to political pressure to undo one of the few recent overhauls it's managed to pass.

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AP Exclusive: FBI balks at pot background checks

SEATTLE (AP) — The FBI is refusing to run nationwide background checks on people applying to run legal marijuana businesses in Washington state, even though it has conducted similar checks in Colorado. The bureau's refusal raises the possibility that people with troublesome criminal histories could wind up with pot licenses, undermining the Justice Department's own priorities in ensuring that states keep a tight rein on the nascent industry. In the meantime, Washington is conducting in-state background checks on those hoping to grow, process or sell legal marijuana, and has been asking the FBI for nearly a year to conduct the checks. The DOJ declined to explain why it isn't conducting the checks in Washington when it has in Colorado. It said it's reviewing its background check policies and hopes to have answers soon.

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Obama: Enough have enrolled for stable health care

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says enough people have signed up for health care to make his signature law work. Obama tells medical web site WebMD that the 4.2 million people enrolled for this year, quote, "is already large enough that I'm confident the program will be stable." The president acknowledges in an interview posted Friday that the mix of people who sign up is actually more important than the number. More young and healthy people need to enroll to offset the cost of caring for older, sicker patients. Obama's 30-minute interview with the health information web site is part of his campaign to get more Americans to enroll before the March 31 deadline to get coverage for this year.

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Jury selection begins Friday in Naval Academy case

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the case of a former U.S. Naval Academy football player accused of sexually assaulting a classmate during an off-campus party. Jury selection for the court-martial of Joshua Tate of Nashville, Tenn., begins Friday in Washington. Tate is charged with aggravated sexual assault and lying to investigators. Prosecutors initially accused Tate and two other students of sexually assaulting a female student during a 2012 party at an off-campus house in Annapolis, Md., where the school is located. The woman said she didn't remember being sexually assaulted after a night of heavy drinking but heard from others she had had sex with multiple partners at the party. Tate is the only one who remains charged in the case. Opening statements are planned for Monday.

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Federal review blasts NY's Metro-North railroad

NEW YORK (AP) — A Federal Railroad Administration review says Metro-North commuter railroad's operations "routinely overshadowed" safety while over-emphasizing on-time performance. The inquiry was prompted by a Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx that killed four passengers and injured about 70 others. But it delves into a wide range of operations at the railroad, which serves New York and Connecticut. It says employees reported pressure from the railroad's operations control center to rush when responding to signal failures. The report also says cellphone use by track workers "appeared to be quite commonplace." Metro-North's new president, Joseph J. Giulietti, says the railroad is taking "aggressive actions" to assure that safety is its top priority. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, has already made changes since the derailment.

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INTERNATIONAL

Kerry, Lavrov appear pessimistic about quick solution in Ukraine

LONDON (AP) — The top diplomats from Russia and the United States aren't voicing much hope of negotiating an immediate end to the crisis in Ukraine. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been meeting in London, where they each said they're glad to have the meeting before Sunday's referendum in Crimea. But there are no signs that they will prevent that region from voting Sunday to break off from the rest of Ukraine to join Russia. The United States and the E.U. say the vote violates Ukraine's constitution and international law. Russia has said it will respect the results. Before meeting with Kerry, Lavrov told reporters, "This is a difficult situation we are in." Kerry, meanwhile, said he hoped to find "possibilities" about how to "resolve some of the differences between us." European and U.S. leaders have repeatedly urged Moscow to pull back its troops in Crimea and stop encouraging local militias there.

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Russia: Reserve the right to intervene in Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has warned again that it reserves the right to intervene in defense of ethnic Russians it says are under threat in eastern Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday that authorities in Ukraine have lost control over the country and are unable to provide basic public security. Russian officials pointed to clashes overnight Thursday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk as evidence of growing instability. One person died and 29 were injured in violence between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian activists. Troops under apparent Russian command have already deployed widely across the Ukraine's southern province of Crimea, which is to hold a referendum Sunday on seceding and merging with Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of a military invasion, and the West is threatening Moscow with sanctions.

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Plane search focus shifting; China asks for more info

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's transport minister says the search for a missing airliner is being expanded westward only because it's still missing, and not because of any new information about the disappearance. The international search expanded today further into the Indian Ocean amid signs the aircraft may have flown on for hours after its last contact with air-traffic control. A U.S. official says the Boeing 777 sent signals to a satellite for four hours after the aircraft went missing early Saturday. Vietnam says it has been asked by Malaysian authorities to consider sending planes and ships to the Strait of Malacca, also to the west of Malaysia. Meanwhile, China has urged Malaysia's government to release any information it has. Today's appeal by the Foreign Ministry reflects growing frustration among Chinese officials over mixed and conflicting information about the plane, which vanished nearly a week ago with 239 people aboard.

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Israel: Gaza militants fire 1 rocket at Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military says Gaza militants have fired one rocket at Israel after two days of intense exchanges. The military says the rocket exploded in southern Israel on Friday morning but caused no damage or injuries. It says Gaza militants have fired 70 rockets at Israel since Wednesday. That figure included 18, which were fired after the Islamic Jihad announced on Thursday it would observe a cease-fire. The militant Palestinian group from Gaza had fired most of the rockets in the latest escalation. Israel's military says its aircraft hit several "terror sites" in Gaza overnight in retaliation to the rockets. Nobody has been killed on either side. The latest barrage from Gaza was the heaviest since an eight-day Israeli military offensive in 2012 tried to end almost daily rocket attacks.

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

Mens College Basketball

Big Ten Tournament

Illinois 64, Indiana 54

Women's College Basketball

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

Missouri State 61, Southern Illinois 39

NBA

Chicago 111, Houston 87

NHL

St. Louis 6, Edmonton 2

MLB

St. Louis 11, Atlanta 0
LA Angels 8, Chicago White Sox 6

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Nashville at Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Houston
LA Dodgers at Chicago Cubs
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox

Men's College Basketball

Big Ten Tournament

Illinois vs. (8) Michigan 11 a.m.

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Sacramento at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Nashville 7 p.m.

Men's College Basketball

Big Ten Tournament Continues

MLB

St. Louis at Atlanta
Chicago Cubs (ss) at Kansas City
NY Mets (ss) at Chicago Cubs (ss)
LA Dodgers (ss) at Chicago White Sox

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Detroit at Chicago 6:30 p.m.

MLB

NY Mets at St. Louis
Chicago White Sox at Texas
Cleveland (ss) at Chicago Cubs (ss)
NY Mets (ss) at Chicago Cubs (ss)

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News For Mar. 13, 2014

LOCAL
Trial in woman's Benton shooting death underway

BENTON, Ill. (AP) — Jurors in the southern Illinois murder trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend are listening to the defendant's statements to police where he claims he doesn't remember moments leading to the shooting. WSIL-TV reports the Franklin County jury heard the recordings Wednesday. In them, Donald Lee tells police that 23-year-old Brittany Andrews must have shot herself in the head while arguing with another woman last May outside a Benton flower shop. But police question that version of events, citing the coroner's findings that Andrews was shot in the left temple. The woman was right-handed. Thirty-nine-year-old Lee of Elkville is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon by a convicted felon. He has pleaded not guilty.

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Authorities Bust Metro East Cannabis Operation

Clinton County Sheriff’s Deputies assisted Wood River Police and the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, or ILEAS, tuesday in executing a high risk search at the location of a large cannabis growing operation. Officers removed more than 20 cannabis plants from a home in the 900 block of East Acton Avenue in Wood River, and took one person into custody who is being held in the Wood River Jail this morning. Sniper and observation teams were on scene when heavily armed officers entered the home using a flash-grenade device.  In addition to the plants, police removed equipment used in a grow operation and boxes of other evidence.   Authorities are expected to issue a news release on the operation sometime today.

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Franklin County 2014 Mobile Home Tax bills to be mailed Tuesday, March 18

BENTON - Franklin County Treasurer John Gulley announced today that 2014 mobile home tax bills will be been mailed on Tuesday, March 18. Payment is due no later than Monday, May 19, 2014. Payments can be accepted in person at the Treasurer’s Office at the Franklin County Courthouse in Benton or via mail. Unlike real estate taxes, banks cannot accept mobile home tax payments. The Franklin County Courthouse is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
If you own a mobile home and have not received your tax bill by March 25, 2014, please call the Treasurer’s Office at (618) 438-7311. If the bill you receive should go to someone else, please call or return the bill to the Treasurer’s Office with the name and address of the new owner.  For more information about 2014 mobile home taxes, please contact Franklin County Treasurer John Gulley’s office at (618) 438-7311.

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New SIU president has refund clause in contract

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — The incoming president at Southern Illinois University will have the pay $250,000 if he leaves his new post within three and a half years. That's according to a report by The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan. The newspaper says there's a clause in Randy Dunn's four-year contract that requires him to reimburse the school. Dunn is president of Youngstown State University in Ohio, but announced he was leaving the job after seven months. SIU Board of Trustees Chairman Randal Thomas says the money covers the cost of another presidential search. SIU's board last month hired Dunn to succeed Glenn Poshard, who has said he plans to step down from SIU's helm at the end of June. Dunn has said he expects to begin work July 1.

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Johnson County Puts Anti-Fracking To A Vote

(Johnson County, IL)  --  Voters in Johnson County are getting a shot at making fracking illegal in their area.  An advisory question will appear on the ballot next Tuesday.  Annette McMichael says she's voting yes to keep her drinking water safe. But even if a majority of the voters give the measure thumbs up, it won’t automatically ban fracking.  That’s because the county commissioners don’t have the authority to overrule state law.  But, the measure will let them know where the community stands and will give them guidance on whether they should fight the state in court to keep fracking out.

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Dillard-Tracy: 'Under Dillard administration people will have new job opportunities'

MARION, IL - Citing a need to help alleviate the region's chronically high unemployment rate, the Governor-Lt. Governor Candidate Team of Senator Kirk Dillard (Hinsdale) and Rep. Jil Tracy (Quincy) are ready to spring into action to assist with the southern Illinois energy boom."Senator Kirk Dillard and I will pledge to call for a jobs summit on November 5, after we are elected because its time to get Illinois moving forward. Under the Dillard administration, people will have new job opportunities," State Rep. Tracy said. "We can't afford to wait until after the inauguration. It is our goal to call together an “emergency job creation summit” to figure out what we must do to move the state forward." The Dillard-Tracy call for an "Emergency Jobs Summit," is meant to put an immediate focus on job creation in Illinois and let potential employers know that the Land of Lincoln will be open for business again. Lt. Governor Candidate Tracy was joined by fellow State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) who also pointed at the recent "fracking" legislative package's slow implementation process as a key example of the decade of decline that Illinois businesses have dealt with. Local leaders like Marion Mayor Bob Butler expressed their support for the Dillard-Tracy "Emergency Jobs Summit." "It's clear that the Dillard-Tracy team is ready to emerge from the election and propel the southern Illinois economy forward," Butler said. "It is unconscionable that 40,000 Illinois jobs are being held hostage by bureaucratic red tape."

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McDonald's Robbers Crash Into Mayor's Car

(Cahokia, IL)  --  The mayor of Centreville is recovering from minor injuries after inadvertently helping nab two robbery suspects.  Police told the "Belleville News-Democrat" one of the men held up the McDonalds on Camp Jackson Road in Cahokia at gunpoint last night around five.  Officers chased their car on I-255 into Centreville until they crashed into Centreville Mayor Marius Jackson's vehicle.  Jackson was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.  The money was recovered.

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Disaster recovery workshops offered in Ill. towns

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Workshops in two Illinois communities hit by tornados last fall will help community leaders learn how to lead recovery efforts. The "Disaster Recovery Tools Workshop" is offered by Church World Service, its member denominations and the American Red Cross. It will be March 19 in at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Gifford in Champaign County and March 21 at Brookport First Baptist Church in Brookport, in Massac County. Tornados in both towns in November destroyed dozens of homes and killed four in Brookport. The workshops are for community leaders who want to help survivors rebuild their homes and lives. They will give an overview of how to form a long-term recovery group, disaster management, volunteer and construction management and more. Advance registration by March 14 is recommended but not required.

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Du Quoin Man Arrested In Franklin County

A Perry County man is facing charges in Franklin County following an alleged incident Tuesday evening in Benton. 46 year old Patrick Allen of Du Quoin is facing multiple charges including criminal damage to property and possession of a controlled substance. Reports indicate authorities received a call around 8:30 Tuesday evening from a resident claiming to see a man who appeared to be under the influence attempting to take an automobile and enter a house. Allen was taken into custody and transported to the Franklin County Jail. No injuries were reported in the incident.

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Manhunt Continues For Kell Man

The manhunt continues for a 22-year-old Kell man after he reportedly fled from a vehicle taking him to report to jail so he could begin serving a 25-year prison sentence. John Morton reportedly jumped from his father’s vehicle and fled early Wednesday morning, as the two were headed to the Marion County Jail. Area law enforcement, including Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies, Illinois State Police, along with ESDA officials spent the day yesterday searching for Morton south of Salem around the Highway 37 and Crooked Creek area. Judge Mark Stedelin stayed Morton’s sentence last week, giving him time to get his affairs in order before he was to turn himself in at the Marion County Jail and begin serving his prison sentence. Morton had pleaded guilty that same day to felony aggravated battery to his infant son and for selling synthetic drugs to sheriff’s deputies. Morton was scheduled to turn himself in at 9 o’clock Wednesday morning.  He is described as approximately 5-feet 11-inches tall, and was reportedly wearing a Carhartt jacket, blue jeans and heavy heeled work boots at the time he fled. Anyone with information about Morton’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Marion County Sheriff’s Department at 618-548-2141.

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Electrocution Claims Life Of Kell Man

An electrical experiment has reportedly claimed the life of a 20-year-old rural Kell man.
Dalton Osterman reportedly died from electrocution in the garage of his family’s home. Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon pronounced Osterman dead at the scene Wednesday morning.
An autopsy conducted at St. Mary’s hospital in Centralia on Wednesday confirmed electrocution as the cause of death.  Funeral arrangements for Osterman are pending at the Sutherland-Garnier Funeral Home in Centralia.

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Fire Destroys Woodlawn Business

An early morning fire Wednesday destroyed a Woodlawn area photography studio. Dunbar Photography had been in business for 22 years at the North Linwood Lane location. The building is a total loss from the fire that was discovered around 4 a.m. Wednesday by a neighbor.
Firefighters from Woodlawn, Waltonville, Irvington and Jefferson Fire Protection District responded to the scene. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

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STATE
State to sell hundreds of pieces of IDOT equipment

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to sell hundreds of piece of surplus heavy equipment on the state's online auction site.The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports this month's sale will be the state's largest-ever web auction of surplus heavy equipment. About 550 items are set to be sold, including dump trucks, scoop loaders, backhoes, pickup trucks, cars and pavement rollers among other items. The Department of Central Management Services has only sold IDOT equipment in a warehouse, not online. The auction begins Monday and will end March 28. All the pieces will be sold through the state's website: ibid.illinois.gov.

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Illinois deficit at $45 billion

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An annual state report puts the Illinois deficit at nearly $45 billion. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka released the report Wednesday. She says the shortfall grew by less than 1 percent from the previous year. She says the growth in liabilities was mostly because of obligations to state pension systems and other post-employment benefits. The state has a $100 billion shortfall in its five pension systems. But Topinka's office says the accounting method used in this report measures only what should have been set aside to keep pace with obligations — not the total debt. Lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn adopted a plan last fall to reduce that debt over 30 years, but it has been challenged in court. The general spending account deficit fell 19 percent to $7.3 billion.

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Report finds Illinois school finances worsening

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois State Board of Education report shows more school districts' are in poor financial shape. The annual profile released Wednesday places school districts into four categories ranging from high financial strength to high risk. The report shows an overall shift from stronger to weaker financial positions. The state board uses revenue, cash on hand and debt to determine a district's financial position. Of the state's 862 school districts, about 120 are in the lowest two financial categories. That's an increase of nine from last year. The analysis also showed more than 60 percent of districts have budget deficits. State Superintendent Christopher Koch says the profiles show the effects of budget cuts on education in recent years. The education budget faces further cuts as state lawmakers negotiate next year's budget.

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Rauner Lead Widens, Others To Split Vote

(Springfield, IL)  --  Bruce Rauner is widening his lead in the race to become the Republican nominee for governor.  He’s polling at 46-percent.  The other three candidates will split the other 54-percent of voters, which almost guarantees a win for Rauner.  Some critics are wondering why Bill Brady and Dan Rutherford won’t drop out of the race and pledge their support to Dillard, who's polling in second place.  That would give him a fighting chance at winning the race and keeping Rauner out of office.  But at this point, Brady and Rutherford both say they’re in it to win it. 

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Sheen Stumping For Higher Minimum Wage

(Chicago, IL)  --  Governor Quinn is teaming up with actor Martin Sheen in his push to boost the minimum wage.  The two will appear at the St. Pius V Church Hall in Chicago later this morning.  Quinn wants lawmakers to raise the minimum wage from eight-25 to ten-bucks-an-hour.  He says people who are willing to work 40-hours a week shouldn't have to live in poverty.  The extra buck-75 an hour will add about 70-dollars a week to a worker’s pay, before taxes. 

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Some Illinois counties oppose wind-power bill

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Some counties in Illinois are raising objections to legislation that would give the state Department of Agriculture the authority to regulate the locations of power-generating wind turbines. State Sen. John Sullivan's legislation would move that authority from counties to the state. He tells The News-Gazette in Champaign his bill is an attempt to address what he says are inconsistencies in wind-farm regulation from county to county. The Illinois Farm Bureau is pushing the wind-farm proposal. Rick Bowen is chairman of the Ford County board and Rod Copas holds that title in neighboring Iroquois County. The eastern Illinois counties both have wind farms. And both men oppose giving up local control of where wind towers can be erected.

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Sword threats, fight lead to 4 arrests in Mattoon

MATTOON, Ill. (AP) — Police in the eastern Illinois town of Mattoon arrested four people after a fight that included one man threatening another with swords. According to the Mattoon Journal-Gazette, officers were called to a neighborhood Tuesday afternoon to check on a disturbance. Police say one man was threatening another with "Japanese-style" swords while three others were involved in the fight. It wasn't clear what started the altercation. None of the four Mattoon residents arrested Tuesday has been formally charged yet. One, a 26-year-old man, was arrested on a preliminary charge of aggravated assault in the alleged sword threats. The others arrested included a 70-year-old woman and a 20-year-old woman arrested on preliminary charges of battery and a 31-year-old man arrested on preliminary charges of disturbing the peace and possession of marijuana.

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NATIONAL

Holder endorses proposed drug sentencing changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder is endorsing a proposal that would result in shorter prison sentences for certain nonviolent drug traffickers. Holder is expected to make the suggestion today before the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He says the sentence reductions would lower federal prison costs and create a fairer criminal justice system.

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Obama wants overtime pay for more salaried workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is expected to announce changes in overtime rules so many employers would be required to pay millions more workers for the extra time they put in on the job. The rules are aimed at workers currently designated as supervisory employees but who are exempt from overtime because they get paid a salary of more than $455 a week. The changes, to be announced today, would take effect in 2015.

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Defense contractor due at Hawaii plea hearing

HONOLULU (AP) — A civilian defense contractor faces a court hearing today on federal charges after being accused of giving military secrets to a Chinese girlfriend. Benjamin Bishop is expected to plead guilty in federal court in Honolulu. His lawyer says Bishop plans to plead guilty to one count of transmitting national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it and one count of unlawfully retaining national defense documents and plans. The 60-year-old Bishop was arrested nearly one year ago at U.S. Pacific Command headquarters. Court documents say Bishop emailed his girlfriend classified information on joint training and planning sessions between the United States and South Korea. The documents say Bishop also kept classified documents at home, including one on U.S. force posture in Asia and the Pacific.

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Vegas fire: 1 person dead; several police treated

LAS VEGAS (AP) — One person is dead, another person is injured and nearly a dozen people suffered smoke inhalation when fire broke out last night in a house in Las Vegas. One woman screaming from inside the burning house was rescued by police officers who hacked a door in half with a bolt cutter. Firefighters found a man in a room who couldn't get out because of bars on the windows. By the time they reached him, he was dead.

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Investigators seek cause of San Francisco fire

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fire investigators are looking into whether welding work is to blame for a massive blaze that barreled through an apartment building construction site in a San Francisco's Mission Bay that had firefighters working to keep it from spreading through the neighborhood. The five-alarm fire cracked windows at an apartment building across the street and sent an ember onto the roof of a University of California, San Francisco building.

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Sentencing set for former CEO of Fiesta Bowl

PHOENIX (AP) — A former longtime Fiesta Bowl chief executive who acknowledged participating in an illegal campaign contribution scheme faces sentencing today in federal court. John Junker pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal conspiracy charge after being accused of being involved in the scheme in which bowl employees made illegal campaign contributions to politicians and were reimbursed by the nonprofit bowl. Prosecutors are seeking a one-year prison sentence, while Junker has asked for probation from U.S. District Judge David Campbell. The scandal jeopardized the bowl's NCAA license and its status as one of four bowls in the national college football championship rotation. The Arizona bowl retained its Bowl Championship Series status at the time. The NCAA placed it on probation for a year, and the BCS fined it $1 million.

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Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew dies

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew has died at age 85 after recently suffering a stroke. A former aide says Askew died at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare early today while surrounded by family. Askew rose from obscurity in the Florida Legislature to become the Democrats' surprise gubernatorial nominee in 1970 and then beat the incumbent Republican, Claude Kirk. He guided the state through a period of school busing to achieve integration in the 1970s.

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Searchers scour rubble after gas explosion kills 7

NEW YORK (AP) — A seventh person has been confirmed killed by an explosion that flattened two New York City apartment buildings. Fire Department spokesman Danny Glover said Thursday that a seventh body had been found in the rubble. Police say the victim, recovered around 7:15 a.m., was an adult male. Three bodies were found Wednesday and three more overnight. A gas leak triggered the explosion Wednesday morning on Park Avenue and 116th Street in East Harlem. The blast also injured more than 60 people, including at least three children. The explosion shattered windows a block away, cast a plume of smoke over the skyline and sent people running into the streets. Authorities say the fiery blast erupted about 15 minutes after a neighboring resident reported smelling gas.

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Suspected drunken driver arrested after plowing into crowd at South by Southwest festival

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A suspected drunken driver has been arrested after his vehicle crashed through barricades and slammed into a crowd at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, killing a man and a woman riding a moped and leaving at least 23 others hurt. The city's police chief says the crash happened in front of an emptying nightclub shortly after midnight as the driver tried to evade police. The driver then tried to get away on foot, but an officer shocked him with a stun gun. The annual music, film and interactive conference draws tens of thousands to Austin each year, and the toll could have been much higher. The street had been packed with revelers just minutes earlier, but officials had cleared the area to create a fire lane. The suspect faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

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US retail sales rebounded 0.3 percent in February

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. retail sales bounced back in February after suffering a steep decline during a bitterly cold January. Shoppers spent more on autos, clothing and furniture. The Commerce Department says seasonally-adjusted retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February. Spending had fallen 0.6 percent in January and 0.3 percent in December. The increase suggests that consumer spending has started to recover after being tempered by snowstorms and freezing temperatures that blanketed much of the country. Auto sales rose 0.3 percent. Excluding volatile spending on autos, gas and building supplies, retail sales increased 0.3 percent from December. Last month's rebound almost brought retail spending back to its December levels. Purchases at restaurants, online retailers and department stores also improved. Over the past 12 months, retail sales have risen 1.5 percent.

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APNewsBreak: Transgender troop ban faces scrutiny

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An independent commission led by a former U.S. surgeon general has concluded there "is no compelling medical reason" for the U.S. armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving. It's urging President Barack Obama to lift the ban by executive order. The five-member panel was convened by a think tank based at San Francisco State University. It says Department of Defense regulations designed to keep transgender people from joining or remaining in the military on the grounds that they are psychologically or physically unfit for duty are based on outdated beliefs and treatment standards. The commission was co-chaired by Joycelyn Elders, who served as surgeon general under Bill Clinton. At least a dozen nations allow military service by transgender individuals. The Pentagon says it has no plans to revisit the ban.

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Graco adds more than 403,000 child seats to recall

DETROIT (AP) — Graco Children's Products has added 403,222 child seats to last month's recall of 3.8 million to replace faulty harness buckles. But the added seats won't end a dispute with the U.S. government's road safety watchdog. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still wants Graco to add 1.8 million infant seats to the recall because they have the same buckles. Buckles can get gummed up by food and drinks, making it difficult to remove children. In some cases parents have had to cut harnesses to get their children out. The agency says the problem increases the injury risk in emergencies. Graco says in a letter to the agency that it found additional toddler and harnessed booster seats that should be recalled. The company still believes the infant seats should be excluded.

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INTERNATIONAL
Malaysia denies engine data reports

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's defense minister is denying reports that engine data from the missing Malaysian jetliner indicated it may have kept flying after its last communication. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that based on the data, the plane continued to fly for four hours after it lost contact. Meanwhile, nearly every navy with a presence in Southeast Asia is involved in the extensive search for the Boeing 777 that disappeared Saturday while flying from Malaysia to Beijing with 239 on board. They've still found no signs of the plane.

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OECD halts membership talks with Russia

PARIS (AP) — A grouping of the world's most developed countries says it's provisionally halting accession talks with Russia in a move many will see as a direct response to the country's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which promotes good governance and economic policy initiatives among its 34 mainly rich world members, says it has "postponed activities related to the accession process" with Russia "for the time being." No explanation for the decision was provided in today's statement. Russia has been in talks to join the since May 2007. As of last June Russia had concluded five of 22 reviews required for accession. The OECD also said it would "respond positively to Ukraine's request" for closer ties with the Paris-based OECD. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council is discussing a possible resolution that would reaffirm Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and address Sunday's referendum on whether its Crimean Peninsula should become part of Russia. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will brief the Security Council today at an open meeting.

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Official: 4 Afghan election workers kidnapped

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan election commission official says four election coordinators were kidnapped in Afghanistan's restive Nangarhar province, which borders neighboring Pakistan. Sareer Ahmed Barmal, a commissioner with the Independent Election Commission, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the four men were taken a day earlier and no one has taken responsibility for their abduction or demanded a ransom. Barmal says area elders have been meeting in an attempt to discover the identities of the kidnappers in order to negotiate the release of the men. On Monday, the Taliban threatened violence ahead of Afghanistan's April 5 presidential elections, warning Afghans to stay away from the polls and promising attacks against election workers and Afghan security forces protecting them.

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Syrian parliament approves new election law

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's state TV says the parliament has unanimously approved a new election law allowing multiple candidates for president, opening doors to other potential candidates besides President Bashar Assad. The vote comes nearly four months before Assad's seven-year term as president officially expires. Syrian officials say the presidential elections will be held on time and Assad has suggested he would run again. The bill adopted Thursday says only candidates who lived in Syria for 10 years prior to nomination can run. The TV didn't say how many lawmakers voted for the bill. Syria has been ruled by the Baath party since it seized power in a 1963 coup. Past presidential elections under Assad and his late father, Hafez Assad, were de-facto referendums with one of the Assads being the sole candidate.

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Pistorius trial: The 'trail of blood' in home

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Prosecutors in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial on Thursday displayed a sequence of photos showing the blood stains found on the floors, walls, stairs and chairs in the athlete's house after he fatally shot his girlfriend. In one photograph displayed on TV monitors at Pistorius' murder trial, spots of blood are seen right next to some of the double-amputee Olympian and multiple Paralympic champion's golden trophies. The TV screen next to Pistorius was switched off during the display. The images were described by a former policeman who was one of the two officers first on the scene after Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. Former police colonel Schoombie van Rensburg described the "the trail of blood" he found when he arrived at Pistorius' home.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

Colorado 3, Chicago 2

MLB

St. Louis 6, NY Mets 4
Seattle 8, Chicago Cubs 7 (10 innings)
San Francisco 4, Chicago White Sox 3

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

Men's College Basketball

Big Ten Conference Tournament

Illinois vs. Indiana 11 a.m.

Women's College Basketball

Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

Southern Illinois vs. Missouri State 7:07 p.m.

NBA

Houston at Chicago 6 p.m.

NHL

Edmonton at St. Louis 7 p.m.

MLB

Atlanta at St. Louis
Chicago White Sox at LA Angels

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NFL Free Agency Warms Up

-Bears have added former Raiders DE Lamarr Houston, former Panthers LB Jordan Senn, former Packers S M.D. Jennings, and former Giants S Ryan Mundy in recent days while losing backup QB Josh McCown to the Buccaneers.

-Rams have been quieter.  They have lost Tackles Chris Williams to the Bills, but signed Rodger Saffold to a five year deal after he failed a physical for a pending contract with the Raiders.

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News For Mar. 12, 2014

LOCAL
Man Slams Into IDOT Truck On I-57

(Franklin County, IL)  --  Drivers are reminded to slow down and move over for emergency vehicles on the highway.  An IDOT truck driven by 59 year old Billy M. Reed of Benton, was hit by an SUV on I-57, near West Frankfort, yesterday.  Officials say a GMC Denali driven by 79 year old Robert W. Venturi of Mt. Vernon rammed into the back of the truck while it was stopped in the left lane.  Crews were repairing a pothole.  The truck had its lights and arrow signal on at the time of the crash.  Both drivers were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Both lanes of I57 North Bound were closed for approximately 50 minutes when one lane was opened. While both lanes were closed traffic was diverted off of the interstate at Exit 65. Both lanes were reopened at approximately 3:00 P.M. Assisting agencies included the West Frankfort Police Department, West Frankfort Fire Department EMS, and ISP. Venturi was charged with Scott’s Law and Failure to Wear Seatbelt.

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DuQuoin Drowning Victim Identified

In Perry County, one man is dead after a Monday drowning incident. 42 year old John Pavlak of Du Quoin was canoeing with Heather Woodcock, also of Du Quoin, around 1:30 Monday at the Du Quoin City Lake when the canoe overturned. Woodcock was able to make it to safety, but Pavlak was pronounced dead around 3 monday afternoon. Department of Natural Resource Conservation Police are investigating.

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DOC Under Fire After inmate Attack

(Pinckneyville, IL) -- The DOC is under fire after several inmates injured four guards in an attack. A spokesman for the DOC says it was an isolated attack but AFSCME Regional Director Eddie Caumiant and those who work on the inside, say it was planned. Three inmates attacked the guards Sunday during chow. One of the inmates had previously served time in the Tamms Supermax prison, which was shut down just over a year ago. Tamms inmates were supposed to be transferred into max security lockups but this one was sent to Pontiac. He ended up in the medium security Pinckneyville a year later because he hadn’t had any disciplinary marks on his record for more than eight years.

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Dillard Tracy to hold press conference on Southern Illinois energy development

MARION, IL- State Representative and Lt. Governor candidate Jil Tracy (R- Quincy) will be joined by State Representative Mike Bost (R- Murphysboro) and Marion Mayor Bob Butler, to discuss Southern Illinois energy development as part of GOP Governor candidate Kirk Dillard's “Destination Economy plan” at a press conference today to discuss Southern Illinois energy development.  The press conference will take place at 1:30 PM, at the Williamson County Airport, 10400 Terminal Dr, Marion, IL.

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Brady In Mt. Vernon This Morning

Senator Bill Brady, Republican candidate for Governor, mad a campaign stop in Mt. Vernon this morning from 8 – 8:45 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce located at 200 Potomac Blvd., Mt. Vernon.

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ISP District 12 Announces February Enforcement Activity

Effingham, IL – Illinois State Police District 12 Interim Commander, Lieutenant Cory Ristvedt, Tuesday announced activity and enforcement figures for the month of February.  Troopers in District 12, which includes Clark, Clay, Crawford, Cumberland, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Lawrence, Marion, and Richland Counties, answered 392 calls for service and initiated 1,253 incidents in the field during the month.  In addition, enforcement figures totaled 539 citations and 832 written warnings, including 197 speeding citations, 12 DUIs, 109 seatbelt citations, 6 child restraint citations, 151 written warnings for speeding, and 57 criminal arrests. Troopers also assisted 348 motorists, conducted 353 Motor Carrier Inspections, and investigated 81 traffic crashes.  Enforcement efforts in District 12 yielded ZERO fatal traffic crash investigations during February. Throughout the month, 319 citations and 207 written warnings were issued for “Fatal Four” violations. These violations are most associated with fatal traffic crashes and include Speeding, DUI, Failure to Wear a Seatbelt, and Distracted Driving.

