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July 2010 Archives

Illinois named Race to the Top finalist

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Illinois is one of 19 states named as a finalist in the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top competition, federal officials announced Tuesday. Seventeen states didn't make the cut.

This puts Illinois in the running for up to $400 million in new education dollars. The money must be spent on specific initiatives supported by the Dept. of Education including turning around low-performing schools, raising academic standards, enhancing teacher quality and using data to evaluate teachers and improve education.

The winners will be announced in late August or early September.

This is Illinois' second time being a finalist. In the first round last spring, just two states, Delaware and Tennessee, won grants.

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Debate continues over progress of property tax bills

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It's just possible the Cook County Board of Review is hearing more tax appeals this year than any other tribunal in the United States, says spokesman Scott Guetzow.

A verbal sparring match between the board and retiring Assessor Jim Houlihan over whether the county property tax bills will be sent out before the Nov. 2 election has been going on since spring.

Houlihan sees a conspiracy.

But if the bills don't make it out by then, Guetzow said, it won't be the Board of Review's fault.

The Diocese of Peoria said this afternoon that a meeting has been set up between the diocese and the University of Illinois to discuss the termination of adjunct professor Kenneth Howell. (read the press release here.pdf.)

The university let Howell go at the end of the spring semester after a lecture and a follow-up e-mail to students in which he described in a class about Catholicism that under natural moral law same-sex relations are immoral.

A group of U. of I. students has been urging the school to reinstate the professor, and they have set up a Facebook page in his support.

A Chicago Sun-Times editorial on this topic appeared on Tuesday.

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Is 30 million pounds a lot of carp? Yes

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On Tuesday, Gov. Quinn announced Illinois would harvest dreaded Asian carp from the state's waterways and sell it as a delicacy in China. 07.13.10_GOV_Asian_Carp_Agreement_RELEASE-1.pdf

The upside? Creation of 180 new jobs. Export revenues for Illinois. And fewer carp. To be precise, 30 million fewer pounds of carp by the end of 2011.

But is that enough to make a difference?

How can a Happy Meal make us so unhappy?

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In the great debate over the McDonald's Happy Meal, picking sides is harder than it seems.

Do you go after McDonald's, which tries to entice kids into eating greasy food by including a Barbie or a Hot Wheels in its Happy Meals? Who, afterall, doesn't deserve a junky treat every now and then?

Or, do you side with McDonald's? The company calls recent attacks on the marketing of its Happy Meal insulting and over-the-top. They have a point. Last month the Center for Science in the Public Interest likened McDonald's to the "stranger in the playground handing out candy to children."

McDonald's says parents are the ones who ultimately decide what their children can or cannot eat.

But do they?

In a world saturated with marketing messages, it's tougher and tougher to convince your kids that carrots, apples and raisins really are better than a Happy Meal.

In a Chicago Tribune story Thursday, New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle said McDonald's aggressive marketing may have been fine when it was "considered a family treat (once a year on birthdays) and childhood obesity was a rare phenomenon."

Those days are over. McDonald's is now a staple for many families and about one-third of all children are overweight or obese.

Marketing by McDonald's has already worked its magic. It's time to dial it back.

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Should more be done to save community banks?

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The FDIC is on a pace to close more banks this year than the 140 it closed nationwide last year. The most recent banks to close in Illinois are the Arcola Homestead Savings Bank on June 4 and Elmwood Park's Midwest Trust & Savings Bank on May 14.

Last year, 21 banks closed in Illinois. So far this year, 12 have closed in Illinois.

Arizona's new immigration law has been the topic of perhaps more letters to the editor at the Chicago Sun-Times recently than any other issue.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department sued, challenging the law and setting up a legal battle between the federal government at Arizona.

Is Quinn more of a mover and shaker than Brady is?

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For those seeking an early indication of how the Illinois governor's race might swing in the fall, here's one bit of minutia: At the Arlington Heights Fourth of July parade (which took place on July 5), Gov. Quinn busily shook hands of spectators lining the parade route. Bill Brady, whose slot in the parade was farther back, smiled and waved but - from my vantage point about a block from the reviewing stand - wasn't shaking any hands.

