The supervisor is Jason Keyser, followed by Caryn Rousseau.
If you have stories of regional or statewide interest, please email them to chifax(at)ap.org or fax them to the Chicago bureau at 312-781-1989. If you have photos of regional or statewide interest, please transmit them to AP's Chicago photo desk. If you have questions about the Illinois AP news report, please call the Chicago bureau supervisor at 800-572-2585 or 312-920-3626. For questions about the photo report, please call the Chicago photo editor at 888-276-3804. If you're having problems with your AP equipment, please call AP Customer Support at 877-836-9477.
SPRINGFIELD — The push to allow same-sex marriages in Illinois got its biggest victory to date with a historic Valentine's Day vote in the state Senate, and supporters expressed confidence that within two weeks President Barack Obama's home state could join nine others that have lifted their gay-marriage bans amid shifting public opinion. With a 34-21 vote, senators advanced the measure to the House, where it could be a tougher sell even though Democrats also hold a majority there. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has pledged to sign it into law should the House pass it too. By Sara Burnett.
AP Photos CX101-103.
DOCTORS LICENSE FEES
SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate approved a measure to raise physicians' licensing fees to $700 to help the state rehire workers who license and investigate doctors. The Senate voted 38-19 on the bill in an attempt to retire a deficit in the medical unit of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation by temporarily raising a three-year doctor's license to $700. The unit's budget woes forced more than half of the department's medical watchdog staff to be laid off last month. Illinois officials and doctors have been at odds for months over how to adequately and fairly fund the unit. By Regina Garcia Cano.
SMALL TOWN SWINDLE
ROCKFORD — A former city bookkeeper was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for embezzling more than $53 million from her Illinois community, in what ranks as one of the worst abuses of public trust in the state's corruption-rich history. "You stole an astronomical amount of money from the city, you crippled the city," U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard told Rita Crundwell, as he sentenced her to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison — just shy of the maximum 20 years. She was handcuffed and led away sobbing after he ordered her into custody immediately, saying he was concerned she could have money hidden and flee. Crundwell, 60, pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling money from the city of Dixon from 1991 until her arrest last April. By Don Babwin.
AP Photos ILSTE502-504.
ST. LOUIS — Illinois lawmakers grappling with the state's budget mess must make funding preschool a priority because after a decade of gains enrollment has slipped 20,000 over the past four years, a children's advocacy group says in releasing its yearly progress report on the state's young people. Punctuating the Kids Count report's pro-education theme, Voices for Illinois Children's president Gaylord Gieseke on also urged legislators to do what it takes to rid Illinois of a "very sobering" distinction — the nation's worst in state funding for public education. By Jim Suhr.
AP Photos pursuing
SPRINGFIELD — Security is being undermined at Illinois' prisons because of overcrowding and the need for space, a prison watchdog group said after state officials confirmed that six medium-security prisons would be using gymnasiums to temporarily house extra inmates. Extra beds are being set up in the facilities in preparation for the closing of the women's prison in Dwight, according to the main prison-employees' union. A spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections said officials are preparing a half-dozen prisons but declined to say whether they're linked to the Dwight shutdown or how many low-level offenders would be housed in the interim space. By Political Writer John O'Connor.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A cousin of the late Emmett Till wonders if Lil Wayne understands just how damaging it was when he rapped a vulgar reference to the black U.S. teen whose death in 1955 became a significant moment in the civil rights movement. Airickca Gordon-Taylor says Till's family would like an apology from Lil Wayne for the brief but disturbing lyric on Future's "Karate Chop" remix. But more than that, she'd like the platinum-selling New Orleans rapper to understand how his comparison of a sex act to the 14-year-old Chicago native's torture death in Mississippi is hurtful to the black community. By AP Music Writer Chris Talbott.
AP Photos NY110-111.
PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1
CHICAGO —A drug kingpin in Mexico who has never set foot in Chicago has been named the city's new Public Enemy No. 1 — the same notorious label assigned to Al Capone at the height of the Prohibition-era gang wars. The Chicago Crime Commission announced the move Thursday, saying it considers Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman even more menacing than Capone because he's the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which supplies most of the narcotics sold in the city. "What Al Capone was to beer and whiskey during Prohibition, Guzman is to narcotics," said Art Bilek, the commission's executive vice president. "Of the two, Guzman is by far the greater threat. ... And he has more power and financial capability than Capone ever dreamed of." By Michael Tarm.
AP Photos CX105, CX107-114
BELLEVILLE — A man who was