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Ground broken on Belleville September 11 memorial

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Ground has been broken for a September 11 memorial in southern Illinois. The Belleville News Democrat reports the ceremony was Tuesday in Belleville on city-owned property near a firehouse. The September 11 Memorial Walkway of Southern Illinois will be built. Organizers hope to have the project finished by Sept. 11 of this year. The centerpiece of the memorial will be a 7,100-pound steel column from the World Trade Center. There also will be a Flight 93 Memorial, a timeline of the terrorist attacks and a memorial in the shape of a pentagon. Organizers have raised $80,000 for the project. They hoped to raise $100,000 before breaking ground.

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Centralia Man Sentenced To TASC Probation

A 20-year-old Centralia man was sentenced Tuesday in Marion County Court to 5-years TASC probation after he pleaded guilty to residential burglary. Dereck Woods was arrested in December for an August residential burglary, after fingerprints indicated he had been in the home where a large amount of jewelry had been taken when the home had been broken into.
At the time of that arrest, Woods was already serving 4-years probation after pleading guilty to a September vehicle burglary. In addition to the 5-years TASC probation, Woods was ordered to complete drug and alcohol evaluation and treatment, abstain from drugs and alcohol, have no contact with the victims or their homes and pay nearly $4,600 in restitution.

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Illinois authorities investigate killing of ducks

VANDALIA, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Conservation Police is investigating the illegal killing last week of more than 30 ducks at the Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area near Vandalia. The ducks killed includes several northern pintails and mallards. Several ducks were left crippled. Duck hunting season closed Jan. 7 in the South Central Zone which includes Carlyle Lake. Aerial surveys conducted in May indicated pintails numbered 3.3 million on the breeding grounds in the north-central United States and Canada. Waterfowl biologists and habitat managers have worked hard to keep pintail numbers at levels high enough to sustain harvest. Spring duck hunting was eliminated a century ago by the McLean-Weeks Act, which regulated the shooting of migratory birds in the United States. The act was replaced in 1918 by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

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I-64 East Bound Closed This Morning

I64 East Bound at Mile Post 70 closed Wednesday for the removal of semi-tractor trailer combination.  Jefferson County Sheriff’s handled a semi crash at mile post 70 Tuesday night. This morning at approximately 6:30 A.M., Illinois State Police District 13 Officers began removal of the semi from the east bound lanes of I64 where it was blocking the roadway. East bound traffic is being diverted off of the interstate at Exit 69 (Woodlawn).

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STATE
Winter storm dumps heavy, wet snow on Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) — A late winter storm dumped more than 5 inches of snow in the Chicago area, causing scattered power outages and creating headaches for commuters. But the National Weather Service says the heaviest snow is ending. The agency says 5.2 inches of snow was recorded near Midway International Airport Wednesday. And 4.1 inches was recorded in Romeoville. Forecasters expect up to 6 inches to fall. What started as heavy, wet snow late Tuesday was transitioning to dry powder, which was blowing and drifting as winds gusted to 35 mph. Meteorologist Stephen Rodriguez said many roads were "just horrible." About 16,000 homes and businesses were without power — most of them in Cook County. Another 13,600 were also in the dark in central Illinois where several inches of snow fell.
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State superintendent: education cuts 'devastating'

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The head of the Illinois State Board of Education says proposed cuts in education funding could be "devastating" to school districts. State superintendent Christopher Koch's comments were reported by the Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers. He says if the proposed cuts are approved, some districts might "not make it through the school year." The ISBE is asking for a $1 billion increase in funding, while a preliminary revenue blueprint shows a potential $1 billion decrease. The potential cuts come as state officials debate whether to change the school funding formula, which hasn't been updated since the mid-1990s. That proposal would put almost all state education funding into one pot and require districts to demonstrate need. The current method factors in poverty for some types of state aid, but not others. It also treats Chicago school funding differently.

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271 ticketed during celebration Unofficial party

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Champaign area authorities say they issued more than 270 tickets during last week's Unofficial St. Patrick's Day Celebration. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the 271 orders to appear in court were issued during the festivities, most of them for underage drinking or public possession of alcohol. Nearly 30 people were taken to the hospital in ambulances and 15 people were taken to the county jail during the annual event that drew thousands of students for a day of drinking. This year, the city limited bar hours during Friday's celebration as well as how much alcohol could be sold near campus. They also limited the entry age for people to get into bars, which they have done in previous years.

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Planting Will Likely Be Delayed For A Few Weeks

(Springfield, IL) -- Farmers are likely going to be delayed when it comes to getting their crops in the ground this spring, thanks to the harsh winter weather. Agronomist Chris Kallal says the ground still isn’t ready for planting. By this time farmers usually at least have their fertilizer applications on the ground, with the hopes of getting corn in the ground by April 5th. Kallal says that’ll be pushed back to about April 20th this year. He urges farmers to consider putting additional nitrogen down on corn-on-corn acres because the microbes will be consuming some of the nitrogen as they break down the residue in the fields.

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Court accepts late Blagojevich records


CHICAGO (AP) — A court in Chicago has confirmed that transcripts of FBI wiretaps not played at Rod Blagojevich's corruption trials have been made part of the official appellate record. That decision Tuesday by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals came as it also rejected a request from the imprisoned former Illinois governor's defense to unseal the records. Defense attorneys submitted the records late after realizing they weren't in an initial batch of documents. That raised questions about whether the panel would include them in the record. While the court accepted the records, it didn't say whether appellate judges would or wouldn't factor them into a decision on Blagojevich's appeal. The appeal argues Blagojevich's alleged crimes were legal political horse-trading and that the unplayed FBI recordings supported that contention.

----------------------------------------

Illinois health insurance signups lag behind goals

CHICAGO (AP) — Nearly 900 Illinois residents per day signed up for coverage on the health insurance marketplace last month. But the state must quicken that pace to reach a goal set by President Barack Obama's administration. Federal figures released Tuesday show 113,733 Illinois residents signed up for coverage during the first five months of the nation's new marketplace system. That's somewhat short of the original five-month goal of 114,400. One-third of the Illinoisans signing up for coverage are older, ages 55 to 64. That's a group more likely to have expensive medical needs than younger people. The most popular plans are the so-called silver plans with 56 percent of Illinois enrollees choosing them over other plans. Time is running out. The open enrollment period closes March 31.

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Spike Lee To Attend Ebertfest

(Champaign, IL)  --  Film Director Spike Lee is headed to central Illinois.  He’s attending the Ebertfest in Champaign next month for a 25th anniversary screening of his movie, “Do the Right Thing.”  Critic Roger Ebert gave the film four thumbs up back in 1989.  The screening will be held at the Virginia Theater on April 25th.

----------------------------

NATIONAL
Ukrainian leader, Obama to meet

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk will meet today in Washington with President Barack Obama. Yatsenyuk has called on the West to defend Ukraine against Russia, which he says "is armed to the teeth" and "has nuclear weapons." He has asked Russia, the U.S. and Britain to abide by a treaty signed in 1994, in which they pledged to guarantee Ukraine's security in exchange for surrendering its share of Soviet nuclear arsenals to Russia.

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More winter weather for some

CHICAGO (AP) — No, winter weather is not over yet for some parts of the U.S. By Thursday, parts of the Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard could see heavy snowfall. The Chicago area could see up to 8 inches of snow. The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for an area stretching from New York's southwest corner to eastern Lake Ontario, which could get up to two feet of snow.

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San Francisco firefighters stop big blaze spread

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's largest fire in several years wrecked a building that was part of a residential development project, but 150 firefighters using about 90 trucks prevented it from spreading to nearby buildings. Authorities say one wall collapsed and the rest of the building is not expected to remain standing. Firefighters remain at the scene.

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Man who spent decades on La. death row is freed

ANGOLA, La. (AP) — A man who had been on Louisiana's death row for nearly 26 years is now a free man. Sixty-four-year-old Glenn Ford walked out of the maximum security prison at Angola Tuesday afternoon. He had been convicted of the 1983 killing of a jeweler, but a judge tossed out the conviction Monday, after evidence surfaced that corroborated Ford's claims that he was neither present nor involved in the jeweler's death.

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Leno, Murdoch among TV Hall of Fame inductees

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — There are six new members of the Television Academy Hall of Fame. At a ceremony last night in Beverly Hills, the academy inducted Jay Leno, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, media baron Rupert Murdoch, writer-producer David E. Kelley and former ABC executive Brandon Stoddard. Sound pioneer Ray Dolby was inducted posthumously, with his wife and son accepting the honor. Leno got a spirited introduction from Bill Maher, who said his friend didn't deserve the heat he took over Conan O'Brien's short-lived tenure as "Tonight Show" host. Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox, noted he was being honored on his 83rd birthday — a coincidence that he called particularly annoying because he doesn't like to look back.

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World Wide Web Turns 25

(Undated)  --  The door to the Internet opened 25 years ago.  Today marks the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, which made the Internet accessible to people who weren't technology sophisticates.  In 1989 Sir Tim Berners-Lee proposed what he called an "information management" system that would allow people to access pages hosted on computers around the world.  That was Mosaic, the first popular Web browser.  Experts say that opened the world of the Internet to anyone with a browser and a mouse.  The Internet existed before 1989, but people with a lot of technological savvy were about only ones connecting, first through a bulletin board system, and later by way of an email or forum with a service such as CompuServe.

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Building Collapse In NYC

(New York, NY)  --  Smoke is billowing from the chaotic scene of a building collapse and fire in New York City.  Piles of debris and dust are making it hard to see and breathe.  Area police are wearing dust masks while firefighters on ladders and bucket trucks are doing their best trying to put the fire out.  Several people are hurt so far and a few others may have been rushed to local hospitals.  Harlem and New Haven Line Service is suspended into and out of Grand Central Terminal until further notice.

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Senate bill proposes tough sanctions on Russia

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate bill is proposing hard-hitting U.S. sanctions on Russia in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin to pull Russian troops out of Crimea. The legislation would authorize the Obama administration to target Russians responsible for the military takeover of Crimea or aiding Ukrainian corruption. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bill Wednesday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans a vote later in the day. The bill also would enable the United States to make good on a pledge of $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine's new government. And it would help enhance the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund, which some House Republicans oppose.

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G7 leaders: No recognition of Crimea referendum

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Group of 7 world leaders say they won't recognize results of a referendum for the Crimea region to split from Ukraine and join Russia. A statement from the seven nations released from the White House on Wednesday calls on Russia "to cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law." It says the referendum scheduled for this weekend "would have no legal effect" and the process is deeply flawed. The leaders said they would take further action, individually and collectively, if Russia tries to annex Crimea. The statement was from the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States, along with the European Council and the European Commission.

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Official: Obama to push for more overtime pay

WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says President Barack Obama will direct the Labor Department to strengthen overtime pay protections for millions of workers. The directive is meant to help salaried workers, such as fast-food shift supervisors or convenience store managers, who may be expected to work more than 40 hours a week without receiving overtime pay. For example, the Labor Department could raise the pay threshold for workers covered by overtime rules. Currently, salaried workers who make more than $455 per week are exempt from overtime. It's the latest move in Obama's self-described "year of action," a series of economy-focused executive decisions that don't require congressional approval. The White House official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the directive on the record before the president's announcement, expected Thursday.

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White House promotes economic issues facing women

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is launching a campaign to promote economic issues facing women, a key voting bloc in this year's midterm election. President Barack Obama is hosting at least 10 Democratic female lawmakers at the White House Wednesday as his Council of Economic Advisers is issuing a report decrying a gender wage gap. It says full-time working women continue to earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workforce, despite making gains in higher education and inroads into traditionally male-dominated occupations. The White House says the economic issues facing women and families will be addressed at a Working Families Summit the president will host on June 23 at Washington's Omni Shoreham hotel. The summit was announced as part of Obama's State of the Union address in January.

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Dad's murder trial underway in death of NJ girl, 2

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — Opening statements are underway at the murder trial of a New Jersey man charged with tossing his 2-year-old daughter into a creek while she was still strapped in her car seat. Arthur Morgan of Eatontown is accused of weighing down the seat with a tire-changing jack so it would sink. He's charged with killing his daughter, Tierra Morgan-Glover, in November 2011. Her body was found in a creek inside a Jersey Shore park after he failed to return the girl to her mother following a trip to see a movie. An autopsy determined that the child was alive when she hit the water. Morgan fled to California following the child's death. He was found by a fugitive recovery task force.

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New Jersey judge blocks dad from delivery room

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Women in New Jersey can block a baby's father from the delivery room. A state judge, citing a woman's right to privacy, ruled that mothers can decide who will be with them when giving birth. In an opinion released Monday, the judge cited privacy rights outlined in two federal abortion cases. The case was argued over the telephone last year in Passaic County while Rebecca DeLuccia went into labor and delivered a girl. Her estranged fiance, Steven Plotnick, wanted access to the baby at birth. Plotnick's attorney, Laura Nunnink, tells The Star-Ledger of Newark it was important to her client to bond with the baby. DeLuccia's lawyer, Joanna Brick, says DeLuccia allowed Plotnick to visit, and his lawyer says he saw the child.

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INTERNATIONAL
Searching for a plane, searching for a cause

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities are defending their handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777, even as they acknowledge they're unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared on a flight from Malaysia to Beijing. Malaysia's defense minister describes the multinational search as an unprecedented and complicated effort. India has been asked to join the search. Malaysian authorities have said the plane may have turned back from its last known position, possibly taking it as far as 250 miles from its last known coordinates.

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Cricket bat, toilet door in court

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A forensic analyst has demonstrated in court today how Oscar Pistorius may have bashed a bathroom door to get to the girlfriend he had just fatally shot. The analyst knelt in the South African courtroom and swung a cricket bat at the toilet door, which had been set up in court for the demonstration. The police analyst testified that he believes the double-amputee track star was on his stumps when he used his bat on the door. But on cross-examination, the defense instead insisted that Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic legs when he hit the door. Defense lawyers said the marks from the bat on the door were lower because Pistorius swung with his back bent. Whether or not he had his prosthetic legs on could be an important detail because it could match parts of Pistorius' story. He has said he accidentally shot Reeva Steenkamp, thinking he was firing at an intruder.

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Final Sale Of World Cup Tickets Starts

(Sao Paulo)  --  Time to buy 2014 World Cup tickets is running out.  The final phase of sales starts today on a first-come, first-serve basis.  FIFA says nearly 350-thousand tickets will be available online until April 1st.  The opening match, two semi-finals and the final are sold out.  Soccer fans from more than 200 countries have already purchased tickets for the event in Brazil. 

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

San Antonio 104, Chicago 96

NHL

Dallas 3, St. Louis 2 (OT)

MLB

NY Mets 9, St. Louis 8
Colorado 13, Chicago Cubs 0
Chicago White Sox 7, Texas 6

 

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Chicago at Colorado 8:30 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis vs. NY Mets
Chicago White Sox  vs. San Francisco Giants
Chicago Cubs vs. Seattle Mariners

-------------------------------------------

Drive One 4UR School This Saturday

This Saturday March 15, 2014 is the Drive One 4UR School athletic fundraiser at Ford Square in Mt. Vernon from 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. All you need to do is show up at Ford Square, fill out the Drive One 4UR School form and test drive a car. For each person that test drives a car, Mt. Vernon Athletics receives $20.00.This is a great fundraiser for MVTHS Athletics and all it will cost you is about 15 minutes of your time.

-------------------------------------------

Cards' Taveras Unlikely To Break Camp With Club

(Jupiter, FL)  --  Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras is unlikely to make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training.  Taveras had ankle surgery last season and is dealing with a tight hamstring in the same leg.  Manager Mike Matheny says it will be tough to bring him north if he isn't healthy.

------------------------------

Rams Lose Saffold On First Day Of Free Agency

(Alameda, CA)  --  The Rams are parting ways with offensive lineman Rodger Saffold.  The free agent agreed to a five-year deal worth 42.5-million-dollars with the Oakland Raiders yesterday, the first of free agency.  Saffold played all four of his NFL seasons with St. Louis.

---------------------------

Rams Cut Ties With Finnegan

(Earth City, MO)  --  The Rams made it official yesterday, cutting veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan.  Reports surfaced last week that the move would take place.  The move helps the Rams save around four-million-dollars in salary cap space.  Free agents are now allowed to sign with any team.

--------------------------------

NFL Teams Make Big Cuts

(Undated)  --  NFL teams aren't just signing free agents, but are cutting some of their own as well.  Among the big names being released are the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware and the Bears' Julius Peppers.  The Texans also parted ways with tight end Owen Daniels.  It's expected that Dallas will release wide receiver Miles Austin today while the Buccaneers are expected to part ways with Darrelle Revis.

--------------------------------

Report: Phil Jackson Agrees To Be Knicks President

(New York, NY)  --  The New York Knicks are closing in on re-uniting with Phil Jackson.  The "New York Post" is reporting Jackson and the organization have agreed in principle to him overseeing the team's basketball operations under the title of president.  Jackson will make a reported 15-million-dollars per year, making him the highest paid executive in NBA history.

-----------------------------------

News For Mar. 11, 2014

LOCAL
ISP District 19 Announces February Activity and Enforcement

Carmi, IL – Illinois State Police District 19 Interim Commander, Lieutenant Cory Ristvedt, announced today activity and enforcement figures for the month of February.  Troopers in District 19, which includes Wabash, Edwards, Wayne, White, Hamilton, Saline, and Gallatin Counties, answered 244 calls for service and initiated 1,274 incidents in the field during the month.  In addition, enforcement figures totaled 408 citations and 966 written warnings, including 155 speeding citations, 5 DUIs, 76 seatbelt citations, 4 child restraint citations, 230 written warnings for speeding, and 17 criminal arrests. Troopers also assisted 68 motorists, conducted 307 Motor Carrier Inspections, and investigated 26 traffic crashes.  There were no fatal traffic crashes investigated by District 19 during February. During the month, 246 citations and 317 written warnings were issued for “Fatal Four” violations.  These violations are most associated with fatal traffic crashes and include Speeding, DUI, Failure to Wear a Seatbelt, and Distracted Driving.

--------------------------------------------------------

Former Inmates File Suit Over Strip Searches

(St. Clair County, IL) -- A federal lawsuit is being filed by two former inmates against St. Clair County involving strip searches. Teresa Hale and Leticia Jackson who are both from Belleville allege they were humiliated during strip searches conducted at the St. Clair County Jail. They are seeking over 350-thousand dollars in their suit which claims corrections officers violated state law and their Constitutional rights in the searches. The two had served weekend sentences behind bars back in 2012 for driving under the influence.

--------------------------------

Water Park Coming To Carbondale

(Carbondale, IL)  --  A super splash water park could be coming to Carbondale.  City officials unveiled the design yesterday, which shows several water slides, a lazy river, and a full competition pool.  Kids could enjoy spray jets and a leisure pool.  The park is still in its developmental stages and right now, the city is looking to raise about 900-thousand dollars

--------------------------------

Early Voting Wraps Up Saturday

(Undated)  --  The primary is just one week away.  Voters can beat the lines on March 18th by casting a ballot early.  They can do that at their county clerk's offices.  Early voting ends this Saturday.   

-------------------------------

Illinois village's board continues shuffle

WASHINGTON PARK, Ill. (AP) — A woman appointed to the Washington Park Village Board as the replacement for her husband after he was convicted of a felony has now been removed from the panel. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Washington Park's Board of Trustees removed Rosonda Suggs without explanation on Monday and replaced her by Allen Ray Wiggens. Rosanda Suggs was appointed in January to replace her husband Darron Suggs. He resigned in November after pleading guilty to federal health care fraud. He awaits sentencing. Telephone calls by The Associated Press to the Suggs' home on Monday seeking comment went unanswered.

--------------------------------

Authorities probe man's drowning in Du Quoin Lake

DU QUOIN, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a man drowned and a woman was hospitalized after their boat capsized on a lake in the southern Illinois city of Du Quoin. Investigators say the accident happened shortly before 1:30 p.m. Monday on Du Quoin City Lake in Perry County. The victims' identities haven't yet been released, and the surviving woman's medical status was not immediately clear Tuesday. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is assisting in the investigation.

----------------------------------------

MVTHS Board Meets Regarding New High School

Last night, a Special Mt. Vernon Township High School Board Meeting was held to review design changes made to the upcoming new high school. No design changes were made during the meeting, but renderings of previous design changes were shown to the board and were approved. Action items for the evening included accepting bids for the Ceramic Tile, Earthwork and Asphalt. The Earthwork bid was awarded to Moniger Excavating for $1,466,850. The Ceramic Tile bid was awarded to TSI Commercial Floor Covering for $30,540 and the asphalt bid was awarded to Rooter’s Asphalt for $1,067,990. The other major topic of conversation was the schedule for the remainder of the design portion of the project.  The architects and construction managing company have said they are on schedule and with no delays, hope to have the project to bid in late July early August if possible.

-----------------------------------------------

STATE
Data Breach On Concealed Carry System

(Chicago, IL)  --  Some of the first concealed carry applicants may have had their personal information compromised.  ABC-TV in Chicago reports a computer glitch gave applicants the ability to see other people's personal information.  It happened back in January, on the first day the concealed carry system went live.  State Police say the problem was fixed immediately and there's no evidence that anyone's information was stolen.  Still, they sent a letter to the applicants informing them of the situation last week. 

-----------------------------

AFSCME Wants Back Pay For Workers

(Springfield, IL)  --  AFSCME leaders say lawmakers need to make room in the budget to pay their tab to union workers.  The state owes 112-million dollars in back pay to about 24-thousand union workers who didn't get their guaranteed pay raises back in 2011.  Governor Pat Quinn had refused to pay the raises, claiming lawmakers didn't put the extra cash in the budget.  A judge ruled Quinn violated the union contract when he didn't honor the raises and order him to pay up.  The General Assembly still hasn't approved the payment.

--------------------------------------  

Ill. attorney general collects nearly $1 billion

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has announced her office collected nearly $1 billion in revenue last year. Officials say that's a similar amount to yearly revenues brought in since Madigan took office. The money came through a combination of litigation and collection efforts. About one-third of the money was collected through litigation for damages to state property, child support, unpaid educational loans, fines and penalties. Other significant collections came through tobacco litigation and estate tax revenues. About $100 million is being paid into the Illinois pension systems following a federal settlement with JPMorgan Chase last year. The bank was found to have misled the state's pensions systems on investments. Madigan says her offices works to maximize revenue to support critical state programs and services.

------------------------------

Illinois fiscal reputation costs $80 million more

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A study contends that Illinois wears a "scarlet letter" when it borrows money — which has cost at least $80 million over a five-year period. The review by the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs estimated the state's "risk premium" in selling bonds to raise money. This cost is on top of additional interest charges paid because of Illinois' worst-in-the-nation credit rating. The study found that on bonds sold from 2005 to 2010, bond-buyers demanded the premium based only on the state's fiscal reputation. It notes the Prairie State's credit rating has fallen further since 2010. Authors of the study collected data on all state general obligation bonds sold during the period and calculated interest charges above the extra paid based on credit rating.

----------------------------------

Gov. Candidates Weigh In On Religious Beliefs Legislation

The Republican candidates for governor say they’re mostly against legislation to allow business to turn away gay customers based on the religious beliefs of the proprietor. Such a measure is percolating in several states, and was vetoed in Arizona last week. Bruce Rauner says a measure like that wouldn’t stand a chance if he were governor. “From what I’ve read about that Arizona bill, I would absolutely veto it,” he said. Treasurer Dan Rutherford also is unequivocal in being against such a law. State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) wants to make sure religious institutions are protected, but says it’s harder to justify discrimination by businesses. State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) says he’s for protecting religious freedom, but he would balance that vs. someone’s right not to face discrimination. “As governor of this state, I will work to protect religious freedoms, but also protect the interests of all Illinois citizens. There’s a balance there. It’s not always black and white, it’s not always hot and cold. It’s a balance that you have to do,” he said.

---------------------------------------------

Lt. Gov. Candidates Give Ideas On Their Roles If Elected

The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor have different ideas on what their role will be in a new administration. In the first Illinois election in which candidates for governor get to select their running mates, some of the potential No. 2s are promising to take on new responsibilities. State Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), who is running alongside State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), says she’ll focus on regulations on businesses. “He wants me to serve as the repealer,” Tracy said. “The bureaucracy and the red tape are hindering business growth and development.” State Sen. Bill Brady’s running mate, Maria Rodriguez, says she’ll represent the governor in the Chicago area – she was once mayor of Long Grove, in Lake County – along with advocating for the interests of small towns and small businesses. “It really gives us a chance to really identify the role, and tailor it to what’s needed in the state right now,” Rodriguez said. Steve Kim, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor running with State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, says his role will be as the head of a new office aimed at attracting companies to the state.  The state Constitution says the lieutenant governor can be assigned duties by the governor, though the main role of the office is to take over if something happens to the governor.

-------------------------------------------------

Illinois Divided Over Gun Issues

(Chicago, IL)  --  A new poll shows voters in Illinois are having mixed opinions when it comes to guns.  The Paul Simon Public Policy Poll released yesterday surveyed a thousand voters.  Fifty-three percent say they feel less safe since the concealed carry law was passed, while nearly 32 percent claim to feel safer.  Sixty-four percent of Chicagoans do not feel very safe.

------------------------------------------------

U.S. Rep Helps Vets Take On Affordable Care Act

U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) says he has found a way to help veterans and take a whack at the Affordable Care Act at the same time. He says his “Hire More Heroes” bill should get a vote on the House floor this week. “It's going to be a change to Obamacare, but it's also going to help small businesses,” said Davis, “because veterans who are getting their health care elsewhere shouldn't count toward an employer's limit when they are not taking part in their employer's health care.” Davis says the idea came from a leader of a Madison County veterans' group.  He says 8 million American veterans have health care through the Veterans' Administration, as anybody returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can have.

---------------------------------------------------------

NATIONAL
On Senate floor, Dems talk all night about climate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Yes, they're still at it. Some Democratic senators have been talking all night on the Senate floor about climate change and the need for action. The talkathon started last night around 6:30, and it hasn't stopped yet. And there's really no debate. Naysayers and Republicans have largely stayed away. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii says the debate shows that a growing number of senators are committed to working together on global warming even if no Republicans are among them.

------------------------------------

MT flooding could get worse

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities in Montana are warning that flooding could get worse on today because of more rain and snow expected. Swollen rivers and impassable roads have cut off hundreds of people in rural areas. Meanwhile, in neighboring Wyoming, National Guard troops have joined sand bagging efforts to protect the towns of Manderson and Greybull.

---------------------------------------

Court Squabble Over Bridgegate Documents

(Trenton, NJ)  --  The woman who's the focus of the George Washington Bridge scandal is due in court today.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's former aide Bridget Kelly will try to convince a judge she shouldn’t be forced to hand over private documents relating to Bridgegate.  Legislators are demanding Kelly hand over emails and text messages but she has so far refused, citing her Fifth Amendment rights.

------------------------------------

Abu Ghaith Jury Hears From Convicted London Shoe Bomber Terrorist

(New York, NY)  --  The Suleiman Abu Ghaith [[ SOO-lay-mahn ah-boo GAYTH ]] terror trial continues today in New York.  Abu Ghaith is on trial for conspiring to recruit Muslims to kill more Americans following the 9-11 attacks.  Yesterday, the jury heard from convicted London shoe bomb plotter Saajid Badat [[ sah-JEED bah-DOT ]] who testified on video.  Badat said he heard Abu Ghaith speak to al-Qaeda recruits while undergoing terror training in Afghanistan before 9-11. 

----------------------------------

FBI Posts Reward For Missing Mississippi Girl

(Madison County, MS)  --  There's a 20-thousand-dollar reward from the FBI for information on a missing two-year-old Mississippi girl.  Myra Lewis vanished from her home March 1st and extensive searches have thus far turned up no evidence as to her whereabouts.  Officials believe Myra is still alive and somewhere in the local area.

-------------------------------

Survey: Employers optimistic about hiring in second quarter

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The job outlook is looking up for the second quarter. ManpowerGroup's quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey of employers' intentions to increase or trim back their workforce found a net increase of 13 percent. The workforce solutions company says 19 percent of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed anticipate increasing staff levels. ManpowerGroup's Chris Layden says it's "the strongest second-quarter hiring intention since the second quarter of 2008." And Layden says expected staff reductions of four percent were the lowest in the survey's history. Layden says the survey found a positive outlook in all 13 industry sectors, especially engineering and technology. He says the survey found that "95 percent of employers were having difficulty finding engineers." According to Layden, the survey shows nationwide growth and "points to a little steadier job market."

---------------------------------------

Family friend accused in triple homicide

CANON CITY, Colo. (AP) — A 31-year-old man is under arrest in Canon City, Colo., after allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl and killing her mother, 9-year-old sister and 5-year-old brother. Police say Jaacob Vanwinkle was a family friend. He was arrested in the home in which the bodies were found. Vanwinkle appeared in court Monday and was denied bond. Police say the teen girl fled the home Sunday night and alerted police.

--------------------------------------------

Study: 2 percent of Americans have new hips, knees

UNDATED (AP) — Doctors say nearly 2 percent of Americans now have an artificial hip, knee or some other joint. Orthopedic surgeon Daniel Berry of the Mayo Clinic says, "They are remarkable numbers." Roughly 7 million people in the United States are living with a total hip or knee replacement. Berry led the first major study to estimate how prevalent those procedures have become. Results will be reported today at an American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conference in New Orleans.

------------------------------------------------

Senator: CIA improperly searched computer network

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA improperly searched a stand-alone computer network established for Congress as part of its investigation into allegations of CIA abuse in a Bush-era detention and interrogation program. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California says the matter has been referred to the Justice Department. She says the CIA's inspector general made the referral. In lengthy remarks on the Senate floor, Feinstein said the search in January raised grave concerns that constitutional rights were violated. Feinstein said the CIA searched the network this past January. At issue is whether the CIA violated an agreement made with the committee about monitoring the panel's use of CIA computers. The CIA provided the computers to congressional staffers in a secure room at its headquarters so that the committee could review millions of pages of top secret documents.

----------------------------------------------------

General's defense to try for plea deal in sex case

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Attorneys for an Army general charged with sexual assault will try renegotiate a plea deal with a new set of military officials. The judge in Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair's case sent the jury of generals back to their duty stations on Tuesday morning, indicating that the trial is not likely to resume soon. Judge Col. James Pohl made the offer for another try at a plea deal Monday after finding evidence that the case may have been improperly influenced by political concerns. The twist came with the Pentagon under heavy pressure from Congress and beyond to combat rape and other sex crimes in the military. Sinclair, 51, is accused of twice forcing a female captain to perform oral sex. He has admitted to an affair but denied assaulting the woman.

-----------------------------------------

Former Christie aides to judge: Quash subpoenas

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A key figure in a political payback scandal involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration has arrived in court in a bid to quash a subpoena she says carries the risk of self-incrimination. Fired Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly said nothing to reporters outside the courthouse in Trenton on Tuesday. Lawyers for Kelly and two-time campaign manager Bill Stepien will ask a judge not to force them to turn over text messages and other private communications to New Jersey legislators investigating the matter. Both say they risk self-incrimination. The subpoenas seek documents related to lane closures near the George Washington Bridge that created massive backups in nearby Fort Lee, apparently to punish the town's Democratic mayor. Stepien is not expected in court.

