Correspondent, Chicago
James's Feed
Feb 14, 2013

Official who bilked Illinois town gets almost 20 years in prison

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The former top finance official of President Ronald Reagan’s boyhood hometown was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison on Thursday for embezzling $54 million to buy horses, luxury cars and several properties even as the town faced a budget crisis.

Rita Crundwell, 60, who served as comptroller of Dixon, Illinois from 1983 until her arrest last year, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud after admitting she secretly siphoned the money out of city coffers over a 22-year period.

Feb 12, 2013

Summit on Illinois pension woes ends with no new plan

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A union-led summit to address Illinois’ unfunded pension liabilities ended on Monday without any deals or significant breakthroughs, according to elected officials from both sides of the aisle who attended the event.

The summit, organized by a coalition of unions that represents public workers, drew Democrat and Republican state lawmakers to an AFL-CIO office in Burr Ridge, Illinois, but ended after three hours without a statement of consensus or a commitment to meet again.

Jan 23, 2013

Union membership falls to lowest percentage in 76 years

By James B. Kelleher and Lisa Lambert and Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) – The percentage of workers belonging to unions tumbled to 11.3 percent in 2012, the lowest percentage in 76 years, led by dramatic declines in states where lawmakers have put organized labor in the political crosshairs, government figures showed on Wednesday.

The total number of union members fell by nearly 400,000, from 11.8 percent of the workforce in 2011, the Labor Department report on union membership said. The rate of 11.3 percent of the workforce was the lowest since 1936, when Franklin Roosevelt was president.

Jan 17, 2013

Notre Dame hoax tip was emailed: Deadspin.com editor

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The tip that led to the revelation that one of the most widely recounted U.S. sports narratives of the past year was a hoax came to the editors of an online sports blog as many of their news tips do: an unsolicited email.

That email led Deadspin.com assignment editor Timothy Burke on the hunt of a story that exposed the heart-wrenching tale of standout Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o's dead girlfriend as a fabrication, Burke said on CNN on Thursday.

Jan 9, 2013

Illinois asks court to keep banning most handguns in the state

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois asked an appeals court on Tuesday to reverse itself and allow a ban that prevents most people there from carrying concealed handguns in public.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, asked the full Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to review the decision, saying it was not consistent with recent decisions by other courts.

Jan 8, 2013

2012 was hottest year on record in U.S., climate agency says

CHICAGO, Jan 8 (Reuters) – The year 2012 was the warmest on
record for the contiguous United States, beating the previous
record by a full degree in temperature, a government climate
agency said on Tuesday.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration said the average temperature in 2012 in the
contiguous United States was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit (12.94
degrees Celsius), 3.2 degrees above the average recorded during
the 20th century and 1.0 degree above 1998, until now the
hottest on record. The contiguous United States excludes Alaska
and Hawaii.

Jan 8, 2013

Embattled Michigan Supreme Court judge to quit amid ethics probe

By James B. Kelleher

(Reuters) – A Michigan Supreme Court justice announced plans on Monday to step down from the bench after a judicial watchdog accused her of “blatant and brazen” ethics violations in a series of real-estate deals and filed an emergency petition for her suspension.

Attorneys for Justice Diane Hathaway, who is already the target of a federal complaint alleging mortgage fraud, informed the court on Monday she would resign effective January 21, according to a Michigan Supreme Court spokeswoman – nearly four years before her term expires.

Dec 31, 2012

Ban on demanding Facebook passwords among new 2013 state laws

CHICAGO, Dec 31 (Reuters) – Employers in California and
Illinois will be prohibited from demanding access to workers’
password-protected social networking accounts and teachers in
Oregon will be required to report suspected student bullies
thanks to new laws taking effect in 2013.

In all, more than 400 measures were enacted at the state
level during 2012 and will become law in the new year, according
to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Dec 29, 2012

Governor signs new law for abortion clinics in Michigan

By James B. Kelleher

(Reuters) – Michigan’s Republican governor on Friday signed into law new rules for abortion providers that supporters say will protect the health of pregnant women but critics say will shutter clinics and restrict access.

The law signed by Governor Rick Snyder increases state oversight of abortion clinics and establishes a screening protocol to make sure women are not being forced to get an abortion.

Dec 28, 2012

Tale of two cities: Chicago murder rate spikes, New York falls

CHICAGO/NEW YORK, Dec 28 (Reuters) – In a sharp contrast
between two of the nation’s largest cities, Chicago recorded its
499th murder of 2012 on Thursday night while New York reported
414 murders as of Friday even though it has more than three
times the population, according to police.

Plagued by gang violence, Chicago surpassed last year’s
murder total of 433 in October and is set for the highest rate
of homicide since the third largest U.S. city recorded 512 in
2008. The number is likely to top 500 on the last weekend of the
year.