Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nuclear energy says they are in a tight spot

The nuclear energy industry says it’s in a tight spot.
The culprit is subsidies for renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, says Chris Guith of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who is in Illinois to speak at the Economic Summit Forecast meeting of the Metals Service Center Institute in Schaumburg.
“If, as a matter of public policy, either the state of Illinois or the United States says that deploying more renewables is important to us, then that makes complete sense, and to some extent that’s what’s happened.  But if you take a step back and think about why we are promoting renewables, it’s primarily because they’re emissions-free. And nuclear is also emissions-free,” he said in an interview.
But David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service, which warns of the dangers of nuclear power, says nuclear does pollute.  “Not only do the renewables not have a smokestack, but they also don’t create 6,000 generations of high-level radioactive waste which have to be kept out of the environment.  You can hardly consider that a clean energy source,” he said.
Kraft also says the nuclear power industry is gets 30 subsidies of one form or another, and it was the industry that asked for deregulation. Illinois has 11 nuclear power plants, 10¼ of which are owned by Exelon, the parent company of Com Ed.

All-time low on farm deaths for past year

If there's a silver lining to a drought, it could be this: farm deaths in Illinois were at an all-time low for the 12 months ending June 30, 2013.
That’s according to records kept by Country Financial, a Bloomington-based insurer.  The more recent 12-month period, through June 30 of this year, saw the number go up to 21, more in line with most years, says Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative with Country.
“Twenty-one (deaths in a year) may not sound like much to the general public,” Vanasdale says, “but that is 21 families that lost a family member; communities that are without an active person in their community – typically, farmers are very involved in their community, whether it’s with their church or school boards or other community organization – so the loss of a farmer has a huge impact.”
Vanasdale says the deaths can be categorized by tractor rollover / runover (9 deaths); roadway collision (4); grain bin suffocation (3); and other (5).  He says the numbers skew old, with, respectively, 7, 2, 1, and 2 of the deaths being of those age 65 and older.  He said he did not know whether older farmers are less careful or whether it’s because farmers are an older crowd to begin with.

Osprey coming back to Illinois

Illinois welcomes back the osprey, the subject of a Department of Natural Resources repopulation.
The fish-eating hawk is coming to Anderson Lake near Havana and to Lake Shelbyville after being endangered in Illinois. Wildlife biometrician Pat McDonald says unlike the prairie chicken project, in which the chickens are flown on a plane from Kansas, the osprey are driven here.
“The money is through a federal grant,” says McDonald, “toward trying to get the osprey to a level in which they can start breeding on their own to establish their own population.”
The birds were given to Illinois free of charge from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, where they are a nuisance.

Still talking about Seat Check Saturday

They can now build cars that practically drive themselves, but they can’t make child car seats which are easy to install.
Until that challenge is surmounted, there is the need for events such as this week’s Seat Check Saturday. The Illinois Department of Transportation Tuesday trotted out a panel of experts to promote the event and inform everyone of the latest recommendations.
Some of them may be new to you. A baby should be in a rear-facing seat until at least age 2. “The most recent study on this subject shows that toddlers are up to five times safer if they remain rear-facing into their second year,” says Les Nunes, bureau chief in the Transportation Safety division at IDOT. “Remember, turning your baby's car seat around isn't a milestone to rush.”
Other recommendations include putting that rear-facing seat in the center of the back seat; and using a booster seat until the child is 12 years old or 57 inches tall.
IDOT is having 75 events around the state over the coming days at which car owners can have child seats properly installed. Locations and times are listed alphabetically by county at

Prison inmates make glasses for Medicaid

If you're on Medicaid in Illinois and you're wearing glasses, here's some news for you: a prison inmate made them.
It's part of a program the Illinois Department of Corrections is spotlighting called Illinois Correctional Industries.  ICI bakes bread and desserts for the prison system and other state agencies, builds and refurbishes furniture, provides recycling services to Illinois' two state fairs, and more.
Jen Aholt, chief executive of ICI, says the financially self-sufficient unit also serves the rehabilitative side of Corrections’ mission.
“What we're trying to do is find those companies that have no problem with somebody with a record,” Aholt says.  “And we’re also trying to work with the inmates on how to best address the reality that they do have something on their record.  We do something called the ‘elevator speech’ – what can we say in the span of a minute” to tell the story to a potential employer that all the parolee needs is a chance.