-------------------------------------------------

Dallas Seavey wins his second Iditarod dog race

NOME, Alaska (AP) — Dallas Seavey ran a blistering pace and took the lead just hours before the finish to win this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Seavey was the first musher under the famed burled arch in Nome. Minutes later, second place finisher Aliy (AL-ee) Zirkle finished amid cheers. He had to come from a three-hour deficient to overcome mushers Jeff King and Zirkle in the last 77 miles. He was third into the second-to-last checkpoint in White Mountain, where mushers are required to take an eight-hour rest. The 27-year-old Seavey also won the race in 2012. Zirkle also finished second in 2012 and 2013.

---------------------------

Obama hams it up for health care on Funny or Die

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is hamming it up online to promote his health care plan. Obama joked Tuesday with comedian Zach Galifianakis, including poking fun at the poorly reviewed "Hangover Part III" during an interview on thhe website Funny or Die. Galifianakis typically poses awkward questions to celebrity guests appearing on "Between Two Ferns," and Obama was no exception. After being asked how it felt to be "the last black president" and about the false notion that he was born in Kenya, the president pitched sign-ups for health care by the March 31 deadline. Obama's appearance is part of an effort to reach young Americans crucial to the program's success. Asked by Galifianakis whether he'd want a third term — which in any case is barred by the Constitution — Obama said that would be about as successful as the poorly reviewed third "Hangover" movie, in which Galifianakis starred.

-----------------------------------

Interpol shows image of 2 Iranians on missing jet

LYON, France (AP) — Interpol has released an image of two Iranians who were traveling with stolen passports on a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner. The image showed the two Iranian men boarding a plane at the same time. Interpol secretary general Ronald K. Noble said Tuesday the two men traveled to Malaysia on their Iranian passports, then apparently switched to the stolen Austrian and Italian documents. Noble said the recent information about the men made terrorism a less likely cause of the plane's disappearance, but that did not allay concerns about the ease of travel involving stolen passports. He said the passport birthdates indicated one was 19 and the other 29. The 19-year-old is believed to have planned to seek asylum in Germany.

-----------------------------

Ukraine's fugitive leader warns of civil war

MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine's fugitive president has accused his country's new government of fomenting a civil war and criticized the West for supporting it. Tuesday's statement from Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia last month after months of protests, was televised live on Russian state television and echoed Russia's rhetoric over Ukraine. Speaking in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych repeated the Russian claim that the new Ukrainian authorities are kowtowing to radical nationalists. He alleged that authorities could use military force against Russian-speaking eastern regions, pushing Ukraine toward a civil war. Yanukovych said the May 25 presidential vote is illegal and said he would call on the U.S. Congress to halt Washington's financial aid to what he called the "bandit regime" in Ukraine. He added he would soon return to Ukraine.

----------------------------------

Pistorius friend identified in gunplay testifies

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The friend of Oscar Pistorius who was identified by witnesses as being with the athlete on two occasions when a gun was shot in public is testifying at Pistorius' murder trial. Darren Fresco was asked by Pistorius to take the blame, a previous witness testified, when a gun the Olympic runner was handling fired under a table in a restaurant in early 2013, about a month before Pistorius shot dead girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Fresco was also present, another witness said, when Pistorius shot his gun out the sunroof of a car after an altercation with traffic police in 2012. Pistorius is on trial charged with murder for the shooting death of Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year. He also faces firearm charges for those two gun incidents.

-------------------------------
.
SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

Detroit 17, St. Louis 5
Chicago White Sox 6, Milwaukee Brewers 3
Chicago Cubs 3, San Francisco Giants 2

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

San Antonio at Chicago 7 p.m.

NHL

Dallas at St. Louis 7 p.m.

MLB

NY Mets vs. St. Louis
Colorado vs. Chicago Cubs


---------------------------------------------

NFL Free Agency Opens Today

(Undated)  --  NFL players will be signing on the dotted line today as the free agency period opens.  Teams were able to negotiate with impending free agents starting on Saturday morning.  Players can begin to officially sign contracts at 4:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon.

------------------------

Knicks Could Land Jackson

(New York, NY)  --  The New York Knicks are still awaiting an answer from Phil Jackson.  The 68-year-old is expected to accept a front office job with the team this week.  Jackson retired from coaching the L.A. Lakers after the 2010-11 season.  He played with the Knicks in the early 1970's.

-------------------------------------------


Drive One 4UR School This Saturday


This Saturday March 15, 2014 is the Drive One 4UR School athletic fundraiser at Ford Square in Mt. Vernon from 9:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m. All you need to do is show up at Ford Square, fill out the Drive One 4UR School form and test drive a car. For each person that test drives a car, Mt. Vernon Athletics receives $20.00.This is a great fundraiser for MVTHS Athletics and all it will cost you is about 15 minutes of your time.

---------------------------------------------------------------

News For Mar. 10, 2014

LOCAL
MVTHS BOE Meets This Evening

Mt. Vernon Township High School Board of Education will hold a special meeting this evening. The status of the new high school project will be discussed including the schematic design phase, design development phase, redesign renderings, proposal for interior and exterior finishes, proposed schedule of services, and approval of contractor contracts for ceramic, asphalt, and earthwork. There will also be a closed session for the purposes of the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity. and litigation, when an action against, affecting or on behalf of the particular public body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or when the public body finds that an action is probable or imminent, in which case the basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the closed meeting. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

------------------------------------------

4 guards injured during southern Ill. prison fight

PINCKNEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois prison is on lockdown after a weekend altercation left four guards with slight injuries. The Illinois Department of Corrections says the fracas at the medium-security Pinckneyville Correctional Center for men began about 10 a.m. Sunday when a guard asked an unruly inmate to step out of the meal line. That's when another inmate apparently punched the guard. After three other correctional officers responded, a third inmate joined in the altercation before guards used pepper spray to subdue the prisoners involved. Three of the guards were treated at a hospital, including one officer who sustained a broken nose. The fourth guard and the accused inmates were treated at the prison's health-care unit. Corrections officials say charges will be pursued. The lockdown restricts inmate movement and bars visitation.

-------------------------

Services set for former Carbondale police chief

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Services are set for the former longtime police chief in the southern Illinois city of Carbondale. Meredith Funeral Home says Ed Hogan of Carbondale was 91 when he died Thursday at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion. Hogan spent a quarter century with the St. Louis Police Department before moving in 1971 to Carbondale. That's where the Navy veteran of World War II served as police chief from the late 1970s until retiring in 1991. Visitation for Hogan will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Meredith Funeral Home. A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church of Carbondale. Burial will be at a later date in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery near St. Louis.

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Southwestern Ill. man accused of school threat

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois man is jailed on $500,000 bond after forcing a school's lockdown through a threat authorities say he called in from a tavern. Prosecutors in Madison County have charged 55-year-old Robert Dean Smith with making a false terroristic threat. Investigators say Smith made the alleged threat involving Granite City's Coolidge Middle School during a call last Thursday from a tavern to a mental-health service. Authorities say they traced the questioned call to the bar and arrested the unarmed Smith there. Smith has no listed permanent address and could not be reached for comment Sunday. Online court records don't show whether he has an attorney.

-----------------------------

Volunteers Still Needed In Brookport

(Brookport, IL)  --  Volunteers are still needed with tornado clean-up in Brookport.  Community clean-up days are scheduled every Saturday this month.  Anyone interested in helping out can meet at the Brookport City Council Chambers from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

------------------------------------

Teachers' Union Calls Town Hall Meeting

(Granite City, IL)  --  A Metro East teachers' union is calling a town hall meeting.  The Granite City Federation of Teachers Local 743 is asking the community to attend the meeting tomorrow at 6:30 at St Gregory’s Hall.  Union officials allege the schools district mishandled its finances in 2013, spending more than five-million dollars over budget.

---------------------------------

Southern Ill. man convicted of man's fight death

MARION, Ill. (AP) — Sentencing is scheduled for next month for a man convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a southern Illinois fight last year that killed another man. Jurors in Williamson County found 38-year-old Danny Dunn guilty on Friday in connection with the death of 22-year-old Trevor Martin. Both men were from Creal Springs. Authorities say Dunn punched Martin last June, causing the victim to fall and hit his head on concrete. Martin died days later at a hospital. Dunn's attorneys had insisted Martin's death was an accident, claiming Dunn believed he was stopping a fight between Martin and another man. Dunn's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 18.

--------------------------------------

2 accused of DUI after crash with state police car

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State Police say two people are accused of drunken driving after a car rear-ended a trooper's cruiser during a southwestern Illinois traffic stop. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the three weren't seriously injured during the wreck that happened around 3:30 a.m. Saturday along Interstate 64 in East St. Louis. Trooper Calvin Dye says the officer was completing paperwork in his patrol car while 32-year-old Brent Daugherty of St. Louis was in the back seat after being pulled over for suspected drunken driving. That's when a sport utility vehicle driven by 28-year-old Vastie Jenkins of O'Fallon hit the trooper's car from behind. The officer's name wasn't released. Online court records don't show whether Daugherty or Jenkins have attorneys.

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Martial arts teacher gets 90 years for sex abuse

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A martial arts instructor from southwestern Illinois has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for sexually abusing three young students. The (Belleville) News-Democrat reports 20-year-old Christopher M. Horton of Highland was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge David Herndon. Horton pleaded guilty in October to five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child. Federal prosecutors say Horton recorded video of himself committing sex acts on students ages 6, 8 and 10. Horton taught martial arts to the victims at a Belleville studio. Police questioned Horton after someone discovered one of the videos and contacted law enforcement. Prosecutors say they recovered 57 video files from Horton's cell phone. He also was ordered to pay $3,250 restitution.

------------------------------------------

Jury Set In Retrial Of Jackson County Man

The jury is set in the retrial of a Jackson County man, accused in a May 2013 shooting at a Benton business. The Franklin County State's Attorney's Office says jurors were finalized Friday in the murder trial of Donald Lee, 40, of Elkville. Opening arguments are expected to begin Monday morning. Lee faces first degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon charges in the death of Brittany Andrews, 23, of Bonnie. Andrews was found shot to death in the parking lot of Vickee's Cards and Gifts in Benton on May 17. A Franklin County Judge granted Lee's motion for a mistrial last month after an interrogation tape including a comment about Lee being a convicted felon was played in open court. That evidence was not supposed to be included in the trial.

---------------------------------------

U.S. 51 Expansion Public Hearings To Take Place

Some area property owners received letters last week from the Illinois Department of Transportation, indicating their property is within the right-of-way limits of one of the remaining route alternatives for the expansion of U.S. Highway 51 to a four-lane highway. A series of public hearings will be held to present the remaining route alternatives from the Christian/Shelby County line to the village of Irvington in Washington County. While interactive maps on the U.S. 51 project website show multiple options in and around Sandoval and Junction Cities, one thing remains constant on the map, the path alongside the boiler house on the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center property in Centralia. The highway will continue along that path into Irvington. The public hearings will all be held between 4 and 7 p.m., with the first schedu8led for Wednesday, March 26, at the American Best Value Inn in Centralia.  The next hearing will be Thursday, March 27, at the Village Hall in Sandoval; next will be Tuesday, April 1, at the Civic Center in Patoka; Wednesday, April 2, at Mother of Dolors Parish Center in Vandalia; and Thursday, April 3, at the elementary school in Ramsey. These will be the last public hearings held before the preferred route for the expanded highway will be selected.

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STATE
3 lawyers hired to defend Rutherford in lawsuit


CHICAGO (AP) — The state will pay three attorneys up to $200 per hour to represent Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford in a lawsuit filed by a former employee. Edmund Michalowski accused Rutherford last month of sexually harassing him and forcing him to do campaign work on state time. Rutherford, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Illinois governor, has denied the claims. He's said the accusations have made his campaign more difficult. Documents from the attorney general's office say Robert Shuftan, Daniel Fahner and Bilal Zaheer have been appointed special assistant attorneys general. They'll be paid using taxpayer funds from the treasurer's office. Rutherford spent almost $27,000 in taxpayers' money on investigations into the allegations. He initially said the findings would be made public, but reversed course after the lawsuit was filed.

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Dillard Closing Gap On Rauner

(Springfield, IL)  --  Kirk Dillard's union endorsements seem to be paying off.  He's received 450-grand from AFSCME and two major teachers unions in the past three weeks.  On top of getting the extra cash, Dillard has seen a surge in voter support in his bid for governor.  The latest Chicago Tribune/WGN-Poll reveals 23-percent of likely GOP voters would back Dillard in the primary election, still behind Bruce Rauner though, who has 36-percent support.  But, Dillard leads the pack among homes that have at least one union member.

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Lawmakers say DCFS faces 'horrendous' challenges


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Two Democratic lawmakers involved in overseeing the troubled Illinois Department of Children and Family Services say the agency faces "horrendous" challenges in the year ahead. They include yet another search for a new child-welfare chief, anticipated budget cuts and election year politics. Officials fear that efforts to help the agency could suffer if a replacement is not quickly found for recently resigned Arthur Bishop. He was the fourth chief to head the agency in less than a year's time. A change in governor after November's election could also mean yet another leadership shift. State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, chaired a series of hearings last fall in response to a rash of problems at the agency. She says the leadership void puts any future reforms on hold.

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Illinois offers grants to boost school security

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Public schools, colleges and universities in Illinois have a few more days to apply for state grants to help pay for security improvements. Under the program, schools can get financial help for things such as installing reinforced doors, locks and shatter-proof glass. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is reminding schools that the deadline to apply is March 14. A total of $25 million will be awarded. Agency Director Jonathon Monken says security equipment is only one part of making a school safe. He says schools must also plan for emergencies, train their staff and carry out exercises.

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Illinois halts plan to require ATV permits

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials have put a hold on plans to require permits for most all-terrain vehicles. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises reports the Illinois Department of Natural Resources won't require off-highway vehicle owners to buy the permits until further notice. Lawmakers approved the new $15 fee for ATVs last year. It was set to take effect April 1. But legislators say they need more time to look at the law and possibly clear up confusion about who must buy the permits. IDNR Director Marc Miller says the delay is "a good faith effort" to make sure all rules are in place before vehicle owners have to buy a stamp. Money from the permits was tentatively slated to develop trails and parks for use by ATVs.

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Ill. medical marijuana law poses workplace dilemma

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) — Illinoisans hoping to make use of the state's fledgling medical marijuana law may risk their jobs if their employers opt to maintain or adopt zero-tolerance drug policies. The Rockford Register Star reports that the law that took effect in January protects patients from arrest or prosecution for using marijuana. But they may not have recourses if their employers fire them for violating on-the-job prohibitions on use of the drug. It's not immediately clear how many patients' jobs would be affected. But experts say it may be time for employers to revisit or tweak their drug policies to reflect the new law. As a Chicago lawyer specializing in labor issues, Nesheba Kittling says employees should research their work drug policies.

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NATIONAL
Holder: Heroin an 'urgent public health crisis'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder says first responders should carry with them drugs to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. In a new video message released by the Justice Department, Holder says the increase in heroin-related deaths is an "urgent public health crisis," and he says addiction to opiates and heroin is affecting Americans in all states and from "every background and walk of life."

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Security plans for Boston Marathon to be detailed

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) — Officials today will be outlining their plan for upgraded security at this year's Boston Marathon. Local, state and federal agencies, the Boston Athletic Association and leaders from the eight communities that make up the marathon route started working on a plan following last year's bombing attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260. This year, police are expecting about 36,000 runners and up to a million spectators.

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Survey: Uninsured rate drops; health law cited

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new survey says the rate of uninsured individuals kept dropping last month and it's now on track to reach the lowest levels since 2008, before President Barack Obama took office. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released today finds that 15.9 percent of Americans lack health insurance so far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent in the last three months of 2013. Gallup interviewed more than 28,000 adults, making the results highly accurate. The drop translates roughly to 3 million to 4 million uninsured people getting coverage. The Obama administration is citing sign-up numbers that are far higher, but those statistics also include previously insured people. Gallup says the timing of the decline coincides with the start of coverage under Obama's law.

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US plans to scan workers with secret clearances

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say they plan to set up a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that will tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances. The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade, according to officials and documents reviewed by The Associated Press. Intelligence officials have long wanted a computerized system that can continuously monitor employees to prevent cases similar to former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden, whose disclosures bared secretive U.S. surveillance operations. An administration review of the government's security clearance process due this month is expected to support continuous monitoring as part of comprehensive changes.

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Defense set to grill accuser in Army sex case

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Defense lawyers for an Amy general facing sexual assault charges say they plan to press his primary accuser on inconsistencies in her story. Attorneys for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair will get their chance Monday to cross-examine the female captain at the center of the closely-watched case. The woman testified Friday that toward the end of their three year affair Sinclair twice ended arguments by unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried. The defense says they'll show the woman is lying by presenting a trove of emails and text messages she exchanged with the general, many of them sexually explicit. Sinclair is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever tried for sexual assault. He faces life in prison if found guilty.

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Magnitude 6.9 Quake Reported Off California Coast

(Undated)  --  A strong earthquake shook up the Northern California coastline last night.  The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 6.9 quake was centered about 50 miles west of Eureka.  The USGS says there's a strong likelihood of a powerful aftershock in the next several days or possibly even another large quake.  There have been no reports of injuries or major damage. 

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Obama discusses Ukraine with Chinese leader

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) have agreed on the importance of upholding Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The White House says the two leaders spoke Sunday evening. The White House says Obama and Xi have a shared interest in finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute between Ukraine and Russia and reducing tensions in the region. Russian military forces have taken control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. Lawmakers there plan to hold a referendum Sunday on whether to become part of Russia. China has frequently sided with Russia against the West. But Beijing also frequently argues on behalf of maintaining territorial sovereignty.

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Conn. shooter's dad: 'You can't get any more evil'

NEW YORK (AP) — The father of Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza says in his first public comments about the massacre that what his son did couldn't "get any more evil" and he wishes his son hadn't been born. Peter Lanza also tells The New Yorker magazine that he believes his son would have killed him if he had the chance. He said he hadn't seen his son in two years when Adam killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012. Adam killed himself as police arrived. He also fatally shot his mother, Nancy, in their Newtown home before going to the school. Peter and Nancy Lanza were divorced. Peter Lanza said he also believed his son could have been schizophrenic.

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Injured Florida skydiver says he'll jump again

MULBERRY, Fla. (AP) — A skydiver injured when a small plane crashed into him near Tampa, Fla., says he'll jump again as soon as he feels safe. Forty-nine-year-old John Frost told ABC's "Good Morning America" in an interview that aired Monday that he's sore and has some bruises, but no broken bones. On Saturday, his parachute got entangled with an aircraft piloted by 87-year-old Shannon L. Trembely. Officials say Trembely was doing takeoff and landing maneuvers in his Cessna near the South Lakeland Airport when he encountered Frost on his third landing pass. They were about 75 feet above the ground. Trembley's Cessna nose-dived into the ground. Frost was also tossed to the ground. Both men were taken to the hospital but escaped serious injury. The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating.

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Court won't hear dispute over 'boobies' bracelets

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Pennsylvania school district that wants to prevent students from wearing "I (heart) Boobies!" bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness among young people. The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling striking down a ban on the bracelets that was put in place by the Easton Area School District, which says the breast-cancer awareness bracelets are lewd in their use of sexual innuendo. The lower court sided with two students who sued the district in 2010 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. Easton is one of several school districts around the country to ban the bracelets, which are distributed by the nonprofit Keep A Breast Foundation of Carlsbad, Calif.

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INTERNATIONAL
Oil found in ocean didn't come from missing plane

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Another possible clue to the disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner has turned out to be unconnected to the plane. Malaysian maritime officials had found some oil slicks in the South China Sea, and they sent a sample to a lab to see if the oil came from the missing plane. They say tests showed that the oil was not from an aircraft. Earlier, searchers investigated a yellow object that looked like a life raft. It turned out to be trash covered with moss that was floating in the ocean. Meanwhile, authorities in Thailand have been questioning the owners of a travel agency that sold one-way tickets to two men who are now known to have been traveling on the flight using stolen passports. Interpol says it's trying to determine their identities. The police agency says it has a database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents -- but that last year, more than a billion times, travelers boarded planes without their passports being checked against the database. The plane was on a flight to Beijing when it disappeared over the weekend with 239 people on board.

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Khodorkovsky backs Ukraine's new leaders

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The man who was once Russia's most famous prisoner says Russia is ruining its longstanding friendship with Ukraine by its aggressive and pro-separatist actions in Crimea. Mikhail Khodorkovsky made the remarks in a lecture to students at a Kiev institute of higher learning on Monday. "We are losing Ukrainian-Russian friendship" because of Russian actions, Khodorkovsky said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to have any dealings with the new Ukrainian leaders who replaced fugitive pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych. But Khodorkovsky expressed support for them, saying they came to power thanks to "a revolution of justice." Khodorkovsky, once Russia's wealthiest man, was pardoned last December by Putin. Many believe he was convicted of tax violations and other crimes and sent to prison on trumped-up charges.

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Contaminated water still troubles Japan nuke plant

OKUMA, Japan (AP) — The radioactive water that has accumulated at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant remains the biggest problem hampering the cleanup process three years after the disaster. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has stabilized substantially since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami destroyed its power and cooling system, triggering multiple meltdowns. Massive amounts of water are being used to cool the plant's nuclear material, but the contaminated water has leaked repeatedly from storage tanks. Plant chief Akira Ono said Monday that improving water management is crucial to the decontamination of the area so evacuees can return to their homes. The disaster is the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986. More than 100,000 people have not returned home due to fear of radiation from the plant.

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Japan won't change 1993 apology on 'comfort women'

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says it won't change its 1993 apology over a system of forced prostitution for its military during World War II, but will continue to re-examine a 20-year-old study on which it was based. Japan has come under fire from Asian neighbors for setting up a team to review history and verify the accuracy of interviews with women who said they worked as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during the war. Historians say tens of thousands of women served as sex slaves, called "comfort women" in Japan. Japanese nationalists have long insisted that women in wartime brothels were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the review of history will continue, but the government has no plan to change its official apology.

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS


MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Illinois 66, No. 24 Iowa 63
Indiana St. 62, S. Illinois 59

WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Bradley 86, S. Illinois 68

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

St. Louis 2, Colorado 1

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 95, Miami 88 (OT)

NHL

Chicago 2, Buffalo 1
St. Louis 3, Minnesota 2 (St. Louis wins Shootout 2-0 in 2 OT)

MLB

Washington 11, St. Louis 1

Chicago Cubs 10, Milwaukee (ss) 8
Chicago White Sox 2, Oakland 2

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

MLB

Detroit vs. St. Louis
Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco
Chicago White Sox vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Bears agree to 1-year deals with Collins, Palmer

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have agreed to one-year contracts with defensive tackle Nate Collins and backup quarterback Jordan Palmer. Collins appeared in five games last season and made two starts before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He had a career-high 13 tackles. Collins is entering his fifth season in the NFL and third with the Bears. Palmer signed with Chicago in 2013 and spent the last nine weeks on the active roster, but he did not play in a regular-season game. He made two preseason appearances. The Bears announced the moves Sunday night.

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Cardinals' Mendenhall To Retire

(Undated)  --  Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall has had enough.  The 26-year-old says he's retiring after six NFL seasons, claiming he's tired of the lifestyle.  Mendenhall ran for 687 yards and eight touchdowns last year for Arizona after spending his first five seasons with the Steelers.

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News For Mar. 7, 2014

LOCAL
Victim who fought for concealed carry gets permit

ANNA, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois woman who fought the state's ban on carrying concealed weapons after she was attacked now has her permit to have a handgun in public. Mary Shepard tells WSIL-TV she was joyous this week when she trudged to her mailbox through ice and snow and found the mailing from the Illinois State Police. Shepard became a gun-rights activist after she was severely beaten by an intruder in 2009 while working at her church in Anna, in southern Illinois. She argues that had she not been barred from carrying a gun, she could have thwarted the attack. Shepard sued to have the state's ban thrown out, and her efforts contributed to the concealed carry law passed last July. The Illinois ban was the last in the nation.

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Education Department looking into Swansea bullying

SWANSEA, Ill. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Division is investigating allegations of racially motivated bullying at a southern Illinois school. Wolf Branch School District 113 Superintendent Scott Harres confirmed Premissa Acoff filed a discrimination complaint against the school district in the fall. Harres says the district received the complaint, responded to it and later answered questions asked by the Education Department. Premissa Acoff and her husband, Dwayne Acoff, say their son, who is black, was the target of racial slurs, two physical altercations and cyber bullying by white classmates at Wolf Branch Middle School. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Harres says as soon as the bullying was brought to the attention of officials, it was dealt with. Premissa Acoff says bullies have stopped targeting her son for the most part.

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Man Arrested For Threats Against School

(Granite City, IL)  --  A man is behind bars for allegedly making a threat against a Metro East school.  Police arrested the 55-year-old suspect Thursday in a Granite City bar.  They say he made the threat against Coolidge Middle School through a mental health service.  Students at Coolidge and the nearby Granite City High School were placed on lockdown while police investigated the threat.  The suspect's name hasn’t been released.

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Last public hearing set over ancient Ill. site

CAHOKIA, Ill. (AP) — A group is closing out its public comment period on a push to get an ancient southwestern Illinois historical site designated as a national park. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the Heartlands Conservancy will hold its last public hearing on March 19 at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. Those behind the push believe that by seeking national recognition, Cahokia Mounds could bring additional regional tourism, jobs and money. The conservancy has been working for more than a year with Native American tribes, government agencies and nonprofits on a feasibility study. Cahokia is believed to have been inhabited from 700 to 1400 A.D., and it was among the most complex societies of prehistoric North America. The 2,200-acre property is designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

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Former Air Force Official Sentenced For Receiving Gratuities From Defense Contractor

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today that Dennis Charles Toenjes, Sr., 66, was sentenced on the charge of receiving gratuities in connection with his former role as an official with the United States Air Force. Toenjes had previously pled guilty to the charge. Toenjes was sentenced to serve three years of probation, with the first six months to be in home confinement. The district court also ordered Toenjes to pay a fine of $500.00 and pay a special assessment of $100.00. Evidence revealed in court records shows that on February 3, 2009, Toenjes received and accepted gratuities from Stephen Keith Sweet, an owner of an asbestos abatement company which performed work on Scott Air Force Base. Sweet would not have given such gratuities to Toenjes but for his position as a contracting official with the United States Air Force. Gratuities included Sweet paying for Toenjes’ car repairs and for his home heating and cooling repairs. All payments made by Sweet to Toenjes totaled $9,382.01. Sweet is serving an 18-month sentence of imprisonment for tax fraud and paying gratuities to a government official. The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations and the United States Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations.

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Walnut Hill Woman Sentenced To Jail On Meth Charge

A 25-year-old Walnut Hill woman pleaded guilty Thursday in Marion County Court to an amended charge of aggravated manufacture of methamphetamine. Casey Horn was sentenced to 120 days in jail with credit for 120 days served and ordered to complete 5 years TASC probation as part of the plea agreement. She was also ordered to pay more than $1,300 in fines and fees. Horn was initially charged aggravated manufacture of meth with a child under the age of 15 present – a Class X Felony -- as well as a Class 2 Felony charge for possession of less than 15 grams of meth precursors, which was dismissed per the plea agreement. She was arrested in October when sheriff’s deputies were searching a Centralia home and discovered remnants of a meth lab. Horn was found sleeping in a car outside the home, and meth was found inside the car as well. Two others were arrested at the time. 43-year-old Christy Wooters is awaiting trial on her charges and 42-year-old David Hopper has already been sentenced on a meth possession charge.

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STATE
2 more counties to issue gay-marriage licenses

CHICAGO (AP) — Two more counties say they will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples before the state's new gay marriage law takes effect on June 1. St. Clair County Clerk Tom Holbrook and Cass County Clerk Michael Kirchner say they will start accepting applications immediately. That's after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan advised that counties don't have to wait until June. Madigan's guidance was in response to a question about the scope of a federal court ruling that found Illinois' original ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Cook County and Champaign County have also started issuing licenses. Several county clerks say they will wait out of concern that issuing licenses before June 1 might open them up to lawsuits. Others are waiting for legal advice from their state's attorneys.

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Illinois transportation officials seek extra $47M

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Department of Transportation is asking lawmakers for another $47 million to cover the costs of the especially harsh winter. Tony Small is the agency's director of finance and administration. He told a House committee Wednesday that this winter has "impacted IDOT operations tremendously." The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the extra costs include overtime, additional road salt and fuel, as well as the hiring of temporary workers. Small said the agency will use 1 million tons of salt this winter, more than the previous two winters combined. The old record was 840,000 tons. The House Public Safety Appropriations Committee made no immediate decision Wednesday on the supplemental spending request.

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Report: fewer Illinois kids lack health insurance

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A new report shows fewer Illinois children are without health insurance, but the number of cases of child abuse is climbing. The annual report released Thursday comes from a non-partisan organization advocating for policies concerning children called Voices For Illinois Children. The report shows the percentage of children without health insurance fell from 6 percent to 3 percent since 2008. It also found Illinois has "significantly narrowed" racial and ethnic disparities in children's health insurance coverage. But cases of child abuse and neglect have risen 13 percent since 2006. Some of the largest increases were in DuPage, Kane, Macon, Vermillion and Will counties.

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Dillard Campaign Gets Boost From Outside Funding

(Chicago, IL) -- An outside Republican group is jumping into the GOP race for governor in Illinois and getting behind Kirk Dillard. The Republican Fund for Progress and Jobs, formed by Steve Shearer, has launched a media buy for Dillard worth 700-thousand-dollars so far. Shearer's group is being funded by union groups who oppose candidate Bruce Rauner's anti-union stance. Shearer is the former chief of staff for Congressman Aaron Schock, who considered a run for governor last year but decided against it.

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Illinois universities warn of perils if budget cut

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois' public universities are warning of serious perils if the state's temporary income tax increase is allowed to expire as scheduled in January. Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard says institutions of higher education are anticipating a 30 percent decrease in funding next year because of an expected $1.5 billion reduction in state revenues. Poshard told a Senate appropriations committee Thursday that budget cuts would mean larger class sizes, having more classes taught by adjunct professors instead of tenured faculty and an increase in tuition. Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas says the state's backlog of bills has already created budget headaches for his institution. Both presidents say increasing the state's minimum wage as Gov. Pat Quinn wants could heighten budget problems, requiring millions more to pay their student workforces.

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IDES Reports Drop In Unemployment

The Illinois Department of Employment Security says the state's unemployment rate was 8.7 percent in January, down from the previous month's revised rate of 8.9 percent.  The agency said Thursday that the state lost 27,600 jobs from December to January.  That was a decrease of 12,500 jobs in the Trade, Transportation and Utilities sector, 5,100 in Professional & Business Services and 4,200 in Leisure & Hospitality.  Greg Rivara of the IDES tries to explain these seemingly irreconcilable figures.  “It does happen occasionally.  It’s not very common, but the reason that it happens is the job numbers come from a survey from employers, and the employment numbers come from a survey from workers.  Sometimes they move in opposite directions,” he said.  Officials blame record-setting snow and cold for restricting construction growth.  The retail sector was hurt by the end of holiday-driven sales.  The falling unemployment rate and job losses seem to conflict.  The agency says that's possible because employment figures come from individuals and job numbers come from employers.  There was an increase of 2,900 in the Construction sector.  Illinois' unemployment rate remains well above the national average of 6.6 percent.  January data is delayed a month and issued in March because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics requires states to revise monthly employment and labor force data.

