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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

After more than a week of seeming to change direction on immigration policy, and then apparently turning back to his original plan, Donald Trump is delivering a speech on the issue Wednesday night in Phoenix.

NPR's politics team is live annotating Trump's speech below. Portions we commented on are highlighted, followed by analysis, context and fact check in italics.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused Wednesday to reinstate a set of voter restrictions enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the battleground state of North Carolina.

Last month a federal appeals court invalidated the restrictions, declaring that they were deliberately targeted at making it more difficult for African-Americans to vote.

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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After more than a week of seeming to change direction on immigration policy, and then apparently turning back to his original plan, Donald Trump is delivering a speech on the issue Wednesday night in Phoenix.

NPR's politics team is live annotating Trump's speech below. Portions we commented on are highlighted, followed by analysis, context and fact check in italics.

A day after performing "Hotter Than Hell" on The Tonight Show, rising pop star Dua Lipa performed another one of her songs, "Thinking Bout You," for a much smaller audience: our Noteworthy video crew. Enjoy this extra from our Noteworthy documentary on Dua Lipa and be sure to watch the entire documentary here.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused Wednesday to reinstate a set of voter restrictions enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the battleground state of North Carolina.

Last month a federal appeals court invalidated the restrictions, declaring that they were deliberately targeted at making it more difficult for African-Americans to vote.

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

A $7 million, comprehensive census of African elephants has found that the population decreased by nearly a third between 2007 and 2014.

The Great Elephant Census was conducted over three years, and set out to effectively count every savanna elephant in 18 countries in Africa, accounting for 93 percent of the savanna elephants in those countries. The conclusion — that the population declined by 144,000 animals in just seven years — is sobering.

Editor's note: Reporter John Otis first covered Venezuela 19 years ago and has returned many times since. Today, the day before a planned opposition demonstration, he and other foreign journalists were stopped from entering the country. He filed this report while awaiting a flight out.

More than a thousand residents of a public housing complex in East Chicago, Ind., are now forced to relocate because of dangerously high lead levels in the area's soil.

The West Calumet Housing Complex, which houses primarily low-income families, lies on the site of a former lead smelting company, as member station WBEZ reported.

Dua Lipa Wants To 'Break America'

5 hours ago

The London-based singer Dua Lipa has released just five singles, all within the last 12 months. She won't put out her debut album until February 2017. But the 21-year-old artist has already begun to take shape as a creative force with a sound she calls "dark pop," melding sparse hip-hop beats with an ear for melody and interpretation. She might be a natural-born pop star: When she'd released just two songs, the BBC picked her for its Sound of 2016 list.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET.

A softer-edged Donald Trump huddled with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a hastily arranged meeting in Mexico City on Wednesday. Both men pledged a commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Trump said he had a "very substantive" conversation with Peña Nieto during which he reaffirmed the right of the U.S. to protect its borders and build a wall, but that his pledge to make Mexico pay for it didn't come up.

"We didn't discuss that," Trump said.

Proposed trade deals with Asia and Europe have suffered setbacks recently. But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says he isn't ready to write off the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

In an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel before Lew departs for a Group of 20 meeting in China, Lew acknowledged the anxiety among workers who have felt the impacts of the globalized economy but said the benefits of the trade deals need to be made "more clear."

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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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Today, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled new rules, explaining to states and districts how they can prove they're spreading resources fairly between poor and less-poor schools.

Today's release is a re-write of rules that were first unveiled last spring and that caused quite a stir, creating a political unicorn: a fight in which Republicans and teachers unions found themselves on the same side.

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.

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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This summer, NPR has been thinking about villains in popular culture. Critic Bob Mondello explored what makes a great screen villain tick. NPR Books' Petra Mayer looked at how and why so many of literature's greatest villains get away with it.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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.

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 was 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

It's been four years since scientists first started accusing a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, of killing bees. These pesticides are used as seed coatings on most corn and soybean seeds.

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 Montana's more exotic 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."

Health Desk

More than a thousand residents of a public housing complex in East Chicago, Ind., are now forced to relocate because of dangerously high lead levels in the area's soil.

The West Calumet Housing Complex, which houses primarily low-income families, lies on the site of a former lead smelting company, as member station WBEZ reported.

Teen pregnancy is way down. And a study suggests that the reason is increased, and increasingly effective, use of contraceptives.

From 2007 to 2013, births to teens ages of 15 and 19 dropped by 36 percent; pregnancies fell by 25 percent from 2007 to 2011, according to federal data.

At the Mirebalais Hospital in Haiti's central plateau, Dr. Louise Ivers and Dr. Roman Jean-Louis are examining a baby girl who was born in early July with microcephaly, a smaller-than-normal skull often associated with Zika infections.

The baby, named Chinashama, is dressed in a white smock adorned with small flowers. Her legs cross unnaturally over her shins, and her mother, Chrisnette Sainvilus, says the baby cries a lot and has trouble passing stool. "Day and night she's crying," the mother of two says. It's unclear what physical and mental problems Chinashama is facing.

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