This week's Illinois crop report

The recent rain came too late to help many Illinois farmers.
“Last week’s weather did not help with corn progress,” says Mark Schleusener, state statistician for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.  “The state averaged 2.3 inches for the week, almost 1½ inches above normal.  Most of the crops (in Central Illinois) are past the point where a rainfall will help, and what it did was it delayed corn harvest.”
Schleusener says he did drive north from Springfield and noticed green soybean fields, so the rain could have helped those crops.
The corn harvest is at 2 percent, which is below average.  Soybeans are at 57 percent turning color and 20 percent dropping leaves, ahead of last year’s numbers.
Schleusener says this is also the season during which we’re sharing the road with the big farm vehicles.  As someone said, let’s be careful out there.

Firm with ties to Rauner paid hefty Medicaid-related claim

A company that was owned by Bruce Rauner’s firm paid $13 million to settle a Medicaid-related claim.
The company, APS Healthcare, failed to provide the required services to a large portion of the Medicaid recipients and over-billed the Georgia Department of Community Health, from 2007-10, according to the federal complaint.  The company was owned by GTCR, Rauner’s firm, from 2007-12.
Rauner is the Republican nominee for governor.
The U.S. attorney said at the time that APS Healthcare “took Medicaid’s money for itself and left some of our most vulnerable citizens without the aid they deserve.”
Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Paul Vallas calls this fraud, and sys there were consequences.  “The Medicaid fraud scheme was bad enough not only for its harm to the taxpayers and the loss of taxpayers’ dollars, but it was worse for those who are most vulnerable, because at the end of the day, the Medicaid program is designed to serve those who have great need,” he said at a news conference at a medical clinic in Chicago, surrounded by little old ladies.
The company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. A campaign spokesman says Rauner wasn’t directly involved. Rauner was asked to comment on this but he walked away.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seat check event to be held at Gibson Area Hospital

Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services announced it will conduct a National Seat Check Saturday event on September 20, 2014 at the Gibson Area Hospital Main Entrance.  Certified child passenger safety technicians will be on hand from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm to check car seats for proper installation and advise parents and caregivers on how to choose the right car seats and install them properly in their vehicles. Appointments may be made now by calling the hospital’s OB Department at 217-784-2510.

The event is part of Gibson Area Hospital’s participation in National Child Passenger Safety Week (September 14-20, 2014), and isfree to the public. This event is one of 78 events in Illinois sponsored by AAA, Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“Car seats, booster seats and seat belts are often used incorrectly,” said Tanya Windle, OB Tech and certified child passenger safety technician.  No parent wants to ever get it wrong when it comes to their children’s safety.” 

By attending the hospital’s car seat event on September 20, 2014, parents and caregivers can be sure their kids are riding as safely as possible in their vehicle.”  Furthermore, Windle added, even if kids are in the right seat, sometimes they are not buckled in properly. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends keeping children rear-facing as long as possible up to the top height or weight allowed by their particular seats.  Once a child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, he/she is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.  After outgrowing their car seats, children should be placed in booster seats.  The law in Illinois states a child must be in a booster seat until their 8th birthday. However, some children are not tall enough at age eight for the seat belt to fit them like an adult so they need to stay in a booster seat longer.

Rauner feels that Vallas has too much influence from Chicago

Bruce Rauner has problems with the ties to Chicago of Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Paul Vallas.

Rauner is trying to portray Vallas as a machine politician, due to his former tenure as the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001.

“My big issue with Paul Vallas is we already have too much influence of Chicago politicians in Springfield,” Rauner said. “Paul comes out of the Daley administration.”