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Jake Owen And Boston To Perform At 2014 Illinois State Fair


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Illinois State Fair has filled two open dates in its 2014 Grandstand entertainment line-up, announcing the booking today of country singer Jake Owen and classic rock band Boston. Owen, the 2012 American Country Awards "Breakthrough Artist of the Year," already has nine Top 20 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart to his credit, including the number one smash hits "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "Alone with You." He will perform Saturday, Aug. 16, with Parmalee and The Cadillac Three. Ticket prices range from $15 for a Tier 3 Grandstand seat to $35 for a VIPit track ticket in front of the stage. Boston will headline a classic rock show Tuesday, Aug. 12. The supergroup, which has sold more than 31 million albums, released a string of hits in the late 70s and early 80s that remains a staple of classic rock radio today, including "More Than A Feeling," "Peace of Mind," "Long Time," "Don't Look Back" and "Amanda." Joining Boston on the "triple bill" will be the Canadian rock group April Wine, which has released more than 20 albums and performed together for more than 40 years, and Sweet, a British glam band best known for songs such as "Ballroom Blitz" and "Little Willy." Ticket prices for the concert range from $17 to $37. The fair also announced country rapper Colt Ford will open the Florida Georgia Line concert Sunday, Aug. 10. Ford's most recent studio album, "Declaration of Independence," reached number one on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and produced his biggest hit date, "Back," a duet with Jake Owen. Tickets are priced from $30 to $55. Tickets will go on sale Saturday, April 12, at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster. The Grandstand box office on the fairgrounds will open for walk-up sales beginning Monday, June 9, at 8 a.m. For more information, visit the Illinois State Fair website at http://www.illiniosstatefair.info/ or call (217) 782-1979. The 2014 Illinois State Fair will be held Aug. 7 - 17.

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Ill. lottery game fund multiple sclerosis research

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Proceeds from the newest Illinois Lottery game will be used to fund research into multiple sclerosis. Lottery officials announced the new MS Project game on Thursday. They say the tickets cost $2 and have cash instant prizes ranging from $2 to $20,000. The officials say the game could generate more than $1 million this year to support research programs. Michael Jones is director of the Illinois Lottery. He says if someone buys an MS Project instant ticket, they're helping people who have this "devastating disease." The Legislature requires the lottery to fund so-called "special causes." Money from the MS Project game goes to the National MS Society, which awards grants to Illinois organizations conducting research.

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'Poetry Out Loud' state contest set for capital

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Sixteen high school students from around Illinois will compete for the state championship in an annual poetry performance contest. The final round of "Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest" will be March 14 in Springfield. It is sponsored by the Illinois Arts Council. Beginning with 6,800 students from 62 high schools, the contest is designed to encourage teenagers to learn great poetry through memorization and performance. The state champ will win $200 and an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in April for the national contest. The winner's school will get $500 to buy poetry books. The runner-up will receive $100 with $200 going to the contestant's school library. At the national round, students will compete for $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends.

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Spring Forward Saturday Night

(Undated)  --  Daylight Saving Time is upon us.  Illinois residents will need to spring forward early Sunday morning night.  That means you should set your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed. 

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NATIONAL
February employment data anticipated


WASHINGTON (AP) — After a couple months of winter doldrums, economists are predicting an upturn in employment data for February. Economists surveyed by FactSet say they believe February saw the creation of 145,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.6 percent.


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AP Exclusive: Man Said To Create Bitcoin Denies It


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto says he's not the person Newsweek says people should think he is. In an AP interview, Nakamoto says he is not the creator of bitcoin, the world's most popular digital currency. He says he had nothing to do with it and hadn't even heard of bitcoin until a few weeks ago. A Newsweek article named him as being behind the mercurial digital currency.


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Obama to promote education agenda at Miami school


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is going back to school. Obama will visit a Miami high school on today to talk to students about how education can help the country succeed economically. Michelle Obama is joining him on the trip to Coral Reef High School, where they will visit a classroom. Both the president and first lady have been working to encourage young people, particularly minorities, to pursue a college education. They tell their personal stories of how education helped them get where they are today. After the event, the White House says Obama will spend the weekend in Key Largo, in the Florida Keys.


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Kansas high court to rule in school funding suit


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is expected to release its decision today on whether the state's $3 billion annual expenditure for education is enough. Parents and four school districts sued Kansas in 2010, saying lawmakers reneged on promises to provide a certain level of funding for public schools and that the state's education system is being harmed. A district court ruled last year that Kansas needs to increase school funding by at least $440 million, but the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.


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Colorado launches campaign to stop stoned driving


DENVER (AP) — Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, is now trying to combat stoned driving in the state. The Colorado Department of Transportation has come out with a $1 million ad campaign called "Drive High, Get a DUI," which reminds drivers that pot should be treated like alcohol. One ad shows a spaced-out basketball player at the foul line in a playground, endlessly dribbling while his teammates wait in frustration. Another ad shows a middle-aged man who hangs a flat-screen TV and celebrates with some tortilla chips and salsa, only to see the TV crash to the floor and shatter. Bob Ticer, the chairman of Colorado's Interagency Task Force on Drunk Driving, says, "Enforcement is very important when it comes to impaired driving, but education is equally important." The Colorado State Patrol says since January, about one-half of all the impaired drivers stopped in the state had smoked marijuana.


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Cookbook returned to library after 21-plus years


LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Better late than never. More than two decades after a cookbook was checked out of a Kansas library, it's just now been returned. 6NewsLawrence reports a copy of "The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World's Most Healthful Foods" was placed in a Lawrence Public Library return box one night this week. The book had been checked out on Sept. 24, 1992. Library official Kristin Soper speculates the borrower misplaced the volume and came across it just recently. But the maximum late fee isn't going to break the bank. It's $4.50. "The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean" contains more than 300 recipes from around the world.


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US employers add 175K jobs despite harsh weather

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department says employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work but didn't find jobs. That's still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects. The figures were a welcome surprise after recent economic reports showed that harsh weather closed factories, lowered auto sales, and caused existing-home sales to plummet.

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US trade deficit rose to $39.1 billion in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in January as a rise in imports of oil and other foreign goods offset a solid increase in exports. The Commerce Department says the trade deficit increased to $39.1 billion, up 0.3 percent from December's revised $39 billion deficit. Exports climbed 0.6 percent to $192.8 billion, led by increased sales of U.S.-made machinery, aircraft and medical equipment. Imports also rose 0.6 percent to $231.6 billion, reflecting a 9 percent jump in imports of petroleum. Imports of food and machinery also rose. The trade deficit is the difference between imports and exports. A higher trade deficit acts as a drag on economic growth because it means U.S. companies are making less overseas then their foreign competitors are earning in U.S. sales.

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry jabs California, New York

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Rick Perry says Republican governors like him are leading the nation's economic recovery. The Texas leader says governors of Democratic-led states, in contrast, are promoting policies that produce higher taxes, out-of-control pensions and fewer jobs. Perry, a 2012 presidential contender, singled out New York and California as states where taxes are too high. He says that moving trucks don't even want to go to California. The Texas governor was the first speaker Friday morning at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Maryland. He is among several prospective presidential candidates at the three-day conference. Perry says the federal government should stick to national defense, foreign policy and delivering the mail — preferably on time and on Saturday.

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Opening statements begin in general's sex trial

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Opening statements have begun in the court-martial of a U.S. Army general accused of sexually assaulting a captain under his command. Prosecutors are making their case Friday against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, whom defense lawyers portray as the victim of an overzealous military justice system under political pressure to make an example of him. Prosecutors say they plan to ask the captain to take the stand later Friday. Sinclair pleaded guilty Thursday to three charges, including adultery and inappropriate relationships with three female officers. He maintains his innocence on five remaining counts stemming from accusations he twice forced the captain to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their affair. The defense hopes to narrow the focus to charges that rely solely on the accuser's testimony.

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Guzman lieutenant set to plead guilty in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) — A reputed lieutenant of recently captured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is scheduled to change his plea to guilty in a federal trafficking case in Chicago. Alfredo Vasquez Hernandez' change-of-plea hearing is set for later Friday. It comes less than two weeks after Guzman's arrest in Mexico. Mexican authorities extradited the 58-year-old Hernandez to Chicago in 2012. Government filings describe him as a talented logistics chief who organized cocaine shipments by train to Chicago for the Sinaloa cartel. His attorney, Paul Brayman, made the surprise announcement that Hernandez would change his plea at a pretrial hearing last week. His trial was to have started May 12. Brayman has said Hernandez' decision wasn't influenced by Guzman's capture. His decision also was not part of any plea deal with prosecutors.

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INTERNATIONAL
Russian and Crimean politicians discuss referendum


MOSCOW (AP) — The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament says if the citizens of Ukraine's Crimea region decide to join Russia in a referendum March 16, they'll be "an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation." The speaker met with the head of the Crimean parliament today to discuss the region's possible accession to Russia. Meanwhile, authorities say they received a threat that a terrorist attack was planned on a plane carrying Ukraine Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk home after he addressed European Union leaders in Brussels. Austria's Interior Ministry says SWAT teams boarded the Austrian Airlines flight after it landed in Vienna last night, and found nothing out of the ordinary.

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Guard: Pistorius told me 'everything is fine'

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A security guard working in Oscar Pistorius' gated community says the athlete told him everything was "fine" when he called to investigate neighbors' reports of gunshots on the night Reeva Steenkamp was killed. Pieter Baba, who drove with another guard and made a phone call to Pistorius from outside the Olympian's villa in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14 last year, testified Friday: "that's when Mr. Pistorius said to me everything is fine." Baba said Pistorius called him back but was crying, didn't say anything and the line "went off." Baba said he told a fellow security guard: "not everything was in order as Mr. Pistorius was telling me." Pistorius is charged with murder. He says he shot Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was an intruder.

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Schumacher still 'in the wake-up phase,' rep says

PARIS (AP) — Michael Schumacher's spokeswoman says he is "still in the wake-up phase" and that his medical situation is unchanged. More than two months after a ski crash left the Formula One champion hospitalized with severe head injuries, his agent Sabine Kehm said Friday that the process of pulling him from the medically induced coma is still taking place. Schumacher's family has released few details about his condition. Doctors operated to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were too deeply embedded. Neurologists not involved in his treatment say the chances of a full recovery for the 45-year-old are increasingly slim, given the coma's duration and the extent of his injuries.

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

Women’s College Basketball

Big Ten Tournament (First Round)

(23) Iowa 81, Illinois 62

Loyola-Chicago 67, Southern Illinois 56

NHL

Chicago 6, Columbus 1
St. Louis 2, Nashville 1

MLB

St. Louis at Minnesota (rainout)
Cleveland 1, Chicago Cubs 0
Kansas City 6, Chicago White Sox 6

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE

NBA

Memphis at Chicago 6 p.m.

Men’s College Basketball

Southern Illinois vs. Northern Iowa 8:35 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis (ss) at NY Mets
Miami at St. Louis (ss)
Chicago Cubs (ss) at LA Angels
Cleveland at Chicago Cubs (ss)
Chicago White Sox at Cincinnati (ss)

SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

NHL

St. Louis at Colorado 2 p.m.

Men’s College Basketball

Illinois at (24) Iowa 7:30 p.m.

Women’s College Basketball

Southern Illinois at Bradley

MLB

Washington (ss) at St. Louis
Arizona (ss) at Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati

SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE

NBA

Miami at Chicago 12 p.m.

NHL

Chicago at Buffalo 6:30 p.m.
St. Louis at Minnesota 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Washington
Milwaukee (ss) at Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox at Oakland

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Ballpark Village Set To Open In Three Weeks


(St. Louis, MO) -- Ballpark Village is three weeks from opening. The ribbon cutting ceremony on March 27th will be highlighted by a free concert by the band Third Eye Blind. The first phase of the 120-thousand square-foot project will be open to the public after the ceremony, with events and a series of grand openings for restaurants. Those will lead up to the Cardinals' season opener against the Reds on April 7th when the team's Museum and Hall of Fame will be opened.

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Cards, Carpenter Finalizing Contract Extension

(St. Louis, MO) -- The Cardinals are close to nailing down their third baseman for the rest of the decade. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted today that the team and Matt Carpenter are close to finalizing a six-year contract extension worth more than 50-million dollars. Carpenter was an All-Star last year and led the league in hits, runs, and doubles.

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Colts Sign Jackson

Indianapolis has signed former Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. A second-round draft pick in 2006, the 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker has started 48 consecutive games and has 891 career tackles, 11½ sacks, eight interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.

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Bulls' Noah Recruiting 'Melo

(Undated)  --  Bulls center Joakim Noah is apparently trying to recruit pending free agent Carmelo Anthony to join the Bulls.  ESPN reports Noah approached Anthony during All-Star weekend in New Orleans last month about signing with Chicago.  According to sources, Noah told Anthony he can go to Los Angeles, but if he really wants to win a ring and have a legacy about winning he should come to Chicago.

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News For Mar. 6, 2014

LOCAL
Jefferson County Man Pleads Not Guilty To Murder

A Jefferson County man is now set to go on trial in May on murder charges, after he pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three counts of first degree murder. According to Jefferson County State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman, 47-year-old Sammy Kehrer has been charged on three counts of first degree murder under different sections of the first degree statute. Kehrer is accused of killing 37-year-old Eric Houser, of Mt. Vernon, after a fight last month outside the Mt. Vernon Gun and Sportsman’s Club. Houser was a father and self-employed carpenter who had helped design several projects throughout the city.  A motion to reduce Kehrer’s $3 million bond was denied. He remains in the Jefferson County Jail and will appear in court next month for a pretrial on April 8th.  A jury trial has been set for May 27th. 

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Ohio school allows president to head to S Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Youngstown State University has voided the contract of its current president, allowing the man to become president of Southern Illinois University. In a statement late Wednesday, Youngstown State announced Randy Dunn will vacate the university's presidency on March 21 and will have 30 days to move out of the presidential residence. Dunn's contract with the Ohio university required him to give the school 180 days of notice he is leaving. Youngstown State Board Chairman Sudershan Garg says the agreement allows the university to concentrate on the future. SIU's board last month hired Dunn to succeed Glenn Poshard, who has said he plans to step down from SIU's helm at the end of June. Provost Ikram Khawaja will assume the Youngstown State presidency on an interim basis after Dunn's departure.

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Judge orders halt to Marion range's rifle practice

MARION, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois judge has ordered a gun range to halt target shooting with rifles for now in the wake of a woman being injured by a suspected stray bullet. WSIL-TV  reports that a Williamson County judge's injunction Tuesday involving the Tombstone Gun Range and Training Center near Marion remains in effect until a court hearing next month. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 318 pressed for court intervention after investigators say a round fired at the range Feb. 19 perhaps was the one that hit a woman's face outside the union's training site a half mile away. The woman was treated at a hospital. Range operators say they take safety seriously and voluntarily halted rifle shooting at the site after the woman was injured.

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Senate OK's Money To Help With Levee Repairs

(Grand Tower, IL)  --  It appears help is on the way to one southern Illinois town that's trying to protect itself from flooding.  The Senate has approved a plan that would send one-point-seven-million-bucks in to Jackson County, to help repair a levee in Grand Tower.  City officials are trying to repair sinkholes and replace old pipes along the Big Muddy Levee before flooding season swoops in this spring.  But the levee has gotten a low mark from the Army Corps of Engineers, which means the feds won't pitch in to help.  The measure still needs to clear the House. 

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Ill. alderman pleads not guilty to thwarted escape

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois alderman has pleaded not guilty to charges he tried to escape while jailed in connection with an alleged sexual abuse and kidnapping. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports 46-year-old Ronald Nolan of Murphysboro entered the plea Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court. Prosecutors allege Noland attacked guards in October during a failed jail escape. That was when he was being held on sexual abuse and kidnapping charges in the alleged abduction of a woman. The would-be breakout drew charges of attempted escape, aggravated battery and resisting a peace officer. Nolan was in custody on aggravated criminal sexual abuse, kidnapping and unlawful restraint counts. The charges resulted from his alleged driving around Jackson and Union counties in September with a 20-year-old Carbondale woman against her will.

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Prosecutors: Man posed as soldier, defrauded women

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A Nigerian man is facing federal fraud charges after authorities say he posed as an Afghanistan-based U.S. soldier in order to dupe women into wiring him thousands of dollars. An East St. Louis federal grand jury indicted Adagun Moshood Olalekan on four wire-fraud counts. Investigators say he set up fake online profiles from September through last month, including one identifying him as "Lt. Col. Cadin Cayce Webb." They say he used the photos of an actual soldier stationed in Afghanistan. The indictment alleges he described himself as a widower with a daughter and wooed American women with "romantic emails and instant messages" and "false promises of marriage" before getting them to wire money to Nigeria. Online court records don't show whether Olalekan has an attorney.

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Ill. lawmakers have mixed reviews of speed cameras

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Illinois lawmakers have mixed thoughts on a proposal that would allow communities around the state to install speed cameras, which are only allowed in Chicago. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the measure by Collinsville Democrat Rep. Jay Hoffman is generating discussion among legislators. Murphysboro Republican Rep. Mike Bost calls the devices a "cop-in-a-box," and says his constituents think they harass drivers. But Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, says they can increase safety. Legislation signed by the governor in 2012 limited speed cameras to cities with at least 1 million residents, making the statute apply solely to Chicago. Speed cameras are only allowed in designated safety zones — areas near a school or a park. Drivers caught by the cameras can face $100 fines.

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Two Sentenced For Child Pornography Offenses

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced Wednesday that, Clarence Walker, 35, of DuQuoin, Illinois, and David E. Neagle II, 21, of Marion, Illinois, were sentenced in federal court in separate cases for child pornography offenses. Walker had earlier pled guilty on August 8, 2013. The Court sentenced Walker to 132 months in prison, a $500 fine, and 10 years of supervised release following discharge from prison. The Court sentenced Neagle to 12 months in prison, a $100 fine, and 5 years of supervised release following discharge from prison.  The evidence at sentencing established that Walker had previously been convicted in Illinois for sex offenses involving children. After his release from prison for that offense, authorities discovered that he had been downloading child pornography from his computer at his DuQuoin, Illinois residence. The evidence at sentencing established that Neagle had been downloading child pornography from his computer at his Marion, Illinois, residence. The investigation in this case was conducted by the Secret Service Southern Illinois Cyber Crimes Task Force and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

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Judge intervenes in mayor's firing of police chief

CASEYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a southwestern Illinois village's police chief the mayor has fired twice in the past month must stay on the job at least until a court hearing on the matter Friday. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday in Caseyville Police Chief Jose Alvarez's favor. Mayor Leonard Black fired Alvarez last month, but the village's governing board reinstated him. Black fired Alvarez again last week. McGlynn's order says Alvarez has the right to due process and to earn a living. The judge also questions whether the village violated Alvarez's contract. The village's attorney, John Gilbert, says he's received McGlynn's order and the village will be represented at Friday's hearing. He declined additional comment.

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More Than A Dozen Try To Claim "Accidental Donation"

(Glen Carbon, IL)  --  More than a dozen people are trying to claim an "accidental donation" left at a Glen Carbon Goodwill.  An employee discovered 25-hundred dollars in an article of clothing dropped off Monday afternoon.  Officials say none of the 15 people who called to claim the cash was able to accurately describe the donated items that came with the money.

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Kell Man Sentenced On Felonies

A 22-year-old Kell man was sentenced Wednesday in Marion County Court to 25 years in prison, after he pleaded guilty to a string of felonies, including battery to his infant son that have resulted in life-long brain injuries to the child. John A. Morton pleaded guilty to aggravated battery of a child under the age of 13, resulting in permanent disability — a Class X Felony — for an incident that took place in 2012, when he was reportedly bathing his infant son and an older sibling. He received a 20 year sentence on that charge. He was then sentenced to a consecutive five years in prison on a 2014 charge of distributing a synthetic, or misbranded drug. The time on a consecutive sentence does not begin until the other sentence has been completed. The distribution charge came after Morton was arrested for arranging to sell synthetic drugs to law enforcement and a fight ensued between Morton and law enforcement. Another felony charge in that case of aggravated battery to a peace officer was dismissed as part of the plea agreement, as was a felony charge of attempting to bribe a peace officer, both Class 2 Felonies. A third case resulted in a five year concurrent sentence that will be served at the same time of the other two sentences. In that case, Morton had already been convicted of felony burglary and was sentenced to three years probation. He violated the terms of that probation, and so the concurrent sentence was handed down. Marion County Resident Judge Mark Stedelin stayed the sentences, allowing Morton time to get his affairs in order. Morton must report to the Marion County Jail at 9 a.m. March 12 for transportation to the Illinois Department of Corrections, where he will begin serving his 25 year sentence.

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Centralia Man Stabbed During Argument

A 51-year-old Centralia man had to undergo surgery for internal bleeding, after an argument over a pair of shoes Tuesday night apparently led to his stabbing. According to police reports, 51-year-old Michael Mansker was stabbed in the stomach.  27-year-old Robert Vorce of Iuka, has been charged with home invasion and aggravated battery in connection with the stabbing incident. Police say Mansker contacted a female member of the Vorce family, asking her to return a new pair of shoes purchased for his daughter, that he believed the Vorce woman had taken from the box. Several hours later, four members of the Vorce family showed up at Mansker’s home.  An altercation took place when Mansker reportedly saw the Vorce woman wearing the shoes. Reports indicate that at one point, the woman attempted to jump out a window but was pulled back in by Mansker.  When Mansker exited his bedroom he was confronted by Robert Vorce, with what Mansker told Centralia Police was a silver butterfly knife. Mansker reported that Robert Vorce shoved him multiple times and when he finally got Vorce out the front door, Mansker noticed he was bleeding. While Mansker reported to police that when he asked Robert Vorce why he stabbed him, Vorce said he would kill him, the Vorce family reported that he must have stabbed himself. Police say mansker underwent surgery to stop internal bleeding.   

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STATE
State Puts 45-Million Towards Tornado Recovery

(Washington , IL) -- The state is pitching in 45-million-dollars to help towns across the state rebuild after the November tornadoes. IEMA Director Jonathon Monken says it’ll provide much needed relief to those struggling to get back on their feet. Governor Quinn put the relief package together after FEMA denied aid to nine of the hardest hit counties in Illinois. Towns like Washington, Brookport, New Minden, and Coal City can tap into the resources. The money can be used to pay for cleanup costs, reconstruct buildings, repair roads, and help low-income families with the costs of repairing their homes.

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Bad weather slows central Illinois blood donations

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois blood bank says this year's winter weather has prompted a dwindling supply of blood in parts of the state. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports Central Illinois Community Blood Center says its supply for Springfield-area hospitals is at its lowest levels in years. Authorities say the bad weather in January and February kept people from donating about 575 units of blood. Tara Matheson is the manager of donor relations at the Springfield center. She says the snow, ice and bitter temperatures were "really devastating to our blood supply." But officials say they don't know of any surgeries that have been postponed because of the shortage.

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Dillard: GOP early voting isn't always beneficial

CHICAGO (AP) — Early voting has started for Illinois' March 18 primary but one Republican gubernatorial candidate says it's not always a good idea to cast an early ballot. State Sen. Kirk Dillard told reporters Wednesday after a debate that many issues could still bubble up that'll change voters mind in the competitive race. Dillard is locked in a four-way contest with Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Sen. Bill Brady and businessman Bruce Rauner.  Rauner is leading in polls and fundraising. All four candidates pushed early voting over the weekend with email reminders and phone calls. Still, Dillard says revelations about candidates could pop up late in a campaign and they might want to wait until Election Day before making a final decision. Early voting runs through March 15.

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Dillard Moving Up In Polls

(Undated)  --  Kirk Dillard is moving up in the polls but he still hasn't surpassed Bruce Rauner.  The latest We Ask America numbers put Rauner ahead with about 40-percent of the support from likely GOP primary voters.  Dillard comes in a distant second with 14-and-a-half-percent, topping Bill Brady who was holding the second spot.  He's down to about 12-percent support.  Dan Rutherford is holding up the rear with eight-percent of the vote. 

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Plan Would Put Young Baker Back In Business

(Springfield, IL)  --  A plan to put an eleven-year-old baker back in business is making its way through the legislature.  A House committee passed a bill yesterday that would strip health departments of the ability to regulate foods that are made in a home kitchen, even when the kitchen hasn’t been inspected.  The measure comes just months after the Madison County Health Department ordered Chloe Stirling, from Troy, to stop selling cupcakes.  Lawmakers from every region of the state came to Chloe’s aid, claiming the government went too far when they shut her down. 

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U. of Illinois trustees weigh sex-change insurance

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — University of Illinois trustees are expected to vote Thursday on adding coverage for sex-change operations to the health insurance plan used by many students at the flagship campus. Many of the Urbana-Champaign campus' more than 40,000 students use the insurance and would see costs rise by 15 percent if the proposal is approved. Undergraduates would pay $291 a semester starting next fall. That's an increase of $37. But university officials say most of that increase is due to the federal Affordable Care Act rather than adding sex-change coverage. Trustees added sex-change coverage at the Chicago campus last year after some students requested it. Some trustees have expressed concerns about paying for sex changes for very young students and about possible moral objections that could be raised by some parents.

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'Pay it Forward' college plan gets House approval

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois House has approved a plan to study alternative ways for people to pay for college. The "Pay it Forward" plan calls on the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to consider programs other states have adopted to address the rising cost of a college education. Such programs allow attendance at community colleges or state universities tuition-free as long as the student signs a contract to repay the state from a portion of future earnings. The measure sponsored by Marengo Democratic Rep. Jack Franks won approval 111-0 and moves to the Senate. Franks says the current situation — a choice between assuming a large debt for college costs or limiting future earning potential because of a lack of a degree — harms the economy.

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NATIONAL
Congress rushing to put in place Russia sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Congress is rushing to put in place hard-hitting sanctions on Russia, whose troops have taken over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The Senate is taking the lead with legislation that would combine loan guarantees to Ukraine's government and measures against Russian government officials, state-owned banks and companies. It could be introduced as early as next week.

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House GOP moves to block EPA rules on power plants

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are moving to block President Barack Obama's plan to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. A bill targeting the power plant rule is expected to come up for a House vote today, as GOP lawmakers fight back against what they call the Obama administration's "war on coal." Obama's proposal is a key part of his plan to fight climate change, and it would set the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution from future power plants.

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Feds to update public on mishap at nuke dump

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Efforts to recover from a radiation leak at the nation's only underground nuclear waste dump will be the subject of a town hall meeting in New Mexico today. The U.S. Department of Energy is hoping to satisfy concerns which have been swirling for weeks about what caused the leak, the extent of the contamination and the future of national nuclear cleanup efforts.

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Military sexual assault bill heads for Senate vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is scheduled to take up the volatile issue of military sexual assaults today. A bill opposed by the Pentagon would remove the authority of commanders to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses and place it in the hands of seasoned military trial lawyers. The bill is also opposed by some Senate Democrats. An AP investigation has found a pattern of inconsistent judgments and light penalties.

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Police: Driver of minivan in surf spoke of demons

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The sister of a pregnant South Carolina woman who drove her SUV into the ocean in Dayton Beach, Fla., says her sister talked about demons before leaving the house. Officials say after they got a call from Ebony Wilkerson's worried sister, they stopped her vehicle, and Wilkerson said she feared her husband would harm her and her three children. Two hours later, Wilkerson drove into the ocean. Bystanders and officers rescued her children, ages 3, 9 and 10.

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Indictment in missing Tenn. nursing student case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man is being held after being indicted in the murder of a 20-year-old nursing student who was taken nearly three years ago. Holly Bobo was 20 when her brother told investigators he saw a man in hunting clothes leading her into the woods around the family home near Parsons. Investigators haven't said what evidence they've found on 29-year-old Zachary Adams, but they searched his home last week in an unrelated aggravated assault case.

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Rare skin infection traced to NYC fish markets

NEW YORK (AP) — Health officials in New York City say they've traced a rare skin infection to raw seafood purchased at fish markets in the city's three Chinatowns. The Health Department says there've been 30 reported cases of the infection caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium marinum. All those infected say they had handled uncooked seafood from markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens. Symptoms include red, tender lumps and swelling under the skin, and sometimes swelling or pain and difficulty moving fingers.

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Police: Man urinated on people near Florida campus

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Police are searching for a man who has been relieving himself on people near the University of Florida campus. The Gainesville Sun reports the victims told police they were standing with their backs turned to the man when they felt themselves being urinated upon. The incidents occurred Feb. 22, Feb. 26 and March 1 in various locations near the campus. The victims all told police that when they confronted the man, he ran away. Police are increasing patrols in the area.

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Survey: Employers announced plans for fewer layoffs in February

UNDATED (AP) — Fewer workers were losing their jobs last month, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Challenger says job cuts announced in February totaled less than 42,000, down 7.3 percent from January. Challenger says that's 24 percent less than a year ago and the lowest February total since the turn of the century. CEO John Challenger says this isn't what he'd expect if "the economy is about ready to tip over or we're near recession." He says the relatively low number of layoffs suggests an improving business climate has reduced pressure on employers to cut jobs. At the current pace, he says, the first quarter could see the fewest job cuts since 1995. The heaviest job-cut activity last month was in the financial sector. Challenger says some of those cuts were related to cutbacks in mortgage lending as interest rates rise, but a lot "were due to the ongoing shift away from branch banking toward increaded mobile banking."

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US productivity slows in fourth quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. productivity grew at an even slower annual rate than previously thought in the final three months of last year. Economists are hoping productivity growth will revive in 2014, reflecting a stronger economy. The Labor Department says productivity grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in the October-December quarter, a slowdown from 3.5 percent productivity growth in the third quarter. The new estimate was lower than the 3.2 percent gain the government had previously reported. Unit labor costs dipped 0.1 percent, a smaller drop than the 1.6 percent drop previously estimated. For the year, productivity increased a tiny 0.5 percent, continuing a weak trend seen over the past three years. Analysts are forecasting a rebound in productivity this year, helped by stronger economic growth.

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Conservative conference highlights GOP divisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's leading Republicans are courting conservative activists gathered in suburban Washington this week, highlighting the tug of war for the GOP's soul. Thursday marks the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where prospective presidential candidates join national conservative opinion leaders and tea party activists. Conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin headline a crowded speaking program Thursday that also features National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie makes his first public address in Washington since a political retribution scandal erupted in January. Republicans are far from united as they look to the November midterm elections and beyond. The conference is expected to showcase divisions on foreign policy, political strategy and social issues.

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Here comes El Nino; good news for US weather woes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal forecasters predict a warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year that will change weather worldwide. And that's good news for a weather-weary United States. The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes, more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation's frigid northern tier next year. Elsewhere in the world, it can mean an even hotter year coming up, with billions of dollars in losses for food crops. The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration Thursday issued an official El Nino watch. NOAA Climate Prediction Center director Mike Halpert said the warming should be in place this summer.

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INTERNATIONAL
Crimea sets referendum on whether to join Russia

SIMFERPOL, Ukraine (AP) — People in Ukraine's embattled region of Crimea will hold a referendum March 16 to decide whether they want to become a part of Russia. Meanwhile, leaders in the European Union are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels today to decide on sanctions against Russia. British Prime Minister David Cameron says Russia's actions "should have consequences." But German Chancellor Angela Merkel says sanctions should depend on what comes out of today's talks in Rome between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Sergey Lavrov.

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Separate car bombings in Iraq kill at least 13

BAGHDAD (AP) — Officials in Iraq say separate attacks in the country's center have killed at least 13 civilians and wounded about 40. A police officer says all Thursday's bombings came from explosives-rigged cars parked in commercial areas in two cities south of Baghdad. He says the deadliest blast killed five and wounded 12 in downtown Hillah. Not far from that blast, he says another car bomb went off, killing four and wounding 16. Hillah is located about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad The officer says a third explosion killed four people and wounded 10 in the nearby town of Iskandariyah, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital. Two medical officials confirmed figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information.

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4 accused gays whipped in north Nigerian court

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A human rights network says four young men convicted of having gay sex have been whipped publicly in an Islamic court in northern Nigeria. Dorothy Aken'Ova of the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights Network says the men will go to jail and face humiliation and beatings if rights organizations do not come up with an additional fine of 20,000 naira ($120) each meted out Thursday by a judge in Bauchi city. She says the men, aged between 20 and 22, should not have been convicted because their confessions were forced by law agents who beat them. Gays can be sentenced to death under Islamic Shariah law in force in some northern Nigerian states. The four men were among dozens arrested after Nigeria strengthened laws against homosexuals in January.

