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Moody's Likes TRS Pension Move. But There's A Catch.

It's a rare occurrence of late: A credit rating agency saying something positive about Illinois' finances. But the comment published Tuesday by Moody's Investor Service was tempered. Illinois could end up having to put an additional half billion dollars into one of its pension funds next year. As the name suggests, the Teachers Retirement System is the retirement benefits fund for all Illinois public school teachers outside of Chicago. At actuaries' recommendation, the TRS board just voted to...
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Covering Crime In Chicago

Peter Nickeas covers breaking news for the Chicago Tribune. He spent three years on the overnight shift and during that time went to the scenes of hundreds of shootings in the city. Nickeas reflected on this time and the effect it’s had on his life in an essay for the September issue of Chicago Magazine, titled “Three Years of Nights.” Illinois Issues editor Jamey Dunn talked with Nickeas about the essay and his time as an overnight reporter covering crime in Chicago.
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Election 2016

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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Trending Stories

Illinois Issues: Rewriting The Rule Book

A law going into effect next month will ban zero-tolerance policies in schools and turn suspension and expulsion into disciplinary options of last resort. Districts throughout the state are taking different approaches to prepare for the changes.
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Illinois Issues

John Owens

Illinois Issues: Historic Dilemma

Efforts to preserve historic buildings in low-income and inner-city neighborhoods throughout the state face challenges — like the lack of access to financing and restoration projects taking a back seat to more pressing issues in the community.
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"I'm not comfortable eating a watch battery." That's how researcher Christopher Bettinger describes one of the biggest obstacles for sending tiny medical robots into the human body for diagnosing and treating diseases.

These devices run on batteries (like those in watches) and they are usually made of toxic materials such as lithium.

In the sun-dappled world of Los Angeles duo Deap Vally, everyone is free to be anyone or anything they want — even if that's a neon-pink yeti strutting on the beach with a surfboard. "I'm gonna do it 'cause I wanna," the band sings over and over in a new video for "Gonnawanna"; meanwhile, the defiant creature trolls the beach, ignoring a gaggle of sunbathers who snicker and gawk.

The other day, I did something incredibly mortifying. I forced myself to mimic the Indian accent in front of Indians who, unlike me, have an Indian accent.

To back up a second, my mom and dad immigrated to the States from India and Pakistan in the 70s and 80s, and I born and raised in the Philadelphia area. That's why I, unlike many of the aunties and uncles I grew up around, call water ice "wooter ice" — Philly-style — and not "vaatar ice." (But never "Italian ice" or, shudder, snow cone.)

Interested in Steve Jobs, Georgia O'Keefe or Alice in Wonderland? They are all explored in new music in the upcoming American concert season.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After 10 pages of Nathan Hill's debut novel, The Nix, I flipped to the dust jacket. I wanted to see what the author looked like because I was thinking to myself, Jesus, this guy is gonna be famous. I wanna see what he looks like.

The first commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than half a century has taken off today, marking another milestone in the thawing relationship between the two countries.

The inaugural trip is a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Santa Clara in central Cuba. And as NPR's Scott Horsley tells our Newscast unit, the plane is piloted by two Cuban-Americans.

"JetBlue Captain Mark Luaces and First Officer Francisco Barreras are both the sons of Cuban immigrants," he says.

It sounds like a crazy idea. Convince a survivor of sexual assault to tell her story by filming herself with a fire-breathing dragon imposed on her face.

That's what Indian journalist Yusuf Omar did. He discovered that Snapchat, a mobile app that allows users to create photo or video "stories" that disappear after 24 hours, can be used to document a victim's first-person account while obscuring his or her identities.

Its built-in "filters" — illustrated or animated digital overlays — can transform a subject's face into anything from a flower child to a puppy.

Residents of Hawaii are keeping a close eye on two hurricanes in the Pacific, Madeline and Lester.

And astronauts have been watching the storms, too — from a different angle.

On Tuesday, the International Space Station caught a spectacular view of both storms, as well as a powerful hurricane in the Atlantic.

The strongest storm in the video is Gaston, currently passing through the open ocean far from land. It's a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.

It was just two years ago that Mauritanian vocalist Noura Mint Seymali hit the international scene — but now, it's hard to imagine the scope of African music without her. The singer and her band blow listeners away with giddily woozy and dreamlike vocals; blistering guitar played by her husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly; and the grounding elements of Ousmane Touré's bass and Matthew Tinari's drums.