While Vallas did work under former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, he no longer lives in Chicago, he graduated from Western Illinois University, and he lived in Springfield for 13 years. He believes Rauner is focusing on political attacks rather than policy questions.

“I see a Rauner commercial coming,” Vallas said.

All four candidates on the Democrat and Republican tickets live in the Chicago area: Vallas in Palos Heights, Rauner in Winnetka, Gov. Pat Quinn in Chicago, and Republican lieutenant governor candidate Evelyn Sanguinetti in Wheaton.

Concerns about water regulation

If the federal government gets its way – says an Illinois Farm Bureau-led business coalition – the Environmental Protection Agency would regulate practically every drop of water there is, including what's collected after it falls from the sky.

The bureau brought some two dozen groups together to push negative comments during the “public comment period” for proposed rule changes to the Clean Water Act, saying they'd drown business in this country.

“This would make the cost of beginning or expanding vital mining projects in the state to skyrocket,” says Phil Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, “with, effectively, no corresponding environmental benefit.”

The farm bureau's director of environmental and natural resources, Lauren Lurkins, says the EPA is attempting to force a one-size-fits-all solution. Lurkins says that's impossible just for the Illinois Farm Bureau, with 80,000 constituents.

Friday, September 12, 2014

This week's BUG Award winners

GCMS Elementary principal Justin Kean announces this week's BUG (Being Unbelievably Good) award winners:

5th Grade
Elaina Stroh
Lani Morgan
Sadie Christensen
Victoria Bonds

4th Grade
Rylee Stephens
Bella Adams
Madison McCreary
Ryen Miller

3rd Grade
Wrigley Maxey
Jamison Berkler
Carson Maxey
Audrey Iverson

2nd Grade
Paul Baillie
Leah Whitson
Ava Lage
Chuckie Goff

1st Grade
Alex Barnard
Cole Schoolcraft
Chris Wipfler
Claire Day

Jack Borders
Maddox Lindelof
Drew Iverson
Cooper Brake

Huge discussion about domestic violence due to NFL problems

You've probably seen the hashtags on social media: #whyistayed and #whyileft.

They have to do with domestic violence. Pro football’s Ray Rice has been caught on video beating his fiancĂ©e. She’s now his wife.

“Women who leave their batterers are at 75 percent greater risk of being killed by their batterer than if they stayed,” says Angela Bertoni, chief executive of a Springfield women’s shelter. Other reasons include fear of losing all financial security and a desire to keep their family together. Or, says Bertoni, they may simply still be in love.

The Rice case is catching attention because it was captured on video, and because the National Football League initially suspended him for two games before he was eventually cut by his team and kicked out of the league indefinitely.

Welcome Home Heroes program helping veterans buy homes

A program that helps veterans who are first-time home buyers purchase homes in Illinois has now surpassed $200 million in lending, the Illinois Housing Development Authority announced Friday

The Welcome Home Heroes program began in 2011 with $20 million from the state’s capital construction program.

Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Rodrigo Garcia says home ownership is important. “While we know veterans’ employment is a key component of integration, home ownership also supports their upward mobility, because not only are Homes for Heroes an impressive benefit for veterans and their military families, it supports communities statewide,” he said.

The veterans, active military personnel, reservists and Illinois National Guard members who take advantage of the offer get $10,000 in down payment assistance, and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4 percent, and an income tax credit worth $20,000 over the life of the loan.

White and Webster talk about Secretary of State office

A trip to the secretary of state’s office is a less miserable experience than it once was, both candidates for the office agree.

Jesse White has been secretary of state for 16 years, during which time lines have shrunk, mainly due to faster computers and the availability of on-line services that didn’t exist when White was first elected in 1998. And, he says, something else has changed in an office once known for surly or indifferent clerks.

“We also put a lot of time and effort in teaching our employees the importance of being customer-friendly. No longer can you disrespect the customer,” he said.

White, a Democrat, is up for re-election. His opponent, Republican Mike Webster, agrees the office is improved, but says it could be even better in terms of the days and hours that it’s open. “It’s not a convenient office, even though it’s gotten better,” said Webster, a lawyer and accountant who is president of an elementary school board in Hinsdale.