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Dalai Lama opens Senate session with prayer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Dalai Lama has opened the Senate with prayer. With nearly a dozen senators listening raptly, the Dalai Lama said that if you speak or act with a pure mind, happiness will follow. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thanked the Dalai Lama for his prayers and words of encouragement. The Dalai Lama is Tibet's Nobel Laureate. He gave up his political role as the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011.

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Ukrainian soccer league to resume on March 15

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's domestic soccer league will resume play on March 15, after a two-week postponement because of the turmoil in the country. The season was scheduled to restart on Feb. 28 following a two-month winter break. But the start was delayed because of protests and the toppling of President Viktor Yanukovych. Two teams located in Crimea say they intend to keep competing in the Ukrainian league.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 105, Detroit 94

MLB

St. Louis 8, Boston 6
San Diego 8, Chicago White Sox 0
Colorado (ss) 7, Chicago Cubs 5

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Columbus at Chicago 7 p.m.
St. Louis at Nashville 7 p.m.

Women's College Basketball

Illinois at (23) Iowa 1:25 p.m.
Southern Illinois at Loyola-Chicago 7 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Minnesota
Chicago Cubs at Cleveland
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City

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Fans To Choose New Cardinal Hall Of Famers


(St. Louis, MO)  --  Eight former Cardinal greats are in the running to be part of the team's new Hall of Fame that will be housed in the Ballpark Village across the street from Busch Stadium.  Starting Friday, fans can vote for what two players they would like to see enshrined this August along with the 22 Cards who are already in because they're in Cooperstown or have had their numbers retired.  Willie McGee, Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds, and Ted Simmons are among the eight vying for the spots.  Voting will run through April 22nd.

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Bears agree to deal with Ratliff

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have agreed to a two-year contract with veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff. The Bears announced the move Wednesday night. They also terminated punter Adam Podlesh's contract. A four-time Pro Bowl pick, Ratliff started four of the five games he played in after signing with Chicago in November. He spent the first six weeks with Dallas on the physically unable to perform list before being released in mid-October, with the Cowboys saying he failed a physical. Ratliff missed the final six games in 2012 with a groin injury that required surgery. The Bears, who had one of their worst defensive seasons ever, saw enough good things to bring him back. Ratliff had 14 1/2 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks with Chicago. In nine seasons with the Cowboys and Bears, he has 331 1/2 tackles and 28 1/2 sacks. The Bears have signed 10 players who were due to become unrestricted free agents March 11, most of any team in the NFL.

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Hester says Bears 'parting ways' with him

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Record-setting returner Devin Hester says he will not be back with the Chicago Bears next season. He matched Hall of Famer Deion Sanders' NFL record with his 19th return for a touchdown last season, tying his friend and mentor with an 81-yard punt return at Washington in October.

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News For Mar. 5, 2014

LOCAL
I-57 Crash Results In Closure, Injury

A Multi-Vehicle Personal Injury Crash on Interstate 57 north bound at mile post 79.5 took place Tuesday at 3:35 p.m. There were five vehicles involved in the crash including an unmarked Illinois State Police vehicle. An ISP Trooper was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. There was one additional person with non-life threatening injuries. The cause of the crash remains under investigation by a Traffic Reconstruction Officer. North bound Interstate 57 remains closed at this time and traffic is being diverted off at exit 77. Charges are pending investigation.

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Ill. man sentenced to 8 years for deadly DUI wreck

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois man has been sentenced to eight years in prison in a 2012 drunken-driving wreck that killed a passenger in the other vehicle. Twenty-five-year-old Travis King of New Douglas was sentenced Monday in Madison County. King already had pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated drunken driving. Authorities say that on Oct. 20, 2012, King drove into the back of a pickup truck at the interchange of Interstates 270 and 55 near Troy. Sixty-two-year-old Geraldine Davis of Granite City died and her daughter was injured. Prosecutors who say King's blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the state's legal threshold for intoxication had sought a 12-year prison sentence.

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Ill. Senate advances levee-improvement measure

GRAND TOWER, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois legislative measure in support of a southern Illinois county's efforts to fix a worrisome Mississippi River levee is advancing. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the Illinois Senate unanimously signed off on a plan to allow Jackson County to spend up to $1.7 million out of a special fund to help pay for repairs to the Big Muddy Levee. The levee is near the 600-resident village of Grand Tower. Last year, the earthen barrier showed signs of trouble, including holes blamed on the collapse of a drainage pipe. The levee was given an unsatisfactory rating in mid-2011, making it ineligible for federal funds. The measure, Senate Bill 2721, now goes to the House for consideration.

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Madison County Contributing To Alton Rail Station

(Alton, IL) -- Madison County is going to kick in to help build a high speed rail station in Alton. The city was given a federal grant worth almost 14-million dollars three years ago, but had to match 20-percent of the funds to get the money. The Madison County Transit Board approved a plan to pay half the money still needed to meet the goal, though it still has to be determined how much that is. The entire project is budgeted to cost around 72-million dollars and is scheduled to be finished in 2016.

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Landmark Damaged In Break-In

(Alton, IL)  --  A break-in at a 130-year-old Alton landmark is adding work to upcoming renovation plans.  Volunteers are gearing up for a campaign to raise 50-thousand dollars next month to restore the Lucy Haskell Playhouse.  Last week, a burglar damaged two doors breaking into the cellar, but didn't appear to steal anything of value.  Only some light poles were in the basement.  The Playhouse was built in 1885 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Governor Quinn Heads Downstate Today

Following federal denial of urgently-needed disaster assistance, Governor Pat Quinn will make an announcement regarding state relief for local governments recovering from the deadly November tornadoes today at 1:45 p.m. at an appearance at Brookport First Baptist Church 700 Pell Rd. in Brookport.  Then, Governor Quinn will dedicate the new energy-efficient facility at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville as part of his agenda to give every child the opportunity for a high-quality education while protecting our natural resources for generations to come. That appearance will take place at 3:30 p.m.

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Cahokia Man Sentenced For Firearm Offense

Mautaveus T. Ayers, 18, of Cahokia, Illinois, was sentenced in federal district court in East St. Louis, Illinois, on Thursday, to 34 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release, a $100 special assessment, and a $250 fine, for unlawful possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced Tuesday. Court proceedings revealed that on April 17, 2013, a patrolling officer in Cahokia, Illinois, observed a vehicle driven by Ayers commit a traffic violation and fitting the description of a car involved in a shooting earlier that day. The officer activated his lights in an attempt to stop the vehicle, but Ayers continued driving. A short chase followed with Ayers eventually stopping in an apartment complex parking lot. Ayers ran upon exiting the vehicle, but stopped after the officer drew his weapon. Ayers was placed under arrest. The police car’s dash camera recorded Ayers making statements on his cell phone to an unknown individual about his arrest and instructing the individual to retrieve a weapon from his home he had hidden under his sink. Ayers consented to a search of his home the following day, where a shotgun was recovered underneath his kitchen sink.  This investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Cahokia Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Neal C. Hong prosecuted the case.

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Goodwill Employee Finds $2,500 In Donated Clothing

(Glen Carbon, IL)  --  Someone made an accidental donation to a Goodwill in Glen Carbon.  An employee Monday found 25-hundred dollars inside a piece of clothing that had been donated.  If the money isn't claimed in 30 days, the organization will keep it.  Officials say they've received around 20-thousand dollars in unintended donations over the last few years.

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Counterfeit Cash In Carbondale

(Carbondale, IL)  --  People and businesses in the Carbondale area should be on the lookout for fake money.  Officials with the Chamber of Commerce say counterfeit 20-dollar-bills are making the rounds in town.   Anyone who spots the fake money should contact authorities.

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Murray Center Case Faces Date In Appellate Court This Morning

And the battles continue in the effort to stop residents of the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center in Centralia from being moved. The group Equip For Equality has filed a case in the Fifth Appellate Court in Mt. Vernon, trying to strip the court appointed guardianship of Stewart Freeman. Judge William Becker last year confirmed the appointment of Freeman to represent Murray residents who do not have private guardians, after questions arose regarding the representation they were receiving from the Office of State Guardian. The appellate case will be held this morning at 9 o’clock in the Mt. Vernon court, with attorney Wiley Blair representing the Friends for Murray Center, which originally brought the case in Clinton County where Freeman was initially appointed.

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STATE
Gun activists plan Wednesday rally in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois gun owners are getting ready to rally in Springfield as part of an effort to convince legislators to relax firearm regulations. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports a march is scheduled to take place Wednesday. Gun activists want lawmakers to reduce the list of places were guns are prohibited under the new concealed carry law. State Rep. Brandon Phelps is a Harrisburg Democrat who was the primary architect of the regulations. He says he'd like to see the restrictions reduced eventually. But he thinks the rules need to be in place for a while before they're amended. He says: "Once people see that this isn't the Wild West, people will feel a bit more comfortable." The first concealed carry licenses were mailed last week.

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County clerks can issue licenses to gay couples

CHICAGO (AP) — Attorney General Lisa Madigan is telling Illinois' county clerks they have the right to immediately issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Madigan issued the guidance Tuesday in response to a question from Macon County Clerk Stephen Bean. A state law legalizing same-sex marriage takes effect June 1. But a federal judge in Chicago ruled Feb. 21 that Illinois' original ban was unconstitutional. That means there's nothing to stop couples from marrying now. The court said the ruling only applied to Cook County. However, in a letter to Bean, Madigan said because current restrictions on gay marriage are unconstitutional, same sex couples asking for a marriage license in any county can be given one. Gov. Pat Quinn, in a statement, said every county clerk in Illinois should quickly follow Madigan's guidance.

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Tornado Drill Recalls November Disaster

(Washington, IL) -- People around the state Tuesday heard tornado warning sirens blare, but there was no disaster imminent. It was just the annual drill conducted by the National Weather Service on the first Tuesday of March. For residents of Washington, Illinois, though, the sirens were a grim reminder of the tornadoes that tore through their community last November. Seven people died and hundreds of homes were destroyed. For Tuesday's drill, some students were allowed to remain in their seats because school administrators fear that dropping to the ground or moving to a secure location might be too traumatic.

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FEMA denies Illinois appeal on storm damage help

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is calling disappointing the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency denying the state's appeal for federal disaster assistance for local governments impacted by the Nov. 17 tornado outbreak. Quinn said FEMA's decision was based on outdated federal rules and not the serious need that exists in hard-hit Illinois communities. Federal aid was given to people and businesses affected by those tornadoes, but FEMA denied the state's request for assistance to local governments, which Quinn said incurred $6.1 million in storm-related expenses. Two dozen tornadoes killed eight people and destroyed or damaged 2,500 homes. Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said in a statement Tuesday he will work with Durbin and other members of Illinois' congressional delegation to pass the reforms needed to ensure Illinois is treated fairly.

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GOP gov candidates want death penalty reinstated

CHICAGO (AP) — The Republican candidates for Illinois governor say they're in favor of reinstating the death penalty in the state. The candidates spoke Tuesday at a forum hosted by WMAQ-TV. They are state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, businessman Bruce Rauner and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011. That was after former Gov. George Ryan halted all executions in Illinois in 2003 over fears that a flawed system had led to wrongful convictions of death row inmates. Rutherford and Brady say it should be reinstated. Dillard says it should be kept for the worst of the worst criminals. Rauner says it could be brought back for certain criminals.

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Task Force Takes Aim At Heroin Usage

(Springfield, IL)  --  State officials say there's a state of emergency in Illinois when it comes to heroin overdoses.  They say hundreds of people died after overdosing on the drug in recent years.  A newly formed task force is looking for ways to curb the problem, which lawmakers say is rearing its head in every part of the state.  State Representative John Cabello says 54 people died in Winnebago County last year after overdosing on the drug, another 210 survived overdoses.  The task force will be hosting public hearings across the state in the coming months to take suggestions from people in the community. 

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State Looking To Put Up 100-Million For Obama Library

(Springfield, IL)  --  State officials want to use 100-million dollars in state capital funds to secure its second presidential library and museum.  They're looking to win President Obama over so he'll choose Chicago as the host city for the library.  He's already formed a committee to help him choose a destination.  Right now, the University of Chicago wants it, and so do UIC, Chicago State, New York's Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii.  House Speaker Michael Madigan says putting the library in Chicago is the right thing to do because that's where President Obama got his start in public service.

------------------------

Illinois Air National Guard has new chief of staff

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Air National Guard has named a new chief of staff. Col. Clayton Moushon, an attorney from East Peoria, has been appointed to the position and will be promoted to brigadier general. National Guard officials say Moushon understands the organization and will provide leadership and guidance to its members. Moushon has served for more than 25 years in the Air National Guard. He was the Air National Guard Assistant to the Staff Judge Advocate for the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, advising on Air National Guard legal matters. He also served as a senior representative on the Judge Advocate General's Air National Guard Council. Moushon was born in Peoria and received his law degree from Pepperdine University.

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Radogno Calls For Investigation Of Quinn's Use Of Crime Funds

(Chicago, IL) -- The Illinois Senate's top Republican says the feds should investigate how Governor Quinn doled out money from a 54-million-dollar federal grant to fight crime in poor neighborhoods. Christine Radogno says a state audit raises the possibility that Quinn used the money as a political slush fund to help him win the 2010 election. The auditor's report criticizes the way the fund was administered, but a spokeswoman for Quinn says it was his office that first raised questions about it in 2012. Spokeswoman Brooke Anderson says the slush fund allegation doesn't stand up, since no money was disbursed until after the election.

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Ill. House panel passes Poison Center funding bill

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A proposal aimed at keeping the Illinois Poison Center open despite the state's budget woes has passed a House committee. The legislation that received committee approval on Tuesday would direct a portion of the fee charged by cellphone companies for 911 services to pay for poison control. State Rep. Camille Lilly is sponsoring the House measure. The Democrat from Chicago says Illinois should not be the only state without a poison control center. She says the center takes about 80,000 calls each year. But opponents say it takes money away from a fund originally created to expand 911 services. They say rural areas especially would be affected. The proposal now moves to the House floor.

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Poor Dart Sales Send Belvidere Workers Home

(Belvidere, IL) -- Poor sales of the new Dodge Dart mean layoff notices for 325 workers at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere. The company says the layoffs will last through the rest of this week. Domestic sales of the Dart fell 37-percent last month, while the company's overall sales rose eleven-percent compared with last February. Since its introduction two years ago, sales of the Dart have not kept pace with other compact sedans.

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Ill. officials link antibiotics misuse, superbugs

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois health officials say most antibiotics prescribed in hospitals and nursing homes are unnecessary and their overuse has led to an increase in deadly superbugs. The Illinois Department of Public Health says up to 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed at hospitals are not needed or are otherwise inappropriate. At long-term care facilities the figure jumps to 75 percent. That's causing the bacterial infections most commonly found in those settings to become more resistant to antibiotics. The Health Department said Tuesday it is working with 18 hospitals in the state to set up an electronic system for reporting data on antibiotic use. The agency also plans monthly webinars and a statewide meeting of health professionals to discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse.

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NATIONAL
Openings set to start in trial of bin Laden kin

NEW YORK (AP) — The husband of Osama bin Laden's eldest daughter goes on trial in New York City today on charges he conspired to kill Americans after Nine Eleven. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith (SOO'-lay-mahn AH'-boo GAYTH) was brought to the U.S. last year after being captured in Turkey. Prosecutors say Abu Ghaith used his position as al-Qaida spokesman to announce in videos that more attacks on the U.S. would be just as devastating as Sept. 11.

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In Connecticut, Obama to spotlight minimum wage

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama wants the U.S. to follow Connecticut's lead by raising the minimum wage. Obama is traveling to a public university in Connecticut today to amplify his call for Congress to raise the hourly rate from $7.25 to $10.10. It's a major priority for Obama this year, but it's not clear Congress will go along. Governors from Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts will join Obama to lend their support. Connecticut's governor signed a wage hike last year that raises hourly wages to $9 next January. He's also asked state lawmakers to raise it further to $10.10 in line with Obama's proposal. Obama will also stop in Boston to headline two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee. The trip comes a day after Obama unveiled his 2015 budget proposal.

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Army sex trial begins as prosecutor pushed aside

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A court-martial is set to get underway today for an Army general believed to be the highest ranking officer to ever face trial for sexual assault charges. A jury will be seated in the case of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, who has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges including forcible sodomy, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming an officer. The former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges. It's extremely rare for such a high-ranking military officer to face trial. Under the military justice system, members of the panel must be senior in rank to the accused — ensuring that Sinclair will be judged by a jury of generals. Opening statements are set for Thursday.

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Former IRS official refuses to testify at hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner is once again refusing to answer questions at a congressional hearing on the targeting of tea party groups. Lerner headed the IRS division that improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. She appeared at a Wednesday hearing by the House Oversight Committee. But when Committee Chairman Darrell Issa asked her questions about her role in the matter, Lerner invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. Lerner was the first IRS official to publicly disclose the targeting last spring. But this is the second time Lerner has declined to answer questions at a congressional hearing.

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Target tech chief resigns as it overhauls security

NEW YORK (AP) — Target Corp. says Chief Information Officer Beth Jacob is resigning effective Wednesday as the retailer overhauls its information security and compliance division in the wake of a massive data breach. In a statement released to the Associated Press, Target's President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel says the company will search for an interim chief information officer who can help guide the company through the transformation. Jacob had held the job since 2008. Target also will look outside the company for a chief information security officer as well as a chief compliance officer. The company says it's working with an outside adviser, Promontory Financial Group, to evaluate its technology, structure, processes and talent as part of the overhaul. Target is based in Minneapolis.

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Probe begins of NJ blast that killed 1, injured 7

EWING, N.J. (AP) — Investigators are looking to determine what triggered a natural gas leak and explosion that devastated a town house development in New Jersey, killing one woman and injuring seven workers. Police, fire and building officials are on the scene of the explosion in Ewing Township, a Trenton suburb. Debris litters the site and there are clumps of insulation in the trees. At least 55 units in the complex were damaged in the Tuesday afternoon blast, including about 10 that were destroyed. Officials are awaiting autopsy results to identify the body of the woman that was found on a car. Two workers remain hospitalized in stable condition.

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Biker hurt in NYC SUV melee: I don't blame driver

NEW YORK (AP) — A biker paralyzed when he was hit by an SUV driver fleeing a motorcycle melee says he doesn't blame the driver for his injuries. Edwin Mieses says he cannot judge what may have been going through driver Alexian Lien's mind. The Lawrence, Mass., biker was interviewed Wednesday on NBC's "Today." He appeared with his attorney, Gloria Allred, and his wife. Mieses vows he'll walk again. The Sept. 29 encounter began when the SUV and a bike bumped on a Manhattan highway. Investigators say Lien hit the gas as other bikers converged and ran over Mieses. Authorities say the bikers chased Lien, dragged him from his car and beat him. An undercover police detective was accused of participating. A biker posted online video from a helmet-mounted camera. Lien isn't charged.

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INTERNATIONAL
Ukraine premier: Crimea will remain in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's new prime minister tells The Associated Press that Crimea must remain part of Ukraine, but may be granted more local powers. Arseniy Yatsenyuk  says a special task force could be established "to consider what kind of additional autonomy the Crimean Republic could get." The prime minister, approved by parliament on Feb. 27, denies a report that Ukraine is negotiating with the United States for deployment of U.S. missile defenses in exchange for financial help. He tells the AP, "This is not true." Yatsenyuk says, "We have no talks with the government of the United States of America on any kind of deployment of any military forces."

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Discussions on Ukraine in Paris, Brussels

PARIS (AP) — Top diplomats from the West and from Russia are meeting in Paris today to defuse tensions over Russia's military takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The ultimate goal of the meeting is to get the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in the same room, negotiating directly. Also today, NATO is taking up the issue directly with Russia in a meeting of the military alliance in Brussels. And an international team of military observers is headed to Crimea.

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EU to provide Ukraine with aid worth $15 billion

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union's executive arm says the bloc is ready to provide Ukraine a $15 billion aid package in loans and grants over the coming years. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday it will include 1.6 billion euros in loans and 1.4 billion euros in grants from the EU as well as 3 billion euros in fresh credit from the European Investment Bank. Barroso didn't immediately provide details over what time the money will be disbursed and which conditions on overhauling its economy the government in Kiev will have to meet. The United States announced a $1 billion aid package in energy subsidies Tuesday. Kiev estimates it needs $35 billion in international rescue loans over the next two years.

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US: Iran must clear up nuclear arms suspicions

VIENNA (AP) — The United States says Iran must clear up suspicions it worked on atomic arms if it hopes to get full relief from sanctions choking its economy. Iran and six world powers now are working on a deal that highlights sanctions relief in exchange for agreement by Tehran to scale back nuclear programs that could be turned toward making a bomb. But U.S. envoy Joseph Macmanus told the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board Wednesday that Tehran must also fully cooperate with the IAEA in its probe of the weapons allegations. He says clearing up suspicions that Iran worked on nuclear arms "will be critical" to any final accord meant to give Tehran full final sanctions relief. Iran denies wanting — or working on — such weapons.

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Iran's Guard says it has multiple warhead missiles

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard says it's acquired missiles with multiple warheads, the latest armaments advance to be claimed by the Islamic Republic. At a ceremony today, Iran's defense minister presented a delivery of four types of ballistic missiles he says are equipped with multiple warheads, greatly boosting their destructive power. Iran regularly announces breakthroughs in military technology that are impossible to independently verify. But the Pentagon released a rare public report in 2012 noting significant advances in Iranian missile technology, acknowledging that Tehran has improved their accuracy and firing capabilities.

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Boxer recounts gunshot incident

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A boxer, testifying in the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, said the double-amputee runner apologized after a gun was accidentally fired in a Johannesburg restaurant table and asked another person to take the blame. Boxer Kevin Lerena said in court Wednesday that another friend passed a gun under the table to Pistorius and told him there was a bullet in the chamber in the January 2013 incident. Lerena says a shot went off, narrowly missing his foot, and that Pistorius urged the gun owner to take responsibility for the shooting. The account relates to firearms charges against Pistorius. In the murder case, prosecutors say Pistorius shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after an argument. He says he shot her by accident, fearing she was an intruder.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

NHL

St. Louis 4, Tampa Bay 2
Colorado 4, Chicago 2

Mens College Basketball

(12) Michigan 84, Illinois 53

MLB

Cleveland 5, White Sox 4
Cubs 6, Oakland (ss) 4

Boys Basketball

Class 1A NCOE Sectional

Sesser-Valier 75, Goreville 70

Class 2A Du Quoin Sectional

Mt. Carmel 65, Carterville 56

Class 2A Vandalia Sectional

Teutopolis 63, Breese (Central) 40

Class 3A Salem Regional

Centralia 64, Mascoutah 25

Class 3A Herrin Regional

Massac County 73, Herrin 55

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Chicago at Detroit 6:30 p.m.

MLB

Boston at St. Louis
San Diego at Chicago White Sox
Colorado (ss) at Chicago Cubs

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Emanuel Wants To Expand Soldier Field

(Chicago, IL)  --  Soldier Field could be getting a major upgrade.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to add five-thousand seats to the stadium, with the hopes of winning a bid to host the Super Bowl in 2019.  The NFL requires stadiums to hold at least 70-thousand people for the big game.  Right now, Soldier Field can seat 61-thousand-500 during football games.   

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News For Mar. 4, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon City Council Met Monday

Mt. Vernon City Council met Monday evening.  Among the items on the agenda, the Council accepted a low bid of $201,631.30 from J.K. Trotter & Sons for installations of a water line on South 34th Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway, as well as a low bid of $8,130 from Tru-Bilt to construct a storage building at the Mt. Vernon Police Range.  The Council approved an ordinance approving tax increment finance agreements for several businesses and a resolution authorizing application for funds through the economic development administration to construction of the new industrial park.

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Centralia Family Left Homeless After Fire

Friends and family are working to help a Centralia family after they lost everything in an early Monday morning house fire. Jason Crawford and his three children were able to escape the home safely, and Red Cross responded to help the family with clothing, food and temporary shelter, but the two adults and three children will need to find another home in which to live. According to firefighters, one was injured when the attic of a two-story rental home caught fire early Monday morning.  Crawford reportedly discovered the fire at about the same time someone knocked on his door to tell him his house was on fire.   Firefighters were able to confine the fire to the attic area, but the rest of the home suffered heat, water and smoke damage. 

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MVFD Responds To Fire At Residence

The Mt. Vernon Fire Department responded to 2406 Casey Ave. Monday morning at 12:35. The first unit was on scene at 12:39 and reported fire showing along the bottom of the structure. The fire was contained to a small area in the basement. There was one occupant home at the time of the fire but made it out with no injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation but foul play is not suspected. There were 4 units along with 10 personnel on scene for just over 2 hours. Jefferson County Fire Protection District responded for mutual aid at the scene and Waltonville Fire stood by at the City Hall station until all units were cleared. There were no issues reported on scene due to the weather.

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Metro-east Nursing Homes Getting High Marks

(Belleville, IL)   --  Over two-dozen metro-east nursing homes are getting national attention for the job they're doing.  They are on a list put together by "U.S. News and World Report."  The list of five-star rated nursing homes included Memorial Care Center on the campus of Memorial Hospital in Belleville.  Also on the "America's Best Nursing Homes" list were Clinton Manor Living Center in New Baden, Gateway Regional Medical Center Skilled Nursing Facility in Granite City and Oak Hill in Waterloo, among others.

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JCHD Changing Hours

The Jefferson County Health Department will be changing their hours of operation beginning April 1st.  Their work hours will be from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and the Health Department will be open for business from 8 a.m. - 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. For more information, call the Health Department at 618-244-7134 or visit jeffcohealth.blogspot.com.

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Murphysboro Man Sentenced For Methamphetamine Conspiracy

On February 28, 2014, Michael R. Jines, a/k/a “Mikey,” “Pill Mike,” 33, of Murphysboro, Illinois, was sentenced in United States District Court in Benton on a one-count indictment, charging conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced Monday. Jines, who had previously pled guilty to the methamphetamine offense, was sentenced to 96 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release, and fined $400. The offense occurred between January 2013 and June 2013 in Jackson County. Evidence at the plea and sentencing hearings established that Jines was involved with others in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Jines recruited others to purchase pseudoephedrine for use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Murphysboro Police Department, and Drug Enforcement Administration.

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STATE
4 GOP governor's candidates to square off

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois voters will get another chance to hear from one stage the views of the four Republicans running for governor. WMAQ-TV in Chicago will host a candidate forum Tuesday evening at a University of Chicago hall. Those expected to participate are state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, businessman Bruce Rauner and Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford. The debate is among several in the days ahead of the March 18 primary. Early voting has already started. Organizers say the moderated event will take place in a round-table format. It'll last an hour and then audience members will be allowed to ask questions. Gov. Pat Quinn is seeking re-election. He faces one Democratic challenger, activist Tio Hardiman. Campaign officials say Quinn won't participate in any debates ahead of March 18.
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Rauner Still Holds Lead In Polls

(Carbondale, IL)  --  Bruce Rauner still has a considerable lead over the other three GOP candidates looking to win the nod for governor.  A poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Institute reveals more than a third of likely GOP voters aren’t sure who they’ll be supporting yet, but 32-percent of them are backing Rauner.  It’s a toss-up for second place, with Brady snagging 12-percent of the respondents’ support and Kirk Dillard grabbing eleven-percent.  About ten-percent say they’re backing Dan Rutherford.  When it comes to facing Governor Quinn, the poll puts all the Republicans on top, except Rutherford.

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Rauner Gives Himself Another Million Bucks

(Springfield, IL)  --  It's starting to sound like a broken record.  Bruce Rauner has given his campaign another-one-million-dollars.  That brings his total out-of-pocket contribution to more than six-million-dollars.  Much of the money has been spent on television advertising as Rauner tries to build his name among voters and fight back against big union attacks.  Rauner holds the lead over his three opponents in the most recent polls. 

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Ill. Supreme Court: Consolidate pension lawsuits

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered that four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law be consolidated. The March 3 order transfers the case filed by a group of retired teachers in Cook County Circuit Court to Sangamon County Circuit Court, where the three other cases were filed. The court says all of the cases will be heard together in Springfield. Each of the groups' lawsuits share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished or impaired. Illinois' five public-retirement systems had a $100 billion unfunded liability when the Legislature passed the pension reform measure in December. The bill saves an estimated $145 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.

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Ill. bill could mean interest-free college loans

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois state lawmaker says he's sponsoring legislation that would give what could amount to interest-free loans to college students. Democratic state Rep. Jay Hoffman of Swansea tells the Belleville News-Democrat that House Bill 5323 would direct the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to study a pay-it-forward type of loan program. Under it, students attending community colleges or state universities would have to sign a contract to repay the costs of their education to the state from a portion of their adjusted gross income following graduation. Hoffman says that the recent explosion of student debt requires a new approach. The measure last week unanimously passed the House Higher Education Committee and goes to the House floor.

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Illinois prepares for statewide tornado drill

LINCOLN, Ill. (AP) — Tornado sirens across Illinois are getting ready to sound as part of a statewide emergency preparedness drill. The National Weather Service says today's drill will take place at 10 a.m. in every Illinois county. March is Severe Weather Preparedness month in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn's office says 54 twisters were recorded in Illinois in 2013. They're blamed for the deaths of eight people and caused nearly 200 injuries. More than 2,000 homes were damaged by the tornadoes. Nearly half the tornadoes touched down Nov. 17 when about two dozen twisters crisscrossed Illinois.

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U. of Illinois: State economy slows in February

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — Illinois' economic growth slowed in February and a University of Illinois economist says you can probably blame it on the weather. The university said Monday that its monthly Flash Index dropped in February to 106.8 from 107.2 a month earlier. A reading above 100 indicates the economy is growing while anything below 100 indicates contraction. Economist Fred Giertz said harsh winter weather last month may have slowed the state's economy. If so, he said Illinois may play catch-up in March. But Giertz said that even with February's slowdown the state's economy continues to grow at a modest, steady pace. He said that's been the case for two years now. The Flash Index tracks corporate earnings, consumer spending and personal income to measure the performance of the state's economy.

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Illinois high court formalizes access efforts

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court is formalizing services to improve access to the judicial system, particularly for low-income people. The court announced Monday it has created the Civil Justice Division within the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts. It elevates the work of the Access to Justice Commission which the court created in 2012. The commission is made up of volunteers who have taken steps to improve access to the courts for non-native English speakers. Chief Justice Rita Garman says the move makes the access to justice initiative "more fully integrated into the court's larger efforts." Garman also named Timothy Kelly of Bloomington as the next chairman of the Access to Justice Commission. The commission has suggested court rule-changes to ensure non-English speakers and low-income litigants are fairly heard in court.

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NATIONAL
Trial set to begin for general facing sex charges

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — A court martial on sexual assault charges is set to begin today for a U.S. Army general who could face life in prison if convicted. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair is scheduled to appear in a Fort Bragg courtroom on criminal charges that include physically forcing a female captain under his command to perform oral sex. The 51-year-old married father admits he carried on a three-year extramarital affair with the junior officer, but denies any physical abuse. Sinclair is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to ever face trial for sexual assault and will be judged by a jury of fellow generals. He has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal counts including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer.

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Obama to unveil 2015 budget plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama today will unveil a $4 trillion budget for 2015 that drops earlier proposals to cut future Social Security benefits and pushes for new money for infrastructure, education and job training. But Congress and the White House already have agreed to a two-year, bipartisan budget pact that sets parameters for this election year's budget work. And Democrats controlling the Senate have said they won't advance a budget this year.

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Eyes on GOP as Texas holds nation's 1st primary

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is holding the nation's first primary election today with a political free-for-all in Republican races. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has decided this current term will be his last of a record 14 years in office, and his looming exit has set off a scramble resulting in the most open races in Texas in more than a decade. Republicans are favored to win them all come November. And George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is making his political debut by running for land commissioner.