That wasn't the only suburban parade, of course: Quinn and running mate Sheila Simon also were signed up to march in parades in Elgin, Bartlett, Des Plaines and Evanston.

I don't know how many votes a handshake translates into. But Quinn seemed more determined to tap into that part of the electorate than Brady did.

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In new mystery novel, no one in Naperville is safe

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Shane Gericke's fictional detectives Emily Thompson and Martin Benedetti keep stopping bloody crime sprees in Naperville, but is the city grateful? No.

When a criminal in Gericke's first book blew up Naperville's Neuqua Valley High School to smithereens, a group of parents asked local bookstores not to stock the title or invite Gericke to come speak.

"One woman told the bookstores: This man is bringing evil into our safe city and we don't like it," says Gericke, a former Chicago Sun-Times business copy editor who lives in Naperville.

Today is the official release date for Torn Apart, the third book set in the far west suburban Chicago suburb. (The first two books were Blown Away and Cut to the Bone.)

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At one point, Harry Mark Petrakis thought The Shepherds of Shadows would be his last book, but he couldn't stop writing and now Cavafy's Stone and Other Village Tales is due out in November from Wicker Park Press.

"Obeying the dictum of John Steinbeck, who said a book is written, 'a page at a time, a day at a time,' in the fall of last year I started a series of short pieces, a sort of Spoon River of a Greek Village," Petrakis wrote.

"About six weeks ago, with 15 stories written totaling 65,000 words, I realized I had completed another book."

The story that inspired the new collection is "The Vision," a tale of an aging parish priest and his reaction after seeing a young woman bathing nude near a secluded mountain stream, among the "hidden ravines on the mountain where the earth hung strangely motionless, not a sight or a sound suggesting anything human existed there. The villagers believed those ravines were the domain of goat-hoofed satyrs and bewitching nymphs who emerged from their caves to frolic and couple in the moonlight, their music and laughter tempting and seducing to any poor soul who chanced by."

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For years, few people in authority would listen to warnings about Asian carp coming north in the Mississippi River watershed and getting into the Great Lakes.

Now, the alarm is getting more attention. On Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin sponsored a bill that would speed up an Army Corp of Engineers study on severing the connection between the two watersheds. That's one of many reactions now that the carp have reached an electric barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and a live carp has been found on the wrong side of the barrier in Lake Calumet, six miles from Lake Michigan.

There also was a report that the carp have been moving up Indiana's Wabash River to a point where a flood could be enough to carry them into a river feeding into Lake Erie. Carp already have been found in Lake Erie, but there has been no sign of a breeding population.

The Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds have historically been interconnected during flooding. Similar to the situation in Indiana, the carp-infested Des Plaines River runs parallel to the nearby Sanitary and Ship canal, and flooding is a risk.

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If you view the political contest between the Cook County assessor and the Board of Review over tax bills as we do hockey games, we just finished the second of three periods.

At first there were whispers that the second installment of the Cook County property tax bills might not be out until early next year. Then it became a verbal sparring match over whether they would be out before the November election.

Assessor James M. Houlihan vowed his office would finish its share of the work by May 7, which would be late, but in time for the bills to be out in October. In fact, Houlihan finished up by April 29. The Board of Review had said in a letter in March they'd need two-and-a-half to three months to finish up, which would be July 29. So June 29 was the end of the second period.

Where do we stand after two periods?

It's hard to say which side can claim to be closer to a word-war victory. There are 30 suburban townships and eight in the city. As of last week, the Board of Review had returned 11 completed townships to the assessor's office: Lake View, Rogers Park, Evanston, Norwood Park, Berwyn, Bremen, Cicero, Oak Park, Palos, River Forest and Riverside.This week, they added three more. So the Board of Review has 24 townships to go in the final period.

There are political overtones because Houlihan is retiring and Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios is running for Houlihan's job.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2010 is the previous archive.

August 2010 is the next archive.

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