Also, White says about 60,000 illegal immigrants are now legally driving in Illinois under the Temporary Visitor Drivers License Program, with 60,000 more in the pipeline. This license category has existed for some time, and was intended for non-working legal residents – the spouse of someone here on a work visa, for example – but it was expanded last year to include undocumented immigrants, in order to encourage them to pass a driving test and carry insurance.

White says police in Illinois who encounter drivers with these at traffic stops are familiar with them; he’s not sure what’s happening in other states.

AG Madigan talks about patent trolls

A new law aims to relieve businesses of pesky so-called patent trolls.
Patent trolls send demand letters to businesses alleging a patent violation, and ask for $1,000 or so not to sue.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan says those demands are typically bogus.
“Anybody who is purchasing technology as an end user of that – the scanner, the printer, software – if you have already purchased it, you have paid for the right to use that.  You’re not infringing on somebody’s patent.  You’re not trying to take that technology and use it in some way that you don’t have the authorization to,” she said.
She said the scam has been popular in the last three to five years, and in the early days, many small business would succumb, thinking the letters were legitimate.
The new law makes it a violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act to send patent demand letters that are false or deceptive, that are sent by individuals who do not own the right to enforce a patent, and fail to explain the alleged infringement.  Madigan says the law is written so legitimate patent holders can still enforce their rights.
The law allows the recipient or the attorney general’s office to sue for actual and punitive damages.  The measure was sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago). It takes effect Jan. 1.

Campaign finance reform is over for now, reports Durbin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says reform to campaign financing is dead for now, and Republicans are to blame.
Durbin was in favor of a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have allowed Congress and the states to limit campaign spending by corporations and big donors.  But Durbin correctly predicted that Republicans wouldn’t support the measure.
“No, and put it in stark political terms—they think that these free spending and big spending participants in the political arena are really more to their advantage than Democrats,” Durbin said.
The amendment would have reversed U.S. Supreme Court decisions that removed restrictions on campaign spending.  It fell six votes short of the 60 needed to end debate on the measure.
It would have faced an uphill climb to make it into the Constitution. Amendments require two-thirds majorities in both chambers of Congress, along with ratification from 38 states.

Revised crop forecast thinks yields will be even higher

A revised forecast published Thursday anticipates even more corn and soybeans in Illinois.
The USDA says Illinois corn fields will yield 194 bushels per acre, up from a forecast last month of 188, and last year’s result of 178.
“This is gonna be a year that a lot of farmers will remember because it’s gonna be a very good year, from a yield standpoint. Prices? We’re probably 60 percent on price than we were two years ago now, but that’s supply and demand,” said Rod Weinzierl, executive director of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, who says the forecast raises the question of where farmers and elevator operators will put all this corn.
December corn closed today on the Chicago Board of Trade at $3.41 per bushel, down 4¾ cents on the day. November beans closed at $9.81½, down 12¼ cents.
Total production for corn is forecast at 2.289 billion bushels. Soybeans are now expected to yield 56 bushels an acre, up from last month’s forecast of 54. Production will be 562.8 million bushels.

Rauner talks about Quinn's chief of staff

If Bruce Rauner’s midweek stop in Springfield is any indication, we’re going to be hearing the name Jack Lavin quite a bit over the next couple of months.
Lavin used to be director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Since then, one of the jobs he has held has been chief of staff to current Gov. Pat Quinn.
“Gov. Quinn finally admitted” during Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune debate, Rauner said, “that his chief of staff, Jack Lavin, was a key player in sending in the illegal patronage hiring names of people who got hired, and approving the names of all the illegal hires in the patronage operation that has been occurring in the Department of Transportation.”
Rauner adds Lavin is at the center of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative investigation and has also gone through the “revolving door” to become a lobbyist whose clients include a company which wants to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Illinois.

Rauner is calling on Quinn to order all of his staff to disassociate from Lavin. A Quinn campaign e-mail reminds us Lavin no longer works for the state.