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Shutdown cost national parks at least $414M

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says last fall's government shutdown resulted in nearly 8 million fewer visitors to national parks. That cost the parks and surrounding communities an estimated $414 million in lost visitor spending. A report released Monday says California, Arizona and three other states lost more than $20 million during the 16-day shutdown. And the six states that received permission to reopen national parks using state money generated nearly $10 in visitor spending for every dollar spent.

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Cold, cold, cold

WASHINGTON (AP) — March roaring in like a lion is adding to the seemingly endless winter in parts of the South, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, though much of today's problem is bone-chilling cold. A blast of arctic air that's expected to send temperatures plummeting into the single digits marks only the third time that's happened in March in the nation's capital. The other two times were in 1872 and 1873.

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Remaining Bieber video at issue in Fla. Hearing

MIAMI (AP) — A hearing is scheduled in South Florida today on the release of remaining police video of singer Justin Bieber following his January arrest. Miami-Dade County Judge William Altfield will decide whether video of Bieber urinating into a cup for a drug test is an invasion of privacy.

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Home births rising

ATLANTA (AP) — Home births have risen to their highest level in about four decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that a little more than 1 percent of U.S. births occur at home, still just a fraction of all births. In the 20th century, births shifted from homes to hospitals, and out-of-hospital deliveries were down to 1 percent by 1969. But around 2004, they began inching up again and reached about 1.36 percent in 2012. That translates to about 35,000 births in homes and another 16,000 in freestanding, birthing centers. T.J. Mathews, one of the authors of the report, says while more birthing centers have opened, perhaps the main driver is an increase in out-of-hospital births involving white mothers, with 1 in 49 delivering outside hospitals. For Hispanic, black and Asian mothers, it's around 1 in 200.

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US home prices rose at solid pace in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose in January after three months of declines. A tight supply of homes might have helped boost prices and offset sales slowed by cold weather. Real estate data provider CoreLogic says prices rose 0.9 percent in January after dipping 0.1 percent in December. Over the past 12 months, home prices have risen 12 percent, the biggest year-over-year gain in more than eight years. CoreLogic's price figures aren't adjusted for seasonal patterns, such as winter weather, which can depress sales. Snowstorms and low temperatures contributed to a sharp drop in sales of existing homes in January. The National Association of Realtors said sales plunged to their lowest level in 18 months. Still, the number of homes for sale remained low, a factor that might have helped increase prices.

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New Mexico governor to unveil GOP candidates plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is set to unveil a plan aimed at electing "75 diverse candidates" and 150 women to office as Republicans. The nation's only Latina governor and former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno are scheduled to announce details Tuesday on recruiting black, Latino and female GOP candidates for state-level offices. Martinez, a moderate Republican seen as a rising star in the party, has been leading an effort to diversify the GOP. She and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval worked on minority outreach before the 2012presidential election. But President Barack Obama took about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. Additionally, about 90 percent of black voters backed Obama. Among women, around 55 percent voted for the Democratic incumbent as he defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

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Cold, gray morning won't stop Mardi Gras revelers

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Despite rain and cold in Tuesday's forecast, revelers are gathering along parade routes as the Carnival season in New Orleans heads to a crest with the unabashed celebration of Mardi Gras. Mark Nelson, of St. Louis, will be attending his first Fat Tuesday. He says he will be in the mix even in a downpour. Nelson says he came for the experience to support his U.S. Department of Energy co-worker, Melvin Labat, who's also a member of the Krewe of Zulu and this year's Province Prince. Rain is expected to hit the metropolitan area sometime after 10 a.m. local time, which means it could rain on both the krewes of Zulu and Rex. Temperatures aren't expected to rise above the low 40s.

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Ohio student points finger like gun, is suspended

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A central Ohio principal says she suspended a 10-year-old boy from school for three days for pretending his finger was a gun and pointing it at another student's head. The boy's father says he thinks it's the adults who are acting childish after the boy was suspended from Devonshire Alternative Elementary School in Columbus last week. The fifth-grader said he was "just playing around." But district spokesman Jeff Warner tells The Columbus Dispatch that Devonshire Principal Patricia Price has warned students about pretend gun play numerous times this year, and everyone should know the rules by now. Warner says the boy put his finger to the side of the other student's head and pretended to shoot "kind of execution style." The boy's father says the suspension is overboard.

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City to strike ban on being willfully annoying

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — It's soon expected to be OK to be willfully annoying in Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids Press reports that the City Commission is nixing a 38-year-old section of city code that states "no person shall willfully annoy another person." City Attorney Catherine Mish recommended repealing the language, saying the wording is "unconstitutional in terms of being vague" and "simply unenforceable." A final decision is expected March 11. Even with the change, related crimes such as obstructing someone in a public place or assault would still be on the books. Mish has been scouring city code to find archaic rules. Last year, rules that got a look included one prohibiting people from riding horses on a sidewalk and another allowing jail time for failing to return a library book.

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INTERNATIONAL
Kerry arrives in Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kiev to show support for the country's government. White House officials say the U.S. will provide $1 billion in energy aid in an economic package to Ukraine. The announcement comes after Russia's state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom announced it would cancel a price discount for natural gas supplies to Ukraine. Gazprom says Ukraine has accumulated a $1.5-billion debt for Russian gas supplies.

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NATO, Russia to have talks over Ukraine tomorrow

BRUSSELS (AP) — The NATO alliance and Russia have agreed to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine at a special meeting on Wednesday. The alliance announced that an extraordinary NATO-Russia council will convene at the suggestion of alliance secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Russia agreed to the meeting on Tuesday, when NATO ambassadors were further discussing the crisis among themselves. Rasmussen has said Russia's military intervention in Ukraine is in violation of the U.N. charter and threatens peace and security in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow reserves the right to use its military to protect Russians there but voiced hope it won't need to do so. Russia took over the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, placing its troops around the region's military bases and border posts.

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Syria disarmament chief: June deadline feasible

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch diplomat leading an international mission to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program says the pace of removing chemicals from the civil war-torn country is picking up and an end-of-June deadline for total destruction of the program is still achievable. In an interview with The Associated Press at the headquarters of the international watchdog overseeing the unprecedented mission, Sigrid Kaag said Tuesday Syria has agreed a 60-day timetable "to accelerate and intensify their efforts to ensure timely removal" of chemicals that will be destroyed outside the country. Kaag says that "as of today, nearly one third of Syria's chemical weapons material has been removed or destroyed inside the country." Syria had been criticized in recent weeks for the slow pace of removing chemicals.

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Witness who says she heard screams testifies in tears

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The first witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial has broken down in tears, saying she still remembers the terrified screams of a woman the night the South African Olympic runner killed his girlfriend by shooting four times through a bathroom door. Michelle Burger wept as she testified in court in Pretoria today. Pistorius says he thought girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was an intruder when he fired the shots on Valentine's Day 2013. Prosecutors allege Pistorius killed Steenkamp in an argument. Earlier, the trial was interrupted when the prosecutor said an image of the witness testifying was being shown on TV, against a court order that guaranteed privacy for witnesses who request it.

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SPORTS
MONDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Brooklyn 96, Chicago 80

MLB

Detroit 8, St. Louis 5
Cubs 4, Milwaukee 2
White Sox 9, Kansas City 7

TUESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Tampa Bay at St. Louis 7 p.m.
Colorado at Chicago 7 p.m.

Mens College Basketball

(12) Michigan at Illinois 6 p.m.

MLB

White Sox vs. Cleveland
Oakland vs. Cubs

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Hossa sidelined

UNDATED (AP) — Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa will be sidelined for two to three weeks because of an upper-body injury suffered in Saturday night's 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh at Soldier Field. It is unclear exactly when Hossa got hurt, but he took a hard hit from Penguins forward Craig Adams during Chicago's second power play of the first period.

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MLB's Instant Replay Begins

Baseball's expanded instant replay system has gotten off to a smooth start as the umpires' initial call was upheld in three challenges on Monday. Extra replay was in place for three games. Two calls were checked in the game between Toronto and Minnesota, there was one review in the Angels-Diamondbacks game and none when the Chicago Cubs played Milwaukee.

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News For Mar. 3, 2014

LOCAL
Mt. Vernon City Council Meets Tonight

Mt. Vernon City Council is due to meet this evening.  Among the items on the agenda, the Council will hear bid results for a water line on South 34th Street and Veterans Memorial Parkway, as well as bid results regarding construction of a storage building at the Mt. Vernon Police Range.  The Council will also hear the first reading on an ordinance approving tax increment finance agreements for several businesses and a resolution authorizing application for funds through the economic development administration to construction of the new industrial park.  The meeting is this evening at 7 p.m. at the Rolland W. Lewis Building at Veterans Park.

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Experts inspect DuQuoin building after bricks fall

DU QUOIN, Ill. (AP) — Engineers are inspecting an office building in the southern Illinois town of Du Quoin after bricks fell from its facade and caused a gas leak. The Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale reports that bricks fell into an alley on Saturday. Emergency officials are worried that more of the 135-year-old building's facade could collapse if more snow falls and ice forms. Du Quoin Fire Chief Bob Shaw says more snow could add a lot of weight to a building that's already distressed. Gas began to leak after falling bricks separated the gas regulator from the meter of the downtown building, but the leak has since been shut off. Nobody was in the alley when the bricks fell.

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Smithsonian Exhibit On Display

(Cobden, IL)  --  A Smithsonian exhibit is on display in Union County.  The "Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America" exhibit will be up until April 13th at the Union County Historical and Genealogy Society.  It highlights various items and stories of historical sports teams and, it tries to establish a connection on how sports can make an impact within the community.  The exhibit will move to Mattoon on April 19th.

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Alton Man Charged With Multiple Counts of Abuse Of Disabled Person

A group supervisor at a Southwestern Illinois home for people with developmental disabilities is accused of slapping two residents and pouring water on one of them. Prosecutors in Madison County have charged 21-year-old Marcus Lovett of Alton with two counts each of abuse of a long-term health care facility resident and of aggravated battery of an intellectually disabled person. Investigators say the alleged abuse took place Tuesday at Beverly Farms in Godfrey and was reported to supervisors by a Lovett co-worker. The alleged victims are 36 and 61. Investigators say they were not seriously injured. Online court records don't show whether Lovett has an attorney. He does not have a listed home telephone number.

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Franklin County Accident Causes Injuries, Citations

A Friday Afternoon traffic crash left two Franklin County women injured. The wreck happened a little before 4 o'clock on Friday along Route 14 at Route 184. A car driven by 17 year old Whitney Tripp of Royalton came into contact with a semi driven by 37 year old Jesse Brown of Murphysboro. Both Whitney Tripp and her passenger…20 year old Hilory Tripp…had to be taken to Herrin hospital with non life threatening injuries. Brown, the driver of the semi, was cited for failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Tripp was ticketed for operating an uninsured vehicle.

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Belleville to pay $30,000 to settle suit over sign

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — The city of Belleville has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit over political signs. The Belleville News Democrat reports that the city will make the payment to business owner Dianne Rogge, who sued after she was ordered to remove a political sign. She claimed in a federal lawsuit that the order violated her civil rights. The settlement also requires the city to change its ordinances to exempt political signs from regulation, which it did last month. After the city denied Rogge's request for $15,000 in tax increment financing incentives to redo the inside of her Pour Haus tavern, she put a sign in the window that said "NO TIF for us, Tks B'ville." The city said she would be fined $500 per day unless she removed it.

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Belleville students get visit from Temple Grandin

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Internationally recognized animal scientist Temple Grandin spoke to students and teachers in Belleville, sharing her experience and advice — including some job interview tips for people with autism. Grandin has autism herself. She's known for developing humane livestock handling systems that are used worldwide and she's a professor at Colorado State University. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Grandin had a last-minute opening in her schedule Friday and met with special education students and teachers from Belleville West and Belleville East high schools. Grandin says students who struggle with communication skills can "circumvent the regular interview process" when applying for a job by showing off their skills or showing photos of what they can do. She says getting into the workforce as a teenager is crucial.

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STATE
Wind Chill Advisory In West Central, Southwestern Illinois

(Undated)  --  The frigid cold weather isn't letting up.  Temps as low as 25-below-zero are expected to slam portions of west central and southwestern Illinois, including Greene, Macoupin, Adams, and Madison counties.  The National Weather Service has issued a wind-chill advisory for the whole week. 

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Concealed Carry Permits Hitting Mailboxes

(Undated)  --  Five thousand people in Illinois will be allowed to carry guns legally this week.  The State Police sent out the first round of concealed carry permits last Friday.  About 45-thousand more applications are waiting to be approved.  Illinois was the last state in the nation to approve concealed carry.  The measure was approved last year after the court ruled Illinois had to get a law on the books.

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Early Voting Underway

(Undated)  --  Early voting starts today for the March 18th primary.  Registered voters can avoid the long lines on Election Day by casting a ballot between now and March 15th.  Voters can contact their county clerks to get information on polling places. 

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Illinois bill backlog could fall to $5.6 billion

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois officials say the state's backlog of unpaid bills is decreasing. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports the backlog is expected to fall to $5.6 billion by June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year. That's down from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010. The figures came from a letter acting budget director Jerome Stermer wrote to legislative leaders, adding that the unpaid tab was $6.4 billion in December. The newspaper's story is part of GateHouse newspapers' series on Illinois' backlog of unpaid bills. Lawmakers from both parties say the state has made progress, but say there's still more work to be done.

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Plan would use private funds to fix fairgrounds

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State agricultural officials and some lawmakers say private money could help make major repairs at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. State Sen. Andy Manar has filed legislation that would allow the Department of Agriculture to form a state fairground foundation to solicit private money to upgrade and repair fairgrounds in Springfield and DuQuoin. State agriculture Director Bob Flider tells the State Journal-Register in Springfield that he has a list of projects estimated to cost $30 million, but not enough money for them all. Big projects like roof replacements and road repaving are managed through the state's Capital Development Board, but Flider says fairground repairs compete with other statewide infrastructure needs. The idea comes six years after a power failure shut down the Springfield fairgrounds for nearly three months.

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RV to tour state to promote Get Covered Illinois

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace has planned a month of activities to call attention to the March 31 deadline for private insurance coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law. Jennifer Koehler is executive director for the marketplace, also called Get Covered Illinois. She says it's critical to reach uninsured residents and make them aware of coverage opportunities. The enrollment push has the theme "Road 2 Coverage" and will feature an RV touring the state, starting with an event Saturday at Juarez Community Academy in Chicago. The RV is designed as a moving billboard for Get Covered Illinois, making stops in communities with high numbers of uninsured residents. During March, the RV will be in the Chicago area, Marion, East St. Louis, Rockford and several other cities.

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U of I student group pledges $1M to arena project

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A student cheering group at the University of Illinois has pledged $1 million to help renovate the school's sports arena. The group, called Orange Krush, will get its own hospitality room at the State Farm Center in return for the donation. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports the gift is part of a planned $160 million overhaul of the arena formerly known as the Assembly Hall. Bloomington-based State Farm Insurance Co. is paying $60 million over 30 years in exchange for the arena's naming rights. Orange Krush has raised more than $2.7 million for the university and charities since 1998. The group has raised money for a children's home, a food bank, a women's center and other organizations over the years.

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Illinois prepares for statewide tornado drill

LINCOLN, Ill. (AP) — Tornado sirens across Illinois are getting ready to sound as part of a statewide emergency preparedness drill. The National Weather Service says Tuesday's drill will take place at 10 a.m. in every Illinois county. March is Severe Weather Preparedness month in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn's office says 54 twisters were recorded in Illinois in 2013. They're blamed for the deaths of eight people and caused nearly 200 injuries. More than 2,000 homes were damaged by the tornadoes. Nearly half the tornadoes touched down Nov. 17 when about two dozen twisters crisscrossed Illinois.

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NATIONAL
Another snow storm for East Coast

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many folks along the East Coast are saying enough already as another winter storm is blasting the region. Today's storm could leave as much as 10 inches of snow in the Washington, D.C. area, Baltimore and elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic. Areas north of Philadelphia could get up to 6 inches and New Jersey is expected to get nearly a foot.

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Obama, Netanyahu to meet on Iran, Mideast peace

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will personally appeal today to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians. Obama and Netanyahu are meeting at the White House today at a critical juncture in those talks. Obama plans to meet later this month with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Group seeks to double number of US students abroad

WASHINGTON (AP) — An international education institute is working to double the number of American students studying abroad over the next five years. The Institute of International Education says it will focus on recruiting more low-income students and others who have not participated in high numbers. Each year, hundreds of thousands more international students come to the United States to study than the United States sends abroad.

---------------------------------

High court looks at death row inmate with low IQ

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal from a Florida death row inmate who claims he is protected from execution because he is mentally disabled. The case being argued at the court today centers on how authorities determine who is eligible to be put to death. It comes 12 years after the justices prohibited the execution of the mentally disabled. The court has let states set rules for judging who is mentally disabled. In Florida and certain other states, an intelligence test score higher than 70 means an inmate is not mentally disabled, even if other evidence indicates he is. Inmate Freddie Lee Hall has scored above 70 on most of the IQ tests he has taken since 1968 but says ample evidence shows he is mentally disabled.

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Oscar night in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "12 Years a Slave" has won best picture at this year's Academy Awards. The best actor and actress statues go to Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club" and Cate Blanchett for her role in "Blue Jasmine." Jared Leto won best supporting actor for "Dallas Buyers Club" and best supporting actress went to Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave."

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Bin Laden son-in-law is going on trial in NY

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal trial in New York City will hear charges that Osama bin Laden's son-in-law conspired to kill Americans as al-Qaida's spokesman after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be tried in a courthouse just blocks from where the attacks downed the World Trade Center in 2001. Jury selection is getting underway Monday. On Friday, Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to delay the trial amid lawyers' claims that the defendant has been mistaken for a Guantanamo Bay detainee in regards to some evidence. Authorities say jurors will see propaganda videos in which Abu Ghaith sits with bin Laden. FBI witnesses will describe what he allegedly told them.

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US consumer spending up 0.4 percent in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans boosted spending in January despite the harsh winter weather but activity was much weaker in December than initially reported. The Commerce Department says that spending rose 0.4 percent in January following a tiny 0.1 percent gain in December which had initially been reported as a stronger 0.4 percent increase. Income grew 0.3 percent in January following no increase at all in December. The spending gain was better than expected but it came after the sharp downward revision in December. Consumer spending is closely watched because it drives 70 percent of economic activity. The government reported Friday that the overall economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, down sharply from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent growth during the quarter.

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GM blames weather as Feb. sales drop 1 percent

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors' U.S. sales fell 1 percent last month as winter storms pounded much of the nation. The country's largest automaker conceded that the weather had an impact but said sales started to thaw toward the end of the month. GM says it sold just over 222,000 cars and trucks, led by the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, with sales up almost 22 percent. But sales of the Chevy Silverado pickup, GM's top-selling vehicle, fell 12 percent for the month. Industry analysts expect auto sales overall to rise slightly for the month as most companies report declines or modest increases. Nissan and Chrysler bucked the trend and reported double-digit increases.

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Justices decline to re-enter immigration debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended the efforts of two local governments to prevent some immigrants from renting apartments. The justices on Monday declined to take up appeals from the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch, Texas, or the city of Hazleton, Pa., of lower court rulings that blocked local ordinances regulating rental housing. Both were intended to keep people who are in the country illegally from finding housing in those jurisdictions. The Supreme Court held in 2012 that immigration is primarily a matter for the federal government, ruling out most local and state laws targeting illegal immigration. The Hazleton case also involved an ordinance that would have denied permits to businesses that hired people who are in the U.S. illegally.

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Moscow: troops in Ukraine defending its citizens

GENEVA (AP) — Russia's foreign minister says his country's troops have been streaming into neighboring Ukraine to protect Russian citizens there. Ukraine is accusing Russia of a military invasion and is calling on the Kremlin to pull its troops out of Crimea. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet with the Russian foreign minister later today to discuss the situation. Pro-Russian troops today are controlling a ferry terminal on the easternmost tip of Crimea, close to Russia. The troops are refusing to identify themselves, but they're speaking Russian.

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EU weighs reaction to Russian incursion in Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union foreign ministers are working on a joint response to Russia's military incursion in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula that could include economic sanctions. The 28 foreign ministers are holding an emergency meeting on Ukraine Monday to discuss what Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called "Europe's most dramatic crisis" since the end of the Cold War. Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said sanctions against Russia are an "option" that will be discussed. Several other ministers, however, cautioned the focus for now should be on diplomacy and forging a direct dialogue between Russia and the new leadership in Ukraine to deescalate the situation. Spain's foreign minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, said discussions are also underway on convening an emergency summit of EU leaders Thursday.

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China captures 3 more suspects in station attack

BEIJING (AP) — China says the final three people suspected of involvement in a slashing rampage at a train station which killed 29 have been captured. The official Xinhua News Agency said Monday that a "terrorist gang" of eight members was responsible for the attack Saturday evening in Kunming city in southwest China. Citing a statement from the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua says police shot and killed four of the attackers and captured an injured female suspect at the scene. Xinhua says the group was made up of six men and two women. Authorities have said the attack that also wounded 143 was carried out by separatists from the far west region of Xinjiang.

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Witness describes hearing screaming and then gunshots

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — A neighbor of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius says she heard a woman's "blood-curdling" screams before the sound of four gunshots on the night Pistorius killed his girlfriend. The neighbor was the first witness to testify at Pistorius' murder trial that began today in Pretoria, South Africa. Her testimony contradicts Pistorus' version of events -- because he has said he thought his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was in bed at the time of the shooting, and he did not describe any woman screaming. The double-amputee track star says he accidentally killed Steenkamp thinking she was someone who broke into his home. Prosecutors believe Pistorius shot and killed her during a fight on Valentine's Day 2013. Among those in court today was the victim's mother, who says she was there to "really look him in the eyes."

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SPORTS
SATURDAY'S RESULTS

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Illinois 53, No. 18 Michigan St. 46
S. Illinois 66, Illinois St. 65

WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

S. Illinois 64, Wichita St. 59

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE

Chicago 5, Pittsburgh 1

MLB

Miami (ss) 5, Cardinals 4
Cubs (ss)vs. Giants Rained out
Cubs (ss) vs. Diamondbacks Rained out
White Sox vs. Indians

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 109, New York 90

Women's College Basketball

(25) Iowa 81, Illinois 56

NHL

St. Louis 4, Phoenix 2

MLB

St. Louis 7, NY Mets 1
Kansas City 5, Chicago Cubs 3
Chicago White Sox 9, Texas 7

MONDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Chicago at Brooklyn 6:30 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis vs. Detroit
Cubs vs. Milwaukee
Kansas City vs. White Sox

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Fredette Signs With Bulls

The Chicago Bulls signed guard Jimmer Fredette on Sunday. Fredette reached a buyout agreement with the Sacramento Kings earlier this week and has joined Chicago after clearing waivers. The former BYU standout averaged 5.9 points in 41 games off the bench this season for the Kings. Fredette, the No. 10 overall pick in 2011, averaged 7.0 points and 1.5 assists in 171 games over two-plus seasons with Sacramento.

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News For Feb. 28, 2014

LOCAL
Shooting Range Under Fire

(Marion, IL)  --  A shooting range in Marion is taking heat after a stray bullet went off the property and hit a woman in the face.  She was working at a union training facility a half-mile-away from the range when she was hit last week.  Now her boss is concerned the same thing will happen to other workers.  He says they've found stray bullets on their property before.  The boss has filed a restraining order against the Tombstone Gun Range, hoping it forces them to take the necessary steps to stop the bullets from leaving their property.  

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Three In District Court On Drug Charges

On Thursday, United States District Court in Benton sentenced Aaron M. Trover, 32, of Vienna, Illinois, on a one-count indictment charging conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
Trover, who had previously pled guilty to the methamphetamine offense, was sentenced to 188 months in prison, 4 years of supervised release, and fined $400. The offense occurred between June 2010, and March 2012, in Johnson, Jackson, Saline, and Williamson Counties.  Also on Thursday, Larry J. Dowdy, Jr., 36, of Murphysboro, Illinois, was sentenced on a methamphetamine offense. Dowdy, who had previously pled guilty to a one-count indictment charging conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison, 3 years of supervised release and fined $200. The offense occurred between 2012 and March 2013 in Jackson County. Earlier in the week, a jury in the United States District Court in Benton, Illinois, convicted Dana L. Gulley, 42, of Energy, Illinois, of buying pseudoephedrine for others knowing the pseudoephedrine would be used to manufacture methamphetamine. The evidence during trial showed that Gulley had purchased cold pills on 8 occasions between September of 2011 and February of 2012 that were used by others in Williamson County to make finished methamphetamine. The jury deliberated for approximately 30 minutes before returning its verdict. Gulley now faces up to 20 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, and up to 6 years of supervised release.

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Harrah's Making Major Changes In Metropolis

(Metropolis, IL)  --  Major changes are in the works for Harrah's casino in Metropolis.  They're taking their operations off the river and into the convention center, as a land-based casino.  They've had a dip in revenues over the past few years and operators are hoping the change will breathe new life into the casino.  Some workers will be impacted by the shift though.  Those who lose their jobs will be offered other jobs with the company.  The shift is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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Player in courthouse drug scandal sent to prison

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A former southwestern Illinois probation officer caught up in a courthouse drug scandal involving two judges has been ordered to spend five years in federal prison on cocaine and weapons charges. Forty-six-year-old James Fogarty was sentenced Thursday in East St. Louis. That's where he pleaded guilty in November to possessing cocaine with plans to distribute it, and with unlawfully having a firearm. Fogarty was a St. Clair County probation worker who allegedly provided cocaine to former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook and Cook's friend, Joe Christ. Christ died of a cocaine overdose last March while staying with Cook at the Cook family's hunting cabin. Cook hasn't been charged in Christ's death, but has pleaded guilty to federal heroin and gun charges. He's to appear in court March 28.

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Bill Would Expand Reach Of Speed Cameras

(Belleville, IL) -- State Rep. Jay Hoffman says any municipality in Illinois should be allowed to install cameras to catch speeders. He wants to change the current law that allows the cameras only in Chicago, where they're installed near schools and parks. The cameras automatically send tickets for up to 100-dollars to the owner of any car caught on camera exceeding the posted limit. Critics say the cameras are merely a revenue-generator for local governments and do little to improve safety.

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Wamac Man Sentenced For Battery Charge

A 34-year-old Wamac man was sentenced Thursday in Washington County court to 10 years in prison for an April 2013 domestic battery that resulted in severe brain injuries to a woman. Scott Hamburg had remained free since the April incident, with Wamac Police Chief Brooks Alcorn turning over his investigation to Washington County Prosecutors. It wasn’t until earlier this month that Hamburg was finally arrested in connection with the beating of Angela Culver. He pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge of aggravated battery resulting in bodily harm and was sentenced to 10-years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Police reports show they were initially called April 19, by St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia regarding an incident believed to have taken place earlier that night. While it was initially indicated to emergency room personnel that the woman had suffered a fall, doctors called Wamac Police and informed them her injuries were not consistent with a fall, but instead were consistent with a battery.  She was ultimately transported to St. Louis University Hospital for treatment of severe brain injuries. Hamburg has a prior conviction for felony domestic battery and approximately five prior orders of protection for domestic battery.

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Extended Hours For Voter Registering in Benton

The primary election is a few weeks away and voters in Franklin County will have a chance with extended hours to early vote or to register through the grace period. The Franklin County election office inside of the annex building at 202 W. Main Street in Benton will have Saturday hours from 8-4 in advance of the March 18th primary election.

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Mt. Vernon Man Found Guilty of Criminal Sexual Abuse

A Mt. Vernon man was found guilty on Wednesday in Jefferson County Court on a Class 2 Felony count of Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse.  The trial of 46 year old Sean Q. Williams began Tuesday and was presided over by Circuit Judge Eric Dirnbeck.  Williams, who was represented by Public Defender Sean Featherstun, faces a possible sentence of between 3 and 7 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. A status hearing is scheduled for April 9, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.  The court ordered the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation report and a sex offender evaluation, as required by law. Following the jury verdict, Williams' bond was revoked.  He will remain in jail pending sentencing.

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STATE
GOP candidate debate takes on feisty tone

CHICAGO (AP) — The four Republicans running for Illinois weren't shying away from personal jabs and controversial issues during a Chicago debate just weeks away from the primary. The tone was combative from the start of the hour-long debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of Illinois, WLS-TV and Univision. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford started the debate by denying allegation of political coercion and sexual harassment in a federal lawsuit filed against him by a former employee. State Sen. Kirk Dillard took digs at all three, including calling out state Sen. Bill Brady for losing the GOP nomination in 2010. Businessman Bruce Rauner says he's trying to change the culture of Springfield and isn't a career politician. The candidates also addressed gay marriage, guns and pension reform.

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Rutherford Admits Harassment Claims Hurt Campaign

(Chicago, IL)  --  State Treasurer Dan Rutherford admits the sexual harassment claims against him have put a serious wrench in his campaign for governor.  But, he still says the allegations are false.  Rutherford has been sinking in the polls since a former male employee filed a civil suit claiming Rutherford groped him at a staff retreat.  Rutherford had a private investigator look into the matter but his office isn't talking about what's in the final report.  That leads some to believe there's some truth to the allegations.

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Online Gambling Back On The Docket In Springfield

(Springfield, IL)  --  Lawmakers are trying to find ways to fill a multi-billion-dollar gap in the state's budget and they say online gambling may be the way to go.  Supporters say it could bring in hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-a-year, but opponents argue it'll lead to a whole slew of problems.  One of the concerns is that teens will be compelled to participate in the online wagering.   But John Pappas, with the Poker Player's Alliance, says that shouldn't be a problem because gaming operators would be required to implement age verification software before they can be licensed and before they can settle bets.

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McLean County To Issue Marriage Licenses For Same-Sex Couples

(Bloomington, IL) -- It’s like a domino effect. County after county is stepping up to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. McLean County is the latest to jump on board. County Clerk Kathy Michael says she didn’t realize a ruling out of Cook County would apply in her area until after Champaign County officials made the decision. It’ll be about a week before the licenses are issued in McLean County because officials need to get all of their paperwork in order. But, couples can start making appointments for the licenses now.

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Macon County may issue same-sex licenses early


DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — Macon County Clerk Steve Bean expects to make a decision early next week about whether to issue same-sex marriage licenses before Illinois' new gay marriage law starts June 1. Bean told The Herald & Review in Decatur that State's Attorney Jay Scott had advised him that a federal judge's decision that Cook County gay couples didn't have to wait for the new law applies only to Cook County. Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said Wednesday that his office will join Cook County in issuing licenses ahead of June 1. Bean said he and Hulten had talked about both Champaign and Macon counties potentially following Cook County. Scott says he believes a license issued in another county based on the Cook County ruling could later be challenged.

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Ill. Senate passes 'revenge porn' bill

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Senate has approved a proposal making it illegal to display what some are calling "revenge porn." The measure passed unanimously in the chamber Wednesday and now heads to the House. The bill makes it a felony to post sexual material of another person on the Internet without their consent. It would be punishable by up to three years in jail and a $25,000 fine. State Sen. Michael Hastings is sponsoring the measure. The Democrat from Orland Hills serious harmful effects, even leading victims to commit suicide. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is concerned the bill is too broad and would like to see some changes.

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Illinois bill requires prescription for cold meds

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Legislation proposed by a state senator would require anyone with a cold to get a doctor's prescription to buy certain medicine. The (Peoria) Journal-Star reports the bill would impact any cold and flu drug with pseudoephedrine. The decongestant is an ingredient used to make methamphetamine. The measure is sponsored by Peoria Democrat Sen. Dave Koehler. State law already requires any drug containing pseudoephedrine to be kept behind pharmacy counters. Stores record the IDs of people who buy the medicine and there are limits on how much can be purchased. Pekin police Chief Greg Nelson says the measure could "be a game changer in Illinois for meth" if it's approved, although it's expected to face resistance. Oregon and Mississippi require prescriptions for the medicine.

