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For the Midwest’s biggest crops, this harvest season was a big one. With winter setting in, the race is on for farmers to ship out their harvest so it’s not left out to spoil. But the giant harvest and a lack of available rail cars have created a traffic jam on the rails and the highways.

Usually, farmers store their harvest in silos and grain bins, but this year, farmers brought in so much, there’s just no room.  Farmers in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota are all being hit particularly hard by the storage shortage.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

A couple was discussing the holiday festivities their family would enjoy.  They mentioned a large gathering they would attend, and remembered they would once again hear Uncle Henry’s stale stories, repeated at every holiday meal. At this recollection, they raised their eyebrows and rolled their eyes.

Dusty Rhodes

 

Watching her daughter play volleyball, April Standage sounds like any good sports mom. She keeps an eye on the refs, she encourages the players, and she keeps a mental tally of the score. And like any good sports mom, she would much rather watch the game than talk to a reporter.

It turns out that Standage has loved sports all her life. Starting in middle school, she played volleyball and basketball, threw the shotput and discus, and ran the 4-by-200 in track. Her 15-year-old daughter, however, is just now discovering sports. 

University of Illinois

 A University of Illinois task force on sexual assault has started meeting and plans to survey the school's three campuses to assess the situation at each.  

University spokesman Tom Hardy says the new task force met for the first time Wednesday. The group is supposed to finish surveys at the Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield campuses by the spring.  

U.S. House

Illinois' Congressional delegation has mixed reviews on the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba. Like many key Republicans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk denounced President Barack Obama for setting what he called a "dangerous precedent" by conceding to a dictator. But another Republican, Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville, says lifting outdated trade restrictions will strengthen Cuba's middle class, and weaken Raoul Castro's regime. Davis also says it'll open the market for Illinois' agricultural commodities. U.S.

Flickr/H. Michael Karshis

If you're someone who frequents concerts and shows, chances are you have purchased tickets online. Lots of times the sites that come up on a Google search for those tickets are being offered from secondary-market brokers (a fancy term for the people who often charge extra to buy the tickets for you.). They serve as largely unnecessary middle men, and you could lose a good chunk of change if you're not careful.

npr.org

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered
as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.
 
 Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects.
Individuals included the state's top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and
Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.
 
 Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a
former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.
 
 Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns,

Dave Benton passed away the morning of May 26.  This interview was conducted in late 2014.

WUIS Holiday Card
Kristin Shaffer / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Please join WUIS at the studios Thursday, December 18, 4-7:30 PM for our Holiday Thank You Fest Open House.  Whether you're a financial supporter or an avid listener, we'd love to see you!

Amanda Vinicky

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has already tried to make the case that that Illinois' finances are worse than he thought. Now he's adding to his list of examples.

"What we've learned here in recent days, and I'm here to get more of the detail on ... there's $760 million of what they're calling - what I guess, I'm learning the lingo - supplemental appropriations, about to be requested," he said.

Basically, it means that state agencies are going to be asking for an additional $760 million to get them through this budget year -- or, as Rauner put it, they want to go "over budget."

Veterans in the Springfield area have been gathering over the past few months to discuss stories they are reading about war and other topics they can relate to. It's become a therapeutic and social outlet. Justin Blandford is with the state's Historic Preservation Agency, which is helping sponsor the events, held at the Old State Capitol. He joined us for this chat. Along with him was the group's facilitator, Jim Warner, who begins this interview telling us about why he got involved:  

Route 66 University

Bel-Aire Motel residents caught off guard by demolition announcement on this week's Business Report.

Tim Landis and Bill Wheelhouse also talk about the closing of a century old business in the community and the sales of Road Rangers in the area.

Chicago Botanic Garden

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  And Chicago is one of the top locations to visit for the holidays. 

Mary Galligan wrote about some of the most festive attractions in the latest edition of Illinois Times. 

From the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden  to the Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos, Navy Pier, Millenium Park and more.  Holiday light displays and events are sure to delight families.

Springfield public schools have seen higher than normal absences in the past week.  The district won't say if the absences are related to the flu, but local health officials say they are seeing more cases in the area.

District 186 reported last week, about 9 percent of students missed class.  The number was higher at Springfield High, where nearly 11 percent of students were out.  Lanphier had 14 percent absent.

Alternative programs in the district had the highest percentage of student absences.  

Logan Correctional Center
Google Maps

Illinois’ main prison for women has nearly 2,000 inmates. An outside monitor says that’s the result of poor planning when Illinois closed the prison at Dwight nearly two years ago.

The majority of Illinois female inmates are incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois.