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Featured

Sean Crawford in the studio.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois 91.9 | UIS

VIDEO: Making Morning Edition With Sean Crawford

Your daily routine may include tuning your radio to 91.9 to listen to Morning Edition. Sean Crawford's morning routine is to ensure that your morning routine goes according to plan. Sean, head of our news operations, is the voice of NPR Illinois' broadcast of Morning Edition bringing you a mix of state, national, and international stories. Step into the studio with him to see what goes into making the show on a daily basis.
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Statehouse

NPR Illinois State Week logo (Capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

State Week: Remap Rejected

The Illinois Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to change the way Illinois' legislative districts are drawn.
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npr.org

It's a rare occurrence of late: A credit rating agency saying something positive about Illinois' finances. But the comment published Tuesday by Moody's Investor Service was tempered.

Illinois could end up having to put an additional half billion dollars into one of its pension funds next year.

As the name suggests, the Teachers Retirement System is the retirement benefits fund for all Illinois public school teachers outside of Chicago.

elevator down arrow
Eric Skiff

The Illinois Teachers Retirement System voted last week to reduce the amount of money it assumes it will make from its investments. The board revised this rate of assumption down to 7 percent from 7.5 percent.

This change means that as lawmakers and the governor are putting together a budget for next fiscal year, they will have to come up with a projected $420 million more than what they might have expected to pay into the retirement system for teachers outside of Chicago. Illinois' total unfunded liability for all its pension funds is pegged at $111 billion. 

Anxious legislators will once again see a deposit from the state of Illinois in their bank accounts. They’re getting paid Tuesday for the first time since July, when their April paychecks came through.

Education Desk

Karen Bridges

Education Desk: Busing To 'Forge Friendships'

Forty years ago, during the summer of 1976, school officials in Illinois’ capital city were in federal court, arguing about how to desegregate Springfield schools. Roger Bridges was one of more than a hundred plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but he emerged as one of the architects of the desegregation plan ultimately chosen by Judge James Ackerman. The plan is still in use today. As families get set to send their kids back to school, we asked Bridges to remind us why some of our youngest students will be taking the bus.
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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Like many schools, Gibson Elementary in St. Louis had big problems with attendance — many students were missing nearly a month of school a year.

So Melody Gunn, who was the principal at Gibson last year, set out to visit homes and figure out why kids weren't showing up. Her biggest discovery? They didn't have clean uniforms to wear to school.

Many families, she found, didn't have washing machines in the home, and kids were embarrassed to show up to school in dirty clothes. The result was that often, they didn't come.

Sandy Hook Elementary is gearing up for the first day of school tomorrow, nearly four years after a gunman killed 20 students and 6 teachers.

Students will be entering a brand-new school for the first time, located at the same site as the scene of the tragedy.

The original building in Newtown, Conn. was demolished in 2013 after Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage in December 2012.

Arts & Culture

Interviews On Edgar Lee Masters As His Collection At ALPLM "Quadruples"

When Edgar Lee Masters wrote Spoon River Anthology in the early 1900's, it started as a series of poems printed in succession. They were later put into a collection and to this day, the book is taught in classrooms around the country and lauded for its critical and cutting look into what rural life was really like in Mid-America. For a long time, Masters called Petersburg, Illinois home and the house he lived in there is now a museum. Some other fun facts? He was a prolific writer as well as...
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After 10 pages of Nathan Hill's debut novel, The Nix, I flipped to the dust jacket. I wanted to see what the author looked like because I was thinking to myself, Jesus, this guy is gonna be famous. I wanna see what he looks like.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

On the second page of Curioddity — the debut novel by Eisner-winning comic-book writer Paul Jenkins — the book's protagonist Wil Morgan wakes up and looks in the mirror. Thankfully he doesn't do the expected thing, which is describe his appearance for the benefit of the reader. Instead, Jenkins writes, "Not a good time to make eye contact with his reflection, he decided, and he hastily backed away." It's a tiny scene, but it's telling. By and large, Curioddity tries to subvert — or at least smirk at — a whole host of fictional clichés and tropes.

Equity

UIS Professor Studies Transgender Rights & The Law

Earlier this year Illinois Issues reported on the transgender community in Illinois and whether advocates say there are enough anti-discrimination and supportive policies in place. Illinois saw its own debate over whether transgender people should be able to use the bathroom they feel represents their true gender when a trans student in Palatine went to court over their desire to use the locker and bathrooms that matched their gender - not their biological sex as represented on their birth...
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The other day, I did something incredibly mortifying. I forced myself to mimic the Indian accent in front of Indians who, unlike me, have an Indian accent.