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Pollution panel weighing new rules for coal ash

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Pollution Control Board is holding public hearings on a proposal to tighten rules for dozens of coal-ash ponds. The State Journal-Register in Springfield reports that representatives from utility, environmental and grassroots groups spoke Wednesday in Springfield at the panel's first hearing. Rules would require coal-burning power plants to monitor groundwater for contamination and report findings to regulators. But environmentalists say stronger rules are needed to prevent an accident like one recently in North Carolina, where up to 27 million gallons of polluted water and over 80,000 tons of tons of ash spilled from a pond. Illinois power plants produce an estimated 4.4 million tons of coal ash each year. A second hearing is being held in Springfield on Thursday. Two will be held in Chicago in mid-May.

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Gulf War remembrance ceremony in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A ceremony to honor those from Illinois who served during Operation Desert Storm is planned Friday in Springfield. The Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs is hosting the event at 11 a.m. at the Illinois State Military Museum. The ceremony is open to the public. Fourteen Illinois military personnel died during Desert Storm. They served with the U.S.-led international coalition that ultimately drove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait 23 years ago. Friday's ceremony takes place on the anniversary of the end of the war. Coalition forces, under the command of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, ceased offensive operations against the Iraqis at 8:01 a.m., Feb. 28, 1991.

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NATIONAL
Officials: Al-Qaida plots comeback in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say al-Qaida's Afghanistan leader is laying the groundwork to relaunch his war-shattered organization once the United States and international forces withdraw from the country, as the allies have warned they will do without a security agreement from the Afghan government. The officials say the al-Qaida leader has been cementing local ties and bringing in small numbers of experienced militants to train a new generation of fighters. Meanwhile, the U.S. has stepped up drone and jet missile strikes against the leader and his followers in two mountainous eastern provinces. The objective is to keep him from restarting the large training camps that once drew hundreds of followers before the U.S.-led war began.

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Documents from Clinton years being released

WASHINGTON (AP) — The National Archives says about 5,000 pages of previously unreleased documents involving former President Bill Clinton's administration will be released today through the Clinton Presidential Library. The documents are expected to include confidential communications between the former president and his advisers along with records related to Clinton's federal appointments. It could include communications involving former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign. The documents will be released online and through the former president's library in Little Rock, Ark. The National Archives says the initial release of the documents is part of 25,000 pages of records that have been cleared for release in the coming weeks.

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NY jury weighs Kerry Kennedy drugged-driving case

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Both sides in Kerry Kennedy's New York drugged-driving trial agree she didn't mean to take a sleeping pill before she set out for the gym, veered into a truck and ended up slumped and disoriented at the wheel. But jurors now must decide whether she realized she was impaired and so should have pulled over. Deliberations will resume today in Kennedy's trial. Jurors in White Plains deliberated for about 45 minutes yesterday. Kennedy is a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and the ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She was arrested in 2012 on a misdemeanor charge of driving while impaired. She says she accidentally took the sleeping drug zolpidem instead of a thyroid medication and had no idea how it was affecting her as she drove.

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Atlanta police: Fake Waffle House manager arrested

ATLANTA (AP) — Police in Atlanta say a woman wearing a Waffle House uniform pretended to be a company manager and stole $100 from the restaurant. Police tell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that 35-year-old Katie Marie McCrary was caught only when her guilt got the best of her and she returned to the restaurant to give back the money. She's facing a theft charge.

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US economy expanded at 2.4 percent in 4th quarter

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 2.4 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, significantly slower than first thought, reflecting slower consumer spending than initially estimated. The severe winter weather is expected to slow growth further in the current quarter, but as the snows melt, economists believe growth will rebound. The Commerce Department says the downward revision from an initial 3.2 percent estimate for the fourth quarter primarily reflected a downgrade in consumer spending, which is now estimated to have expanded at 2.6 percent rate, still the best showing in nearly two years. But it is below the previous 3.3 percent estimate. For all of 2013, the economy grew at a lackluster 1.9 percent, but analysts expect growth will rebound in 2014, possibly as high as 3 percent.

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No sign of expansion at plant where UAW lost vote

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Friday marks the end of the two-week period within which U.S. Sen. Bob Corker promised Volkswagen would announce another line at its factory in Tennessee if workers rejected representation by the United Auto Workers union. So far there's little sign of any pending announcement. Workers at the Chattanooga plant ended up voting 712-626 against the UAW, in an election the union claims was tainted by threats and intimidation from Republicans like Corker, Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers. The UAW last week filed a challenge with the National Labor Relations Board, seeking to have results voided and a new election to be held. Corker blames that appeal — and the delay in certifying the results of the union vote — for putting a hold on expansion talks at the plant.

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Heavy rain expected in Southern California

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The full force of a storm moving into Southern California is expected to be felt this morning, with possible thunderstorms and rains up to an inch an hour. Ahead of the storm, about 1,000 homes were evacuated in eastern foothill suburbs of Los Angeles. They sit beneath steep mountain slopes that were stripped bare by fire in January. A ten-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway was closed overnight in Ventura County because of what the Highway Patrol says was a high likelihood of rock slides in another area that was left bare by a fire. Cities in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties have been handing out sandbags in anticipation of heavy rain. California's rain totals in recent months have been far below normal. It will take a series of drenching storms to make a dent in a statewide drought that is among the worst in recent history.

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Miss. man wakes up in body bag at funeral home

LEXINGTON, Miss. (AP) — Workers at a Mississippi funeral home say they found a man alive and kicking when they opened a body bag. Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard calls it a miracle that 78-year-old Walter Williams is alive. The coroner was called to Williams' home in Lexington, a community north of Jackson, where family members believed he had died. Howard says Williams had no pulse and was pronounced dead Wednesday at 9 p.m. Early Thursday, workers at Porter and Sons Funeral Home were preparing to embalm Williams when he started to kick in the body bag. Family members were called and Williams was taken to a hospital. Howard says he believes Williams' pacemaker stopped working, then started again. Family members say Williams, a farmer, told them he's happy to be alive.

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INTERNATIONAL
Ukraine says it controls Crimean airports

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — There have been conflicting reports today from Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, about whether two airports there are under Russian or Ukrainian control. Ukraine's interior minister said earlier today that Russian navy troops were blocking access to the airports. He described it as a "military invasion and occupation." But Ukraine's Security Council chief was later quoted by the Interfax news agency as insisting that the airports were still under Ukrainian control -- even though gunmen had tried to "seize" them and had set up checkpoints outside. Meanwhile, Ukraine's State Border Guard Service says about 30 Russian paratroopers have taken up positions outside a Ukrainian Coast Guard base in Crimea. It quotes the paratroopers as saying they were there to keep any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists. Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where Russia has a major naval base. Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away. In Kiev, Ukraine's parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps that it says are aimed against Ukraine's sovereignty. The parliament called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis.

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Ukraine fugitive president says he won't ask for military help

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — Fugitive Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych is pledging to fight for his country's future but says he will not ask for military assistance. It is his first public appearance since disappearing from Ukraine. "I intend to keep fighting for the future of Ukraine," he told a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Yanukovych said he supports Crimea's residents who are worried about "nationalists" in Kiev but that use of force is "unacceptable." "Any military action in this situation is unacceptable," he said. Armed gunmen took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea Friday. Russia denied involvement.

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Swiss, Austrians move to block Yanukovych assets

GENEVA (AP) — Authorities in Switzerland and Austria are moving to block any assets that Ukraine's fugitive president and his son might have hidden there. Switzerland's governing Federal Council says it will block any assets that Viktor Yanukovych and his entourage might have in Switzerland, effective immediately. Austria says it's freezing any bank accounts it finds for Yanukovych, his son and 16 others linked to Ukraine's former government. Austria's Foreign Ministry says the move is meant to make sure that no money is taken from their accounts pending a decision by the European Union on whether Yanukovych and his closest associates should face sanctions.

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SPORTS
THURSDAY'S RESULTS

WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Missouri St. 93, S. Illinois 76
Nebraska 72, Illinois 65

NHL

N.Y. Rangers 2, Chicago 1

MLB

Arizona 5, Chicago Cubs 2

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Chicago at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Anaheim, 9 p.m.

MLB

Miami at St. Louis 12:05 p.m.
Chicago Cubs at LA Angels 2:05 p.m.
Chicago White Sox at LA Dodgers 2:05 p.m.

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Pittsburgh at Chicago 7 p.m.

Men's College Basketball

Illinois at Michigan State 3 p.m.
Illinois State at Southern Illinois 3:05 p.m.

Women's College Basketball

Wichita State at Southern Illinois 6:05 p.m.

MLB

St. Louis at Miami 12:05 p.m.
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox 2:05 p.m.
San Francisco at Chicago Cubs 2:05 p.m.

SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

New York at Chicago 12:00 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Phoenix 7 p.m.

Women's College Basketball

(25) Iowa at Illinois 3 p.m.

MLB

NY Mets at St. Louis 12:05 p.m.
Chicago White Sox at Texas 2:05 p.m.
Kansas City at Chicago Cubs 2:05 p.m.

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News For Feb. 27, 2014

LOCAL
Court Rejects Plea Deal For Former Judge

(East St. Louis, IL) -- A plea deal for former St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook is being tossed out and will have to be reworked. Cook pleaded guilty to heroin possession and gun charges in November, agreeing to an 18-month sentence. The judge in the case rejected the deal Wednesday afternoon. Cook was expected to be sentenced Wednesday for his part in a drug scandal that resulted in the overdose death of another judge last March.

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Collinsville Hiking Water Rates

(Collinsville, IL)  --  Collinsville residents are going to see a hike in their water bills.  The city is building a new water plant and customer rates will go up 38-percent this year.  The increase will take the rate from three-dollars-33-cents per one-thousand gallons to four-dollars-60-cents per one thousand gallons.  The hike was the topic of a special public meeting recently. 

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Franklin County Men Arrested For Failing to Report Sex Offender Status

Two Franklin County men are facing felony violations of the sex offender registry statute.
58 year old Gholam Valipour of Benton was arrested on Sunday for failing to report a change in employment status. 45 year old Kevin Marshall of Ewing was taken into custody on Tuesday for violating the sex offender registry statute. Marshall was found to be living in a home with young children, which he allegedly failed to report. Both Valipour and Marshall were taken to the Franklin County Jail.

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ISAC to students: FAFSA today or miss out on MAP


INA, Ill. (Feb. 26, 2014) - Rend Lake College is urging students who have not completed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to do so today or they might miss out on the opportunity for state aid. The FAFSA, which is an online form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students in the U.S. to determine their eligibility for student financial aid, can be completed at www.fafsa.ed.gov. On Feb. 25, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) released on its website (www.isac.org) that it will suspend the announcement of 2014-15 Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for all students whose initial 2014-15 FAFSA is received by the Central Processing System (CPS) on or after Friday, Feb. 28. "The bottom line is ISAC has set a deadline of Thursday, Feb. 27, for students to submit their 2014-15 school year FAFSA and be considered for MAP funds," said Cheri Rushing, director of Financial Aid at RLC. "ISAC is crediting continued state budget difficulties and a high volume of early applicants for the move. We want to make sure students know that other forms of aid are tied to the FAFSA. So, just because they miss this deadline for MAP, they will still want to complete the FAFSA. “Go to the fafsa.ed.gov website with your 2013 tax information and fill out the application using RLC’s school code of 007119,” Rushing added. “If you are a dependent student, you will use your parents’ 2013 tax information.”


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KC Holds Centralia Correctional Center Grad Ceremony

Kaskaskia College held a graduation ceremony for correctional students in the chapel of the Centralia Correctional Center on Thursday, February 20, with over 70 students earning certificates in subjects such as construction, cooking, restaurant management, electronics, and custodial. In addition, two inmates earned Associate in Applied Science degrees in general studies, accomplishments that have been unavailable at the correctional center for a number of years.  George Evans, KC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education, and former Director of Education at the Correctional Center, attributes the degree offerings to a combination of the hard work by Scott Crothers, Dean of Student Success, and the availability of Distance Learning classes. Distance Learning allows students in the College’s Education Centers and the correctional facility to attend classes via an interactive video service.  At the Centralia Correctional Center, this service was installed to allow inmates to attend hearings without leaving the facility.  It was found to be compatible with the College’s equipment, and the IDOC began allowing student inmates to attend these classes, greatly expanding the educational opportunities available to them. Two students spoke of this in their commencement address on Thursday.  William Davis spoke of “Forks in the Road,” and how the choices one makes determine the choices available later in life.  “We have been down a dark road,” Davis said.  “But in the darkness there was a point of light, the light of education.  By following that fork in the road, we have come to the point where the next forks in our roads will lead us to better opportunities and better lives.”  Michael Harless also spoke of choices.  “I have been incarcerated for 21 years,” said Harless.  “I thought the way to survive was to keep my head down, to not be involved.  But I am due to be released in eighteen months, and I started to ask myself ‘What will I do?  Will I be able to find a job?  What skills do I have?’  I made a choice then to embrace the opportunities of education, and now I feel as if the whole world is open to me.” Administrators from KC attended the ceremony, along with IDOC officials.  Students in the cooking program prepared a lunch that was served after the conclusion of the ceremony.

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March 31st Deadline Is Quickly Approaching To Sign Up For Health Coverage

Individuals and families have been actively signing up for insurance since last fall through Get Covered Illinois, but the March 31st enrollment deadline is quickly approaching.  If you are currently uninsured, now is the time to get the health coverage you need.  Enrollment assistance is FREE and available at many locations throughout Southern Illinois. Don’t wait; make an appointment today with a trained enrollment navigator at one of the following locations:
Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department – Benton 618-439-0951
Christopher Greater Area Rural Health -- 618-724-2401 ext. 1675
Johnston City Community Health Center -- 618-983-6911
Sesser Community Health Center -- 618-625-6979
More information about Get Covered Illinois can be found at www.getcoveredillinois.gov.

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NAACP of Jefferson County & Good Samaritan RHC Partner For Health & Career Fair 

(Mt. Vernon, Illinois) With a nearly 75-year partnership, the NAACP of Jefferson County and Good Samaritan Regional Health Center will continue their efforts to promote health and wellness for African American individuals in the community by hosting a health and career fair on Saturday, March 8 from 10am to 2pm.  This fair will take place at the Rolland W. Lewis Building at Veterans Memorial Park. The organizations’ lengthy relationship, coupled with the continuous changes in health care has prompted this event.  One of their goals is to promote preventative medicine in order to help improve the overall health of the community.  They are supporting this goal by offering discounted blood work vouchers for $30 without the HA1C (Diabetes test) or $39 with the HA1C (Diabetes test), which can be redeemed at Good Samaritan Regional Health Center.  Free screenings to check blood pressure, diabetes, etc. will also be conducted.  Attendees will receive educational materials on heart health, COPD, pneumonia, depression and other chronic diseases.  Plus, information on the health care exchanges, local physicians, proper nutrition, exercise, volunteerism and so much more will be available.  This is an excellent opportunity for the community to learn more about its health and to take charge of the future for generations to come.  For more information on this fair, please call Rev. Lash 242-9004 or Sandi Williams 204-2704. 

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Girl Cupcake Entrepreneur In TV Spotlight

(Troy, IL) -- Chloe Stirling, the eleven-year-old "cupcake kid" whose business was targeted by the Madison County Health Department, is a guest on a segment of the "Rachael Ray Show" airing today. She gained a local measure of fame when the health department shut down the two-year-old "Hey, Cupcake" business she was operating to earn money for a car. The local government told her family she needed to have a bakery or build a separate kitchen on the family house. The girl recounted her story on the TV show and was surprised with a number of gifts and surprise guests during the taping of the segment Monday.

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STATE
Illinois DCFS Director Arthur Bishop resigns

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The director of the state's child welfare agency who pleaded guilty to stealing money from clients of a Chicago social-service agency 20 years ago has resigned from his post. Department of Children and Family Services Director Arthur Bishop submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Pat Quinn's office Wednesday. The letter notes that his background could be a distraction for Quinn in the upcoming election. The Chicago Sun Times and WBEZ Radio reported last week that Bishop pleaded guilty to theft in the mid-1990s for taking money from patients at Chicago mental health center. Quinn's spokeswoman says the governor immediately appointed a new acting director of the agency. Attorney and social worker Bobbie Gregg was appointed for a 60-day term while a search for a full-time replacement begins.

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Ill. Senate panel passes sexual assault proposal


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Legislation altering the time limit for when prosecutors can press charges in sexual assault cases is advancing in the Illinois Legislature. The proposal by Democratic state Sen. Michael Noland passed a Senate criminal law committee Wednesday. Under the legislation, the time taken to enter an evidence kit into a state database wouldn't count against the timeframe for when sexual assaults must be prosecuted. Currently a sexual assault must be prosecuted within 10 years after it has been reported. Under proposed legislation, there's no time limit to prosecute if an evidence testing kit is in the state police database. Noland says victims shouldn't be penalized because of police department backlogs of evidence kits. Opponents say legislation should instead put pressure on police to quickly submit evidence.


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Legislation allowing bobcat hunt gets early OK

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A bill that'd make it legal to hunt bobcats in Illinois is advancing in the state Legislature. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises Newspapers reports the legislation was approved by a House committee on Tuesday. Bobcat hunting in Illinois became illegal in 1972 when conservationists were worried about a decline in the big cats' population. State Rep. Wayne Rosenthal, a Republican from Morrisonville, is one of the measure's sponsors. He says there are at least 3,000 bobcats living in southern Illinois, although the animals are scattered across the state. The bill would allow hunters with a permit to kill one bobcat a year during a season that runs from Nov. 1 through Feb. 15. The legislation now heads to the full House.

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2nd Ill. county issues same-sex marriage licenses

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A second Illinois county has begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses ahead of a new state law that takes effect June 1. Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten says the decision comes after a judge's ruling last week declaring Illinois' ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. That ruling applied to Cook County, where Chicago is located, because the lawsuit was filed against County Clerk David Orr. But Hulten says he's consulted with Champaign County's attorneys and has decided if the original law "is unconstitutional in Cook County it's unconstitutional in Champaign County." He also wants to spare taxpayers the expense of a lawsuit. Bernard Cherkasov of Equality Illinois applauds the decision and says it's time for other Illinois counties to follow suit. Hulten's office is issuing the licenses Wednesday.

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Some counties to wait on gay marriage licenses

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — County clerks in some parts of Illinois say they'll wait until June to issue same-sex marriage licenses even after a federal judge ruled gay couples in Cook County can get them immediately. The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports more than half a dozen central Illinois counties will issue licenses in June when the new same-sex marriage law takes effect. Those counties are Sangamon, Logan, Cass, Morgan, Macoupin, Montgomery and Christian. A federal judge ruled last week that Illinois' same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. That ruling applied to Cook County because the lawsuit was filed against Clerk David Orr. Another county started issuing them Wednesday. Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten says he's consulted with attorneys and that if the original law "is unconstitutional in Cook County it's unconstitutional in Champaign County."

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Measure would temporarily cut Illinois propane tax

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A southern Illinois lawmaker wants to temporarily cut the tax on propane. The Belleville News-Democrat reports  the proposal is being introduced by Salem Republican Rep. John Cavaletto. He wants to lower the tax from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent. If it's approved, the decrease would take effect June 1 and last through August. Cavaletto says the temporary reprieve could mean "hundreds of dollars in savings for the average homeowner" if they fill propane tanks before the temperature drops in the fall. His says his bill would offer one-time relief. Earlier this year, a nationwide propane shortage prompted Illinois' governor to issue an emergency order relaxing rules on truck drivers so they could travel out of state in search of propane supplies.

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NATIONAL
Obama plan aims to improve odds for minority boys

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is unveiling an initiative today aimed at breaking down obstacles that disproportionately keep African-American men impoverished and behind bars. Obama will call on businesses, philanthropists and government leaders to join forces to put more boys on a path toward successful lives. Foundations have pledged at least $200 million over five years to promote Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, which also will focus on keeping young people in school.

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New food labels would highlight calories and sugar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Those "Nutrition Facts" labels on nearly every food package in grocery stores could get a new look. The Food and Drug Administration today will propose larger, bolder type for calories. And for the first time consumers would know whether foods had added sugars. Serving sizes also would be more realistic.

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Senate heads toward showdown vote on veterans bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican senators on Capitol Hill are expected today to rally behind a procedural move that would derail a $21 billion veterans bill that would enhance benefits. Majority Leader Harry Reid is blocking a vote on a Republican alternative that would eliminate some of the improvements and impose sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. President Barack Obama opposes those sanctions until international negotiations proceed further.

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New trial date to be set in Colorado movie attack

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A judge is preparing to set a new trial date — the third — for the man accused of killing 12 people at a movie theater near Denver in 2012. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty and defendant James Holmes has pleaded insanity. Either factor alone means extra time for special arguments and tests. The original trial date was in August. That was pushed to February after prosecutors announced they were seeking the death penalty, then the February date was abandoned when prosecutors requested that Holmes undergo a second mental health evaluation. Earlier this month, Judge Carlos Samour granted the prosecutors' request, saying the initial state mental hospital evaluation was "incomplete and inadequate." Samour gave the state hospital until July 11 to submit a new report and is expected to set a new trial date today.

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Brewer vetoes anti-gay bill

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed a bill that would have allowed business owners to deny services based on their religious beliefs. The Republican bill set off a national debate over gay rights, religion and discrimination. Loud cheers erupted outside the Capitol building when Brewer made the announcement about Senate Bill 1062, which she says she discussed with lawyers, citizens, businesses and lawmakers.

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US safety opens probe into GM recall response

DETROIT (AP) — Federal investigators are looking into whether General Motors acted quickly enough to recall 1.6 million older-model small cars in a case linked to 13 deaths. On Tuesday, GM doubled the number of cars in a recall for faulty ignition switches. Documents show GM knew of the problem as early as 2004. The recall affects some older models of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars, the Saturn Ion, Chevy HHR SUV, Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5.

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4 dead after Illinois house fire, shootings

OAK LAWN, Ill. (AP) — Firefighters and police responding to a blaze at a suburban Chicago house say they saw a man shoot himself in an apparent murder-suicide that left four people dead. A 5-year-old boy was found in the rubble of the fire Wednesday afternoon. The bodies of the suspect, another man and a woman were also recovered. Authorities say all four people were related, but they haven't provided more details.

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'Mein Kampf' signed by Hitler up for auction in LA

Los Angeles (AP) — Two rare early editions of "Mein Kampf" signed by Adolph Hitler could go for more than $20,000 in an online auction today. The owner of an auction house in Los Angeles says he knows he'll probably catch flack for putting the rare 1925 and 1926 anti-Semitic manifesto up for bid, but Nate Sanders, owner of Nate D. Sanders Auctions says the books are "a piece of history."

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Obama seeks more federal spending to train doctors

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will ask Congress to approve spending more than $5 billion on medical training to turn out some 13,000 primary care providers over the next 10 years. Obama will include the proposal in the budget he sends to Congress next week. The new funding is aimed at training more doctors who can work in underserved areas, including rural communities. The president's budget also will seek to expand the National Health Service Corps, a federal program that connects primary care physicians with communities in need. Obama wants to expand the corps from 8,900 providers to 15,000 over the next six years. Obama's health law has sparked concerns about a shortage of primary care physicians as more Americans gain insurance coverage.

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Applications for US jobless benefits rise to 348K

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, though the broader trend in applications remained stable. The Labor Department says the four-week average was unchanged at 338,250. Applications are a rough proxy for layoffs. The average is not far above pre-recession levels, a sign companies are laying off few workers. Applications have been mostly steady in recent weeks, even though hiring faltered in January and February. That suggests employers may be reluctant to add many jobs, but they aren't worried enough about future growth to step up layoffs. Nearly 3.5 million people received unemployment aid in the week ending Feb. 8, the latest data available. That's about 25,000 fewer than the previous week.

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Boston mayor wants gay groups in St. Pat's parade

BOSTON (AP) — Boston's mayor says he will boycott the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade unless gay groups are allowed to participate. Mayor Martin Walsh says he's trying to broker a deal with parade organizers to allow a group of gay military veterans to march. The son of Irish immigrants said Wednesday that allowing gay groups to participate is "long overdue." Parade organizers, however, appear unwilling to budge. John "Wacko" Hurley said "it's final" that gay groups will continue to be excluded, pointing to a unanimous 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing organizers to exclude gay and lesbian groups. Hurley says Walsh "is not in a position" to overturn the court's decision. The parade draws an estimated one million spectators every year to South Boston.

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INTERNATIONAL
Continued tensions as Ukraine's parliament chooses new prime minister

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's new government is facing a worsening crisis, just hours after it took shape. Russia today sent fighter jets to patrol its border with Ukraine. And it reportedly has given shelter to Ukraine's fugitive president. Meanwhile, pro-Russian gunmen have stormed government offices in the regional capital of Ukraine's Crimean region. Ukrainian authorities are setting up an interim government for a country whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. The parliament today selected a new prime minister. Arseniy Yatsenyuk (ahr-SEHN'-ee yaht-sehn-YOOK') says Ukraine doesn't want a fight with Russia, but he insists his country wouldn't accept the secession of the southern Crimea region.

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Hagel urges Russia to act cautiously on Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is urging Russia not to take any action on Ukraine that could be misinterpreted. At a news conference Thursday after a NATO defense ministers meeting, Hagel cited a concern that Russia could act in a way that would lead to miscalculation during what he called a "delicate time." Hagel said the U.S. is closely watching Russia's military exercises along the Ukrainian border, and he said the U.S. strongly supports Ukraine's territorial integrity. He said the U.S. expects all nations to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and avoid provocations. Hagel and other NATO ministers met earlier in the day with Ukrainian officials.

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IMF 'ready to respond' to Ukraine's aid bid

BRUSSELS (AP) — The International Monetary Fund says it is "ready to respond" to Ukraine's bid for financial assistance. In the IMF's first official statement on Ukraine since the country's political crisis intensified, chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday that a fact-finding team will be sent to Kiev in the coming days. Lagarde says the mission will enable the fund to make an independent assessment of the economic situation and start discussing with the Ukrainian authorities which policy reforms would be required in exchange for an emergency loan program. She says the fund is also in intense talks with its partners on "how best to help Ukraine at this critical moment in its history." Ukraine's finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion for this year and next to avoid default.

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Russia awards cars to its Olympic medalists

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has given a Mercedes-Benz to each Olympic medalist from the host country of the 2014 Sochi Games. Medvedev reportedly gave away dozens of white Mercedes-Benz cars, decorated with the Russian Olympic team logo. While some of Russia's star athletes, like 15-year-old figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia or 17-year-old teammate Adelina Sotnikova, don't even have their licenses yet, Medvedev found a way around that problem by providing a driver — all services paid. After an embarrassing sixth-place finish in the medals table at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Russia finished at the top in Sochi. Medvedev says that it is important for the government to continue supporting athletes financially.

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SPORTS
WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 103, Golden State 83

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

N. Iowa 73, S. Illinois 54
Illinois 60, Nebraska 49

NHL

Vancouver 1, St. Louis 0

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE

NHL

Chicago at NY Rangers, 6 p.m.

WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Missouri St. at S. Illinois, 6:05 p.m.
Illinois at Nebraska, 7 p.m.

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News For Feb. 26, 2014

LOCAL
Franklin County Authorities Investigate Burglary

Authorities in Franklin County are looking for information into a recent break-in at a local bar. Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones says money was taken from Elsie’s Tavern in Orient late last week after the building showed signs of forced entry. The break-in was first reported last Friday morning.

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Belleville Representative Proposes Leeway For Schools

(Belleville, IL)  --  Illinois State Representative Jay Hoffman of Belleville wants school administrators to decide if they want to ban students facing felony charges.  Hoffman has proposed legislation to give districts the flexibility of suspending or expelling those with pending charges or if they've been found guilty of a violent felony.  Hoffman says the schools don't currently have the authority to safeguard students, teachers and staff.

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Down Syndrome Team Making Dreams Come True

(Collinsville, IL) -- The city of Collinsville is honoring one of its teenagers for breaking down barriers and achieving her dream, even when the odds are stacked against her. Karrie Brown has Down Syndrome but that didn’t stop her from becoming a model for retail giant Wet Seal. Her mom Sue Brown says Karrie is setting an example for people with diagnosed disabilities. Sue says the whole community has stepped up to support Karrie. In fact, the mayor will officially proclaim today as “Karrie Brown Day” at the city council meeting tonight. The Collinsville High School junior has had a spread in “J-14,” the number one teen celebrity magazine in the nation. Karrie is heading back out to Los Angeles for her next Wet Seal photo shoot later this week. And, while she’s out there, she’ll walk the red-carpet at a pre-Oscar event this Saturday.

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Illinois’ 2014 Spring Trout Fishing Season Opens April 5 at 47 sites

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The 2014 Spring Trout Fishing Season in Illinois will begin at 5 a.m. on Saturday, April 5, Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller announced Tuesday.  “The Spring Trout Season is always a great time for families to go fishing and catch some tasty trout, and we’re delighted to be able to add several new locations for trout fishing,” said Director Miller. The IDNR stocks more than 60,000 rainbow trout each spring in bodies of water where trout fishing is permitted during the spring season. Fishing licenses and trout stamps can also be purchased by using a credit card through DNR Direct online via the IDNR website at www.dnr.illinois.gov, or by calling DNR Direct toll-free at 1-888-6PERMIT (1-888-673-7648). To legally participate in the trout fishing program, anglers must have a valid Illinois fishing license and an inland trout stamp.  While the statewide spring trout season opens at 5 a.m. on April 5, anglers are reminded to check in advance for any site-specific regulations and the opening time of their favorite trout fishing location.  For more information about the trout stocking program, contact the IDNR Division of Fisheries at 217/782-6424 or check the web site at www.ifishillinois.org. Area stocked sites (by county) for the 2014 Spring Catchable Trout Program:

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Construction Worker Charged With Stealing Poles

(Alton, IL) -- A construction worker is behind bars in Alton, accused of stealing more than ten-thousand dollars for metal poles from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Authorities say Soloman Craighead took galvanized posts from an IDOT construction site on I-270 near the canal bridge in Madison County. The thefts reportedly took place between the beginning of the year and this past weekend.

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Former St. Clair County Judge To Be Sentenced Today

(St. Clair County, IL)  --  A former St. Clair County judge should learn his fate today.  Michael Cook is set to be sentenced on federal drug and weapons charges.  Cook was at the center of a controversy involving the death of fellow judge Joe Christ, who died of a cocaine overdose while with Cook. 

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Centralia Fire Protection Defuse Potentially Devastating Fire

Centralia Fire Protection responded to a vehicle fire Monday that could have had potentially devastating results if not for fire fighters quick response. Firefighters responded to a report of a fire in the parking lot of a gas station, and upon their arrival were informed the driver of the mini-van had fled the scene. After quickly extinguishing a small fire in the engine compartment of the mini-van, one crew member opened the side sliding door of the van and discovered two 55 gallon drums and one 100 gallon tank in the passenger area. Several car batteries were also discovered tied in to several fuel pumps, which were connected to those tanks.  A curtain separated the front seat from the rear area and hid the tanks from outside view. A diamond plated hatch cover on the floor between the driver and passenger revealed a one-foot by one-foot hole in the floorboard, which allowed the driver to access the gas station's fuel reserves.

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Suspected Squatter Arrested In Marion County

A Centralia man suspected of being a squatter in a foreclosed Marion County home has been arrested by Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies, following a police chase through Central City Tuesday. Reports indicate 28-year-old Larry Evans, also known as Mfalme El Bey, was stopped in Central City, but before the deputy could secure him, Evans sped off from the scene. He was captured a short time later with the assistance of a Central City Police Officer. Evans and his 49-year-old passenger, Antayus Haskins, of Centralia, were arrested and charged with criminal trespass to the foreclosed home on Tonti Road. Evans was taken to the Marion County Jail, and is expected to be formally charged in court this morning. His passenger was released with a notice to appear in court.

