Local News for Sunday, July 29

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Published on July 29 2012 6:10 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has designated 76 additional counties in six states, including two in Illinois, as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.

During the 2012 crop year, the US Department of Agriculture has designated 1,369 counties across 31 states as disaster areas--1,234 due to drought--making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

The two Illinois counties added to the disaster declaration are Crawford and Pike.

The US Drought Monitor currently reports that two-thirds of the continental United States is in a moderate to exceptional drought.

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The 31st Annual Millroad Thresherman's Association Steam, Gas and Threshing Show will wrap up today at the Effingham County Fairgrounds at Altamont.

A worship service at 8am will be followed by bluegrass gospel music from 9 to 11am, a model train show from 10am to 3pm, threshing and baling at 11am, lunch at noon, an antique tractor and 10,500 and 12,000 pound pull at noon, more threshing and baling at 2pm and a drawing for prizes at 3pm.  There will also be chain saw carving today and a breakfast this morning.

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Governor Quinn has signed into law a bill banning the practice known as "phone cramming."  The two billion dollar practice entails vendors placing unauthorized charges on consumers' phone bills.  Experts say just one out of every 20 victims of phone cramming know their bill actually contains a phony charge, usually between 10 and 45 dollars each.  Quinn contends the new law will lower people's phone bills.

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The former president of the University of Illinois is getting big money to be a professor at UI-Springfield.  The 285 thousand dollars that Michael Hogan will be paid annually to teach will make him the school's highest-paid employee.  Only one other employee at UI-Springfield, Chancellor and Vice-President Susan Koch, earns more than 200 thousand dollars a year.  It's still a far cry from the 650 thousand dollars Hogan was paid as president in Champaign-Urbana.

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Congressman John Shimkus joined 78 colleagues in urging bipartisan House leadership to bring the FARM Act to a vote before the full US House.

Many farm bill policies expire September 30 and Shimkus said that's behind the urgency in bringing the bill to the floor.

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Illinois lawmakers will return to work August 17 and they could be disciplining one of their own.  House Speaker Michael Madigan called lawmakers back to session to deal with State Representative Derrick Smith.  Last week, a House panel voted to expel Smith from the House.  It would take 79 of the 118 members of the House to remove Smith from office. 

Smith is facing a federal indictment of bribery.  He's accused of taking a seven thousand dollar bribe.  Governor Quinn would like to work on pension reform when they return but, right now, they're still at an impasse on what to do.

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A federal grand jury has indicted 19 people for stealing unemployment insurance benefits.  Federal prosecutors say each of the people were able to get anywhere from 11,000 to 40,000 dollars.  Prosecutors say a couple of the people indicted for theft of government funds could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to 250 thousand dollars.

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Eastern Illinois University and its faculty union have come to terms on a tentative contract.  The four-year deal includes a summer salary proposal.  Each year of the contract includes a 1.5% salary increase for faculty members.  It also sets a pay scale for all summer classes.  The idea is to help simplify how teachers are paid during the summer.  Those offering classes in the summer will get 78% of their regular salary during the first three years of the deal and 80% in the fourth year.  Faculty members are expected to vote on the proposal late next month or early in September, while the college's Board of Trustees will vote on it in September.

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Regional Superintendent of Schools Julie Wollerman is offering a free training for current and prospective substitute teachers.  The professional development session is scheduled for 9am to noon on August 7 at the Alternative Education Building on Fletcher Street in Vandalia.

For more information, phone Assistant Superintendent Bill Ladage at 618-283-5011 or at www.fayette.k12.il.us. 

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An Illinois union for paralegals and clerical staff have authorized a strike at the Springfield offices of the state's Attorney General.  The Federation of Public Employees says it authorized the strike one year after negotiations began on a one-time stipend.  The nearly 250 union members are asking for a stipend instead of a pay increase.  A representative for Attorney General Lisa Madigan says the request is "outrageous and unrealistic."  Before a strike can take place, the two sides must meet before a mediator.

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Grapes are doing better than most crops in the state, but producers could see about a 20% drop in production.  Grapes took a double hit this year, with the drought plus the frost during the spring.  Mark Lounsberry of Hill Prairie Winery and Vineyard in Oakford says the frost probably caused more damage than the drought in Central Illinois.  He says the grapes could use more rain, but too much may cause the grape to split open and ferment on the vine.

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A benefit is planned today for Sharon Osthoff Dhom.  The event will run from 2 to 7pm at the Effingham Elks Lodge on South Banker.  Sharon Dhom is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease.  Many musicians are banding together to raise money to help defray her expenses.  There will be music and fun, dancing and a pulled pork meal.  Donations may also be made at First National Bank of Dieterich.

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Vacation Bible School begins tonight at Jewett Community Church.  A kickoff will begin at 6pm.  "Space Quest" will be offered each night Monday through Thursday from 6 to 8pm with Family Night on Friday at 6pm.  Any children from three years old through sixth grade are welcome to participate.  For more information, phone Angie McElravy at 217-849-2850 or email: jewettcommunitychurch@gmail.com.

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