To back up a second, my mom and dad immigrated to the States from India and Pakistan in the 70s and 80s, and I born and raised in the Philadelphia area. That's why I, unlike many of the aunties and uncles I grew up around, call water ice "wooter ice" — Philly-style — and not "vaatar ice." (But never "Italian ice" or, shudder, snow cone.)

The idea of black capitalism goes back many decades. Civil rights activists Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey advocated African-Americans creating and doing business with their own to build wealth in their community.

This summer, the killings of black men and the Black Lives Matter movement rekindled campaigns to #BuyBlack and #BankBlack — but it's a call some supporters find difficult to heed.

The Pain Of Police Killings Can Last Decades

Aug 25, 2016

In recent months, the nation has witnessed how questionable police shootings of African Americans can spark anger and unrest across a community. But long after the demonstrations end, the streets go quiet and the cameras leave, families of those killed have to find ways to cope with their loss. And that's a private struggle that can last for decades and across generations.

Cordero Ducksworth has lived that struggle. He was 5 years old in 1962, when his father, Army Corporal Roman Ducksworth, Jr., was shot to death by William Kelly, a white Taylorsville, Miss. police officer.

Illinois Economy

flickr/Phallnn Ool

Business Report: Springfield Health Care Jobs; Rail Work Grant; Lincoln Home Repainting

NPR Illinois' Sean Crawford talks with State Journal-Register Business Editor Tim Landis.
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SpringfieldRailroad.com

Sean Crawford talks with Tim Landis, Business Editor for the State Journal-Register.

Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Assoc.

Sean Crawford talks with the State Journal-Register Business Editor Tim Landis.

On this week's report:

* Enos Park Artist in Residence - Springfield Art Association and Enos Park Neighborhood Association have asked for more than $80,000 in Tax Increment Financing assistance to buy a home and launch the program with the goal of artists eventually going out on their own and opening shops, buying homes etc.

elevator down arrow
Eric Skiff

In 2008, the Great Recession helped to tip Illinois into a fiscal crisis it still hasn't recovered from. A new report from Standard & Poor's found that another even moderate recession would mean big trouble for the state's budget. ​

Illinois Issues editor Jamey Dunn sat down with Sean Crawford to talk about it. 

Harvest Desk

The extended drought in California has farmers looking for ways to use less water. Among them: growing feed indoors using hydroponics. The new diet is making some Central Valley sheep very happy.

On Golden Valley Farm an hour north of Fresno, Mario Daccarett's employees milk 500 sheep every day, in rounds of 12. This creamy milk eventually is turned into cheese and sold at places like Whole Foods.

"They tell me that our Golden Ewe cheese is the best for grilled cheese sandwich ever," Daccarett says. (I bought some and it was really tasty.)

At a campground in northwestern Montana, 30 people are groggily gearing up for a day of mushroom picking.

Most are here because they want an excuse to get outside and taste some of the more exotic of Montana's wild mushrooms. But others, like Matt Zaitz from Kansas, are here to turn a profit.

"It's not easy work," Zaitz says. "It's tough."

Maria Diaz sorts green bell peppers along an outdoor conveyor belt on a farm 25 miles west of Sacramento, discarding leaves and stems quickly before peppers are swept away by a mini-roller coaster onto a tractor-trailer.

Diaz, a single parent of three, is one of roughly 800,000 farmworkers in California. Under a bill recently passed by the California Legislature, Diaz could collect overtime pay.

Diaz says growers should pay overtime after eight hours. She adds that those extra earnings would help her cover child care.

Health Desk

"I'm not comfortable eating a watch battery." That's how researcher Christopher Bettinger describes one of the biggest obstacles for sending tiny medical robots into the human body for diagnosing and treating diseases.

These devices run on batteries (like those in watches) and they are usually made of toxic materials such as lithium.

It sounds like a crazy idea. Convince a survivor of sexual assault to tell her story by filming herself with a fire-breathing dragon imposed on her face.

That's what Indian journalist Yusuf Omar did. He discovered that Snapchat, a mobile app that allows users to create photo or video "stories" that disappear after 24 hours, can be used to document a victim's first-person account while obscuring his or her identities.

Its built-in "filters" — illustrated or animated digital overlays — can transform a subject's face into anything from a flower child to a puppy.

Part One in an NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.

You might call it a silent epidemic.

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

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