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One Hospitalized In Marion Car-Train Collision

A car-train collision in Marion yesterday afternoon sent one person to the hospital. The incident happened around 1 on Tuesday at Halfway Road when a car came into contact with a Crab Orchard and Egyptian train. A passenger in the vehicle reportedly had to be taken to a local 
hospital for treatment. The driver and the conductor of the train were not injured.

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Illinois man gets 33-year sentence for '12 slaying


CENTREVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A southwestern Illinois man was sentenced to 33 years in prison for a 2012 shooting death. The Belleville News-Democrat reports Deangelo Wiley was sentenced after being convicted of first-degree murder. The 21-year-old was accused of shooting Vonzell Taylor in the stomach in October 2012. Authorities said at the time that the 29-year-old was shot twice while trying to wrestle away the gun during a struggle. A co-defendant in the case was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December after being convicted of aggravated battery with a firearm.


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Rotary Offers Three Scholarships For Southern Illinois Students

Rotary International District 6510 is expanding its scholarship program for Southern Illinois students, District Governor Elect Lane Harvey announced Tuesday. In addition to the $7,500 in scholarships given for school year 2013-14, an additional $2,500 will be made available for a student wishing to attend college in 2014-15, Harvey said.“That means we will award a total of $10,000 this year,” said Deputy Governor for The Rotary Foundation David Matthews.  “We will give $5,000 to a student wishing to attend a four-year institution, a $2,500 scholarship to a student planning to attend a two-year college, and another $2,500 to another student, who may attend either a two-year or a four-year institution.”Any high school senior living in District 6510 is eligible to apply, Matthews said.  District 6510 comprises Illinois’ 28 southern-most counties, with its northern edge including St. Clair, Clinton, Marion, Clay, Richland and Lawrence counties. Applications may be obtained from Matthews at d-matthews@mchsi.com and must be returned to Lorraine K. Cavataio at lcavataio@sandbergphoenix.com, or at Sandberg Phoenix & Von Gontard, P.C., 784 Wall St., Suite 100, O’Fallon, IL  62269 by April 15, 2014.  For further information, contact Matthews at d-matthews@mchsi.com. Applicants should submit the required application form, a resume, their high school transcript, and an essay on the current Rotary theme, “Engage Rotary, Change Lives” by the April 15 deadline.   Rotary International is a global service organization of 1.2 million members dedicated to improving humanity.  Its District 6510 is comprised of 48 local clubs throughout Southern Illinois.  However, a previous connection with Rotary is not required for scholarship applications, Matthews stressed.

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STATE
Concealed Carry Permits Coming Next Week

(Springfield, IL)  --  People in Illinois could be carrying guns in public, legally, as early as next week.  The State Police has put the final touches on the new concealed carry system and will likely have the first round of permits in the mail this weekend.  As a reminder, the permit holders will not be allowed to carry the guns in places like schools, courthouses, bars, and businesses that have a “No Guns Allowed” sign up in their entryway. But, they will be allowed to lock the gun in their car when they have to go inside a gun-free-zone.   

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GOP: Quinn Misused State Money To Build Election Momentum

(Springfield, IL)  --  Republicans are slamming Governor Quinn after an audit reveals his violence prevention program was implemented too quickly, just before the 2010 election.  They argue Quinn used 50-million-dollars-worth of taxpayer money to create the program, which may have been a cover for his efforts to garner votes on Chicago’s south side, where support was waning.  Some of the money was used to pay people to walk in a parade with Quinn.  Republicans say it was his last ditch effort to build momentum ahead of the election, which he won by very small margin.  They’re asking for a full criminal investigation but Quinn says the whole ordeal was dealt with and put to rest two years ago.

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Parents Push To Allow Kids To Use Medical Marijuana

(Springfield, IL)  --  There’s a new push to allow kids with epilepsy to use medical marijuana in Illinois.  Parents say the CBD oil derived from marijuana will help reduce seizures and improve developmental progress.  Illinois’ law is very specific in that it doesn’t allow people under 18 to access the treatment. And only people with certain debilitating diseases will be approved to use the drug, epilepsy is not on the list.  Parents say if lawmakers don’t make changes to the law, they’ll have to pack up and move to another state. 

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Retired Teachers Backing Dillard

(Springfield, IL)  --  It looks like Kirk Dillard is getting the support of another major teacher’s group.  The Retired Teachers Association is going to announce its endorsement at the state capital today.  Dillard already has the backing of some 30-thousand teachers with the Illinois Education Association.  The IEA has dropped 50-grand into Dillard’s campaign fund.

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Illinois Lawmaker Calls For Reform Of Prepaid Tuition Plan

(Springfield, IL)  --  One state senator wants to make sure the College Illinois prepaid tuition program doesn’t run out of money.  State Senator Jason Barickman says the program has close to a 450-million dollar deficit. He say the system has enough money to cover tuitions for kids going off to college in the next several years but those looking further down the line could be in trouble.  Barickman wants to revamp the program by requiring colleges to certify future costs of tuition and mandatory fees, that way the program has solid cost figures when they present a contract to potential buyers.

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Lawmaker Aims To Crack Down On Gun Crimes

(Springfield, IL)  --  Lawmakers are planning to debate a series of bills that crack down on gun crimes, while reducing the prison population at the same time.  State Rep Michael Zalewski says part of the plan is to make sure some juvenile crimes drop off a person's record when they become adults.  Another idea would require defendants to be released on their own recognizance when they're charged with possessing small amounts of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  Zalewski says that'll ensure people aren't sitting in jail if they aren't a flight risk.  His proposals will be heard in committee later this week.

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Ill. gambling-expansion hearing reset for March 3

TINLEY PARK, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois state lawmaker seeking public input about possibly expanding gambling in Illinois has rescheduled a suburban Chicago public hearing. State Rep. Robert Rita's spokesman, Ryan Keith, says the hearing at the Tinley Park Convention Center now will be at 6 p.m. March 3. The hearing was scheduled for Feb. 17 but was postponed because of severe winter weather in the Chicago area. Rita is a Democrat from Blue Island near Chicago He held the first gambling expansion hearing last month in East St. Louis. Rita supports a measure that would resemble one that failed in the Illinois General Assembly last year. It called for adding five new Illinois casinos, as well as slot machines at Chicago's two international airports and horse-racing tracks.

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Group says violence decreases at Menard prison

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A new report says the number of violent incidents has declined inside Illinois' largest maximum security prison. The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the assessment of Menard Correctional Center comes from the John Howard Association. They're a nonpartisan correctional-system watchdog. The group says the 3,700-inmate facility was on full or partial lockdown 122 days in 2013. That's less than half of the 250 days that were reported in 2012. Still, John Howard officials say they're still concerned about an increase in the number of serious assaults on staff at the facility in Chester in southwest Illinois. There were eight such assaults in 2013, up from five the previous year. The group says the facility also needs "serious maintenance."

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Retiree groups want pension lawsuits consolidated

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Efforts are underway to consolidate four lawsuits challenging Illinois' new pension reform law. Lawyers representing the respective groups of state retirees who filed class-action suits have asked the Supreme Court to allow them to present their cases as one. The groups share the common claim that the new pension reform plan violates the state constitution, which says benefits may not be diminished. Because three of the cases were filed in Sangamon County Court and another in Cook County Circuit Court, the Supreme Court must choose a court to hear a case if the motion is granted. Illinois' five public-retirement systems had a $100 billion unfunded liability when the Legislature passed the measure in December. The bill saves an estimated $145 billion, largely by cutting benefits for employees and retirees.

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Legislature Looking At Smaller Pot Of Funds

(Springfield, IL) -- An Illinois House committee says the state will have less money to spend in the upcoming fiscal year. The committee today approved a resolution acknowledging that there will be 34-point-five-billion-dollars in revenue for fiscal 2015. That's down from the 35-point-six-billion in the current Illinois budget, and the difference in part is because of the anticipated expiration of the state's temporary income tax increase in January. The state is facing a three-billion-dollar budget hole as well as increased costs for required programs and services.

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Audit Raises Questions About Quinn Anti-Violence Program

(Springfield, IL) -- A state audit has critical things to say about an anti-violence program for Chicago and Cook County that was launched in 2010 by Gov. Quinn. A report by auditor general William Holland says the authority set up to run the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative failed to keep track of how it spent 55-million-dollars and that some of the community organizations didn't live up to the terms of their grants. The audit also raises questions about the process that gave aldermen a voice in recommending which local groups got state grants, saying the authority failed to adequately research those groups. A Quinn spokesman says management of the program has been taken over by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority which reports directly to the governor's office.

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Obamacare, Sex-Change Surgery Boosting Student Insurance Premiums

(Urbana, IL) -- Sex reassignment surgery would be covered under student health insurance plans under a change being considered by the University of Illinois board of trustees for the Urbana campus. The trustees approved a similar plan last spring for the Chicago campus which involves a small premium to cover gender change operations. The trustees are considering a 15-percent increase in the cost of student insurance coverage for 2014-2015, but most of that would be because of fees and coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. There would be a two percent bump to cover the cost of sex change surgery and one percent for increased administrative costs.

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Popular Country Group To Play State Fair

(Springfield, IL)  --  One of country music's hottest groups is coming to the 2014 Illinois State Fair.  Florida Georgia Line has been booked to perform at the Grandstand Sunday, August 10th.  The vocal duo has rocketed to stardom since the release of its debut studio album, "Here's to the Good Times," slightly more than a year ago. The first four singles from the album shot to number one on the Billboard Country Airplay charts.  This year’s state fair runs from August 7th through the 17th.

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NATIONAL
Obama threatens Karzai with full US withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is ordering the Pentagon to accelerate planning for a full U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The White House has become increasingly frustrated with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a security pact the White House says is crucial to keeping a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan past the end of this year.Obama spoke Tuesday with Karzai in their first direct discussions since last June.

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Arizona Governor Tweets Reassurance On SB 1062

(Phoenix, AZ)  --  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is taking to Twitter to give a brief message about the growing controversy over SB 1062.  The governor said in her Tuesday night tweet, quote, "I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona."  Brewer has faced mounting pressure to veto the bill, which many have said would allow discrimination by business owners based on their religious beliefs.  The Super Bowl 49 Host Committee, Apple and even members of her own party who voted for the bill now are urging the governor to veto it.

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Winter Storm Bad, But Nothing Like January Polar Vortex

(Undated)  --  The eastern two-thirds of the U.S. is under attack by the latest round of arctic cold.  From the Dakotas to the East Coast, afternoon highs won't be high at all, as much as 20 to 30 degrees below average.  A winter weather advisory stretches even into the South, where Kentucky and the Virginias will see temperatures fall below freezing.  Fierce winds across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest will create dangerous will chills.  A blizzard warning is in effect for southwestern Minnesota.

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California storms to bring rain, threat of floods

GLENDORA, Calif. (AP) — People in fire-scarred neighborhoods in Northern California have been sandbagging their homes in anticipation of the first significant storms in the state in months. This morning's expected storm promises much-needed rain to the drought-stricken state but also the threat of mudslides and flooding. A potentially stronger storm moving in late Thursday could dump up to 2 inches of rain in central and southern valleys, 2 to 4 inches in the foothills and up to 6 inches in some mountain spots.

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Days after Asiana plane crash, families neglected

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The U.S. Department of Transportation has hit Asiana Airlines with a $500,000 penalty for not providing quick and sufficient assistance to the families of passengers on the plane that crashed as it was trying to land near San Francisco last summer. Three people were killed, one of them apparently by a responding fire truck. It was five days before the South Korean airline connected with the families of all the 291 passengers.

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Army study gives women taste of combat tasks

FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) — Army women are getting a taste of what it takes to serve in combat as part of a study to determine unisex standards for joining the front lines. At Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia, 60 women and 100 men in uniform have volunteered for the Army-wide study that replaces pushups and sit-ups with physical tasks soldiers actually perform on the job, such as carrying a wounded comrade to safety or lifting a 65-pound missile. David Brinkley, the Army's deputy chief of staff for training, says a scientific approach should put to rest some doubts about women serving in combat. Scientists will measure soldiers' heart rates and oxygen use next month to help judge who's fit to fight wars.

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Missouri executes convicted killer

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has executed a man who abducted, raped and killed a Kansas City teenager nearly 25 years ago. Michael Taylor was lethally injected just after 1 a.m. Eastern Time. Federal courts and the governor had refused last-minute appeals from Taylor's attorneys, who had argued that the lethal injection drug pentobarbital could have caused Taylor inhumane pain and suffering.

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Hernandez Attacks Inmate In Jail

(Bristol, CT)  --  There are reports that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez attacked another inmate at Connecticut's Bristol County Jail.  Hernandez has been jailed since June 26th of last year as he faces murder charges in the 2013 shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

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Jindal defends criticism of Obama economic policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal is defending his harsh criticism of President Barack Obama within yards of the Oval Office, saying "in America we don't have a king." The Republican was criticized by a Democratic governor Monday after Jindal emerged with others from a meeting with Obama and said the president "seems to be waving the white flag of surrender" on the economy. Jindal tells MSNBC Wednesday the White House "belongs to the people" and he had a duty to speak his mind. During Monday's remarks by governors in the White House driveway after the meeting with Obama, Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy took over the microphone from Jindal and responded sharply. Malloy told reporters, quote, "Wait a second, until a few moments ago we were going down a pretty cooperative road."

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Obama seeking $300 billion for roads, railways

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $300 billion to update the nation's roads and railways. Obama plans to make the proposal today at the Union Depot rail and bus station in St. Paul, Minn. The Highway Trust Fund finances federal highway and transit programs but is forecast to go broke as early as August. The fund needs $100 billion over the next six years just to maintain current spending levels. But Obama and Congress don't want to raise gas taxes to make up the gap. Obama is proposing that half the $302 billion he's proposing come from an overhaul of corporate taxes, but he says he's open to other ideas. He also plans to announce a $600 million competition for federal grants to fund infrastructure projects that create jobs.

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Big changes ahead for frequent fliers on Delta

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines is making fundamental changes to its frequent flier program and will reward those who buy its priciest tickets, as opposed to those who fly the most miles. The airline said Wednesday that the 2015 SkyMiles program will better recognize frequent business travelers and leisure customers who buy premium fares. It's a bid to lure the much-sought-after business traveler, but it will affect everyone who flies with the carrier and uses the program. And other airlines will certainly be watching to see how travelers react to the change. Delta Air Lines Inc., based in Atlanta, says it's making the announcement 10 months in advance so customers have ample time to make travel plans. The program goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

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Bieber bodyguard faces court date in Atlanta

SANDY SPRINGS, Georgia (AP) — A bodyguard for pop singer Justin Bieber faces a court date on a felony charge of entering a photographer's automobile in suburban Atlanta. Fulton County sheriff's spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan says 32-year-old Hugo Hesny of Davie, Fla., is scheduled to make his first appearance at 11 a.m. Thursday in Atlanta, though she said it's possible that could be moved up. Sandy Springs police Capt. Steve Rose said in a statement that Bieber was at an entertainment complex in the city just north of Atlanta on Tuesday evening when Hesny got into a confrontation with a photographer he said had gotten too close to the singer. Rose says Hesny and a driver for Bieber followed the photographer to a parking lot. Police say the camera was taken from the photographer and later recovered.

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Store mistake leads to NY man hitting $10M jackpot

DEPEW, N.Y. (AP) — A convenience store clerk's mistake has paid off in a big way for a western New York man. Fifty-three-year-old Jerry Kajfasz of Lancaster won a $10 million jackpot from a $20 scratch-off ticket he purchased last month at a suburban Buffalo store. He tells local media outlets he bought seven scratch-off tickets but the clerk nearly handed him an eighth one costing $20. Kajfasz caught the mistake and handed it back. After winning a total of $25 from the tickets, he went back inside the store and used the winnings to buy the same $20 scratch-off ticket the clerk had almost given to him by mistake. That Win for Life Spectacular ticket wound up being a winner with a guaranteed minimum jackpot of $10 million. Kajfasz has already quit his printing job.

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INTERNATIONAL
Dempsey: US threat to withdraw could encourage the enemy

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — America's top military officer says the U.S. threat to withdraw all troops out of Afghanistan if no security pact is signed may encourage the enemy and lead some Afghan forces to align with the Taliban. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the announcement of President Barack Obama's order to begin planning for a total withdrawal also makes Afghan military leaders anxious and eats away at their troops' confidence. Speaking at the end of a long day of meetings with his commanders in Afghanistan, Dempsey said Wednesday he wanted to make sure they knew there is still a lot of work to do this year, and that they can't let worries about next year distract them.

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NATO head: No Afghan deal means no troops past '14

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO's secretary general says that if Afghan leaders and the White House can't agree on a key security pact, the U.S.-led alliance will pull all of its troops and equipment out of Afghanistan by December. The blunt statement from Anders Fogh Rasmussen Wednesday at the start of a NATO defense ministers meeting ratchets up pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal. On Tuesday, President Obama threatened to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year if the pact isn't signed. Without that agreement, Rasmussen says, forces from other NATO countries and partners cannot stay beyond 2014 either. There are roughly 19,000 non-U.S. forces now in Afghanistan. "Let me stress, this is not our preferred option," Rasmussen said. "But these are the facts."

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Rival groups clash in Ukraine's Crimea, 20 injured

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — A health official says at least 20 people have been injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Russian protesters in Ukraine's strategic Crimea region. The violence erupted as two competing rallies met outside the regional parliament, which was to hold a crisis session on the turmoil that has gripped the country. About 20,000 Muslim Tatars rallied in support of Ukraine's interim government, while a smaller pro-Russian group called for stronger ties with Russia. The protesters shouted and attacked each other with stones, bottles and punches, as police and leaders of both rallies struggled to keep the two groups apart. An ambulance doctor, who only gave his first name, Vladimir, because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media, said that about 20 people were injured in the clashes.

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Syria state media says army kills 175 rebels

BEIRUT (AP) — State media in Syria says army troops have killed 175 rebels in an ambush south of the capital, Damascus. Syrian state news agency SANA reported Wednesday that the attack happened at dawn in the opposition-held area of eastern Ghouta. SANA quoted a field commander in the area saying most of rebels belonged to the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebel group. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the killings, saying that 70 rebels were killed in Wednesday's assault. The Observatory, which has been documenting Syria's nearly 3-year-old conflict by relying on activists' reports on the ground, says the number of those killed likely will rise because 89 rebels have been reported missing.

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Egypt sentences 26 to death for alleged Suez plot

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court has sentenced 26 people to death over allegations of forming a terrorist group and targeting the vital Suez Canal water corridor. Cairo Criminal Court issued its verdict today. All defendants but one was tried in absentia. The prosecutors charged the group with planning attacks on ships passing the canal last year, security buildings, foreign tourists, Christians and police. An al-Qaida-inspired group has claimed responsibility for a rocket-propelled grenade attack targeting the canal last year. In 2012, an Egyptian court sentenced 14 militants to death on charges related to attacks on police and civilians in the volatile Sinai Peninsula in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising. Eight are in prison while the rest were tried in absentia. They allegedly belonged to the extremist Tawheed and Jihad group.

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SPORTS
TUESDAY'S RESULTS

NBA

Chicago 107, Atlanta 103

 

WEDNESDAY'S SCHEDULE

NBA

Golden State at Chicago, 7 p.m.

MEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

S. Illinois at N. Iowa, 7 p.m.
Nebraska at Illinois, 8 p.m.

NHL

St. Louis at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m.

Boys High School Basketball

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Cards Continue To Gear Up For Games

(Jupiter, FL)  --  The Cardinals are continuing spring training workouts in Jupiter, Florida this week as the season draws near.  The first game comes up Friday when the Redbirds meet the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.  St. Louis also plays the Fish Saturday afternoon in Jupiter.

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Cardinals P Garcia to seek 2nd opinion on shoulder

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Jaime Garcia will seek a second opinion on his surgically repaired shoulder from Dr. James Andrews before deciding his next course of action, St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak said on Tuesday. Garcia requested the second opinion even before consulting with Cardinals team doctors. Mozeliak didn't go into detail about the findings of Garcia's Monday exam, other to say that the initial results were encouraging."Based on the MRI and overall, we feel good," Mozeliak said. "I would like to see what the other doctor has to say and we will go from there."

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Cubs Set Rotation Through Five Games

(Mesa, AZ)  --  The Cubs are setting their rotation for the first spring games.  Jeff Samardzija starts Thursday as the team opens its new stadium.  Chris Rusin gets the call Friday while Travis Wood goes Saturday afternoon.  Edwin Jackson pitches Saturday night, with Jason Hammel pitching Sunday.

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White Sox' Dunn Mulls Oscars Invite

(Glendale, AZ)  --  White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn is mulling a decision to go to this Sunday's Academy Awards show in Los Angeles.  Dunn is an investor in the Oscar-nominated film "Dallas Buyers Club" and even has a cameo role as a bartender.  The film was produced by a friend of his.

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Baseball's beer looks to enshrine opening day

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Baseball's official beer wants to turn what is already a cause for celebration among fans into a national holiday. A new Budweiser promotion seeks to collect 100,000 online signatures on a White House petition to declare the start of Major League Baseball a day of national observance. Former St. Louis Cardinals great Ozzie Smith is leading the promotional effort. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the campaign launched Tuesday and includes digital ads on ESPN.com and MLB.com. The campaign deadline is March 31.

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News For Feb. 25, 2014

LOCAL
Brookport Looking For Volunteers

(Brookport, IL)  --   The city of Brookport is looking for volunteers to help with tornado cleanup.  Officials say there’s still plenty of work to do after an EF-3 twister hit the town back in November of last year.  They’re focusing their efforts on cleaning the town’s park, roads, and ditches.  Volunteers are being asked to help during the weekends of March 7th and March 14th.  They can call 618-889-2641 for more details.

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SIU barring smoking in all but a few spots

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Smokers at Southern Illinois University will only be able to light up in a handful of places on the Carbondale campus starting this summer. Carbondale Chancellor Rita Cheng says that as of July 1 the campus will be effectively smoke-free. Only designated areas in campus parking lots are exceptions. Cheng told the Southern Illinoisan that smoking already is banned within 15 feet of building entrances. The ban includes smoking in dormitories. Cheng hopes the campus someday will be entirely smoke free. Some smokers on campus aren't happy, though. Senior Jon Poynter says he understands people around a smoker may not like the smoke. But he believes the ban denies him his right to smoke. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights says more than 1,100 college campuses nationwide are smoke free.

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Effingham Is Site of Southern Illinois Criminal Justice Summit
      
EFFINGHAM, IL – Federal, State, County, and City law enforcement officers, along with State’s Attorneys and state social service providers will converge in Effingham for a two day criminal justice summit on February 26-27, 2014.  The Keller Convention Center is the location of this year’s training.  “A Gathering Storm for Law Enforcement,” headlines the training agenda.  Among others, topics being presented are Mental Health Issues, Elder Abuse and Neglect, and
Identity Theft The conference will begin at 8:30 AM on February 26th and at 8:00 AM on February 27th.  The Southern Illinois Criminal  Justice Summit is sponsored by the Effingham County Coroner’s Office, Illinois Department of Children & Family Services; Illinois Department of Transportation; Illinois Department on Aging; Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System; Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board – The Executive Institute; Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois (MEGSI); Mobile Training Units 13, 14, & 15;  Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association (SIPCA); United States Attorney’s Office - Southern District of Illinois; Illinois State Police and Illinois State Police Command Officers’ Association.

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I-270 Work Will Affect Madison County Drivers

(Madison County, IL)  --  Here's a heads-up this week for Madison County drivers on Interstate 270.  The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to shut down portions of the westbound lanes between the Chain of Rocks Canal and the Mississippi River during the day.  The road repair will take place through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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Hospice Workers Out Of Work, Out Of Pay

(Swansea, IL) -- About 300 workers at the Passages Hospice in Illinois are suddenly out of work. Wanda Rohl says she figured something was sketchy last month when one of the owners got arrested, but she says she and her co-workers were told not to worry about anything. Rohl says she hasn’t been paid for a month. She and other employees are considering a class action lawsuit in an attempt to get their wages but they haven’t secured an attorney yet. Passages Co-owner Seth Gillman was taken into custody back on January 28th on charges of defrauding Medicaid and Medicare.

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County Losing Revenue From Inmate Phone Calls

(Belleville, IL) -- St. Clair County will get five-thousand-dollars a month less from the company that handles collect phone calls for jail inmates after a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling. The county's Public Building Commission learned today that the FCC's ruling will mean that Securus Tech will only have to guarantee the county 13-thousand-800-dollars-a-month from inmate phone call revenue. The reduction from 18-thousand-dollars-a-month represents a change in how the cost of interstate collect calls is calculated. The FCC ruling went into effect February 11.

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Possible Hate Crime In Alton

(Alton, IL) -- A possible hate crime is being reported out of Alton. Vandals spray painted “Hail Satan” and “666” on the Salem Baptist Church on Seiler Road between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Madison County Sheriff Bob Hertz says most cases of vandalism are the work of kids with nothing better to do. He says they’re looking for the culprits in this particular case and they could face charges. The suspect could also be required to pay for repairs. Anyone with information about the crime should call police.

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Jefferson County Board Met Monday Night

The Jefferson County Board met on Monday.  Items presented include the reports from the Fiscal, Technology, Courthouse Renovation, Public Safety, Highway, Land, Tax, and Appointments, and Services Committees as well as a discussion on the policy against harassment and sexual misconduct.

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Police: Ill. man's shooting death likely accident

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Police in southwestern Illinois' Collinsville say they believe a shooting that killed a 23-year-old man likely was accidental. The Belleville News-Democrat reports that Andrew Birch died at a hospital shortly after the shooting about 1:30 a.m. Sunday in a Collinsville residence. Police Maj. Tom Coppotelli says Birch was shot in the head while three other people were in the home. Coppotelli says investigators aren't pursuing any suspects and don't believe Birch's death was a suicide. The Madison County coroner's office also is investigating. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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STATE
Ill. governor presses for disaster aid overhaul


WASHINGTON (AP) — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is calling for an overhaul of how the federal government distributes disaster assistance after Illinois was denied aid to local governments affected by deadly tornadoes. The Democrat made the pitch Monday in Washington, D.C., during a keynote speech at the National Journal's State of the States Policy Summit. Quinn's remarks focused on natural disasters. Quinn says 15 Illinois counties received Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance after tornados in November. But he says FEMA denied aid to local governments in nine affected counties. The tornados killed eight people and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes. Quinn supports a measure in Congress that would give weight to different factors in aid decisions and add some economic criteria.

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80 same-sex couples get Ill. marriage licenses

CHICAGO (AP) — The Cook County clerk says so far his office has issued 80 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Clerk David Orr's office issued 46 licenses on Friday and 34 through 3 p.m. on Monday. A federal judge Friday ruled same-sex couples could immediately begin marrying and don't have to wait until June 1. That's when same-sex marriage takes effect in Illinois. The ruling only applies to Cook County. Orr says 44 male couples and 36 female couples were issued licenses, ranging in age from 18 to 80. He says most licenses were issued to Chicago residents, although couples from Champaign, DuPage, Lake, Will and Winnebago counties also received licenses. One couple from Indiana and one couple from Wisconsin also received licenses. Orr says 31 of the couples already had civil unions.

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Gay Marriage Opponent Cancels Repeal Effort


(Springfield, IL) -- A Republican state senator says he's giving up his fight to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law. Kyle McCarter of Lebanon says he's pulling his bill in light of a court ruling in Chicago last week that said gay couples can begin marrying in Cook County now, even though the new state law doesn't take effect until June 1. McCarter called the ruling "disappointing," because he says the citizens of the state were not given adequate opportunity to voice their concerns about the new law. McCarter says well-connected special interest groups exerted influence to get the bill passed without regard to the will of the people.

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Rauner Dumps Another 1.3 Million Into His Campaign

(Chicago, IL)  --  It seems the more Bruce Rauner is attacked, the more money he drops into his own campaign.  The Republican hopeful for governor added another-one-point-three-million-dollars to his campaign chest yesterday.  The donation comes on the heels of a major union attack against him claiming his company was negligent when it comes to abuse, neglect, and death in two Florida nursing homes.  Rauner denies that his company is liable for the cases at hand and has released his own ad, claiming the attack against him is false.

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Bill Brady:  GOP Nomination Between Me And Rauner

(Springfield, IL)  --  Bill Brady says the Republican race for governor is now a contest between him and Bruce Rauner.  He says a new internal poll shows he's gaining momentum among voters while Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford, and Bruce Rauner are slipping.  He admits he's worried about the impact that teachers could have if they turn out to vote for Dillard. But he says he has his own ground game, and can close the campaign with a win on March 18th.

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U. of Illinois may unify health institutions

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — Next week University of Illinois trustees will consider a proposal to unify the school's hospital, clinics and health-related academic efforts under one umbrella. The university said Monday that a committee of trustees reviewed the plan Monday. Trustees are expected to vote on the plan at the regular quarterly meeting March 6 in Urbana. Under the plan the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago and the other health-care related efforts would be run by a new vice chancellor for health affairs at the Chicago campus. The plan would take effect in early 2015. University President Robert Easter says the new organizational structure would help advance research and patient care.

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Tributes Pouring In After Death Of Harold Ramis

(Chicago, IL)  --  Tributes are pouring in after the death of Chicago filmmaker Harold Ramis.  The Twitter world blew up with expressions of sympathy with Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin both weighing in.  Ramis died at his Glencoe, Illinois home yesterday at the age of 69 after a bout with an autoimmune inflammatory disease.  Ramis got his start at Chicago's Second City in 1969, with the likes of actor John Belushi.  His film credits include "Ghostbusters," "Groundhog Day," and "Caddyshack." 

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Jimmy Fallon To Take Plunge Into Lake Michigan

(Chicago, IL)  --  "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon is headed to Chicago.  He'll take a plunge into Lake Michigan this Sunday to raise money for the Special Olympics.  Fallon agreed to do the Polar Plunge at the invitation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who in turn says he'll make an appearance on the late night talk show.  Fallon says he'll do the plunge in a suit and tie but he may want to consider putting a wetsuit underneath, with the forecast calling for possible snow and cold weather this weekend. 

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Ellen Crew Makes Stop At U of I

(Urbana, IL)  --  More than a-thousand U of I and Parkland College students are making a cameo appearance on the "Ellen" show tomorrow.  Ellen's crew shot the segment yesterday with roving reporter Jeanne Klisiewicz hyping the crowd.  Klisiewicz is a U of I grad.  While the actual details of the show were kept under wraps, we know that a dozen finalists will be seen competing for several prizes when the show airs.  And, U of I sophomore Tad Logullo is headed out to California to make a live appearance on the show next week. 

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NATIONAL
Congress skeptical about plan to shrink military

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Republicans and Democrats are questioning the Obama administration's push for a smaller military. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is proposing to cut the Army to its smallest size in three-quarters of a century. The Republican head of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, says the administration is trying to "solve our financial problems on the backs of our military." And his Senate counterpart, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, says the administration's changes face a "huge challenge."

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GOP tax plan lowers rates, imposes surtax on rich

WASHINGTON (AP) — An election-year plan by House Republicans to simplify the tax code would cut income tax rates but impose a new surtax on some high-income families. A GOP aide says the plan to be unveiled Wednesday would lower the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. However, it would impose a new 10 percent surtax on some earned income above about $450,000. The plan has no chance of becoming law without Democratic support. But it could become a political document for House Republicans to show what they stand for, and for Democrats to attack, as the midterm elections approach in November.

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Obama to announce new manufacturing hubs

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to keep a promise today. He'll announce the creation of two Pentagon-led institutes that will combine public and private resources to foster manufacturing innovation. The Canton, Mich., institute will focus on light metal manufacturing. The one in Chicago will concentrate on high-tech digital manufacturing and design. Obama promised last year to create three manufacturing hubs. The first is in Raleigh, N.C.

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