John Howard Association director John Maki says the state ought not be housing 1,985 women in a prison built to hold 1,106.

wuis

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's inaugural festivities will include a dinner at the Illinois Capitol, a concert and a free event at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
 
The Winnetka Republican launched a website Monday with a schedule for the 2015
inauguration.
 
Rauner takes the oath of office during a ceremony Jan. 12. Rather than the
traditional inaugural ball that evening, he's planning a concert with a
yet-to-be-named ``famous musical act.''
 

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the death of Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka leaves essentially two vacancies that should first be filled by outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn and then Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner. But she says voters should also get a chance to cast ballots for the office in 2016.
 
 Topinka died last week. The Republican had won a second term, which starts next
month.  
 
 In a legal analysis released Monday, Madigan says Quinn should appoint someone
until Jan. 12, when the current term ends and new elected officials are sworn

Illinois' senators say federal defense legislation includes a request to a study if a National Park designation is merited for the New Philadelphia archaeological site in western Illinois.  

Congress on Friday sent the defense bill to President Barack Obama. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk say the bill includes a provision directing the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the site.  

flickr/ Jannes Pockele

Americans' love affair with sweets is well known.  It also contributes to health problems like obesity, diabetes and even heart disease.  And where do most people get sugar in their diet?  From sweetened beverages, such as soda.  

That's led some health advocates to push for ways to reduce consumption.  In Illinois, a plan for a penny per ounce tax on the drinks came up last year.  However, it got a cool reception from lawmakers.  

 

Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

 

Illinois schools are preparing to implement a new standardized test based on the Common Core standards. Some school districts have pleaded with state officials to delay the implementation of the new test, but Springfield school officials say they're ready.

Educators refer to this new test as the PARCC test. That’s the acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s a standardized test, designed by the Pearson company, that will be given to most Illinois students beginning in March.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a look back at the long political career of state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, who died this week following a stroke.

WUIS

Illinois Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has named an attorney for Indiana's former governor and a former longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert to serve in his administration.  

In a Thursday statement announcing the hires, Rauner says attorney Jason Barclay and Kathy Lydon bring ``invaluable experience.''  

Barclay is a partner at Barnes and Thornburg in Indianapolis. He was legal counsel for former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He will be Rauner's general counsel.  

Agribusiness company Archer Daniels Midland says it plans to
open a new informational technology center next year in Kentucky that will
eventually employ about 200 people.
 
The Chicago-based company said Thursday that the new center will open in the
second half of 2015 in Erlanger, Kentucky, with about 100 contractors and ADM
employees and eventually expand.
 
The center will be in the same complex as ADM's WILD Flavors offices in
Erlanger. The town is about 15 miles southwest of Cincinnati.
 

Comptroller website

A public memorial service for late Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka is scheduled for next week.
 
The comptroller's office says the memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m.
Wednesday at Operating Engineers' Local 150 headquarters in Countryside.
 
Topinka died unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 70 after suffering
complications from a stroke. Her passing came just weeks after she was elected
to a second term.
 
A news release says fellow state leaders, colleagues and family will share

WUIS

The Sierra Club is appealing an Illinois regulators' conclusion that the pollution controls for the FutureGen clean-coal project are adequate.  

The Sierra Club said in a news release Thursday that it has filed a state-court appeal of the Illinois Pollution Control Board's decision to allow the FutureGen project to proceed. The board last month rejected the environmental group's claim.  

The coal companies working on the FutureGen project, known as the FutureGen Alliance, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  

The City of Springfield has reached a deal to have the former Esquire Theater demolished. 

The theater closed over a decade ago and the building has remained boarded up since then.  That's despite sitting along a busy stretch of MacArthur Boulevard near South Grand.   Alderman Joe McMenamin says the property's owner has agreed to tear down the building by spring.  The city's ordinance to begin fining vacant property owners was a factor.  He says the threat of fines also made potential buyers nervous:

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

In my occupation of watching babies, I’ve noticed newborns actually reach for things that captivate them.  My studies had earlier taught me that reaching is achieved by four-month-olds, but sure enough, newborns exhibit a sort of primal reach for just a few weeks which extinguishes and then comes back a few months later.

gcak12.org

The leading cause of on-the-job deaths in Illinois is vehicle accidents. 

172 people died on the job in Illinois in 2013, up  from the year before.   Almost a third of those deaths came from transportation accidents.   Laura Johnson is the Executive Director of the Iowa-Illinois Safety council.

"It really doesn't matter where your employee gets hurt does it? It is still a catastrophic event for your organizations. So we really push defensive driver training for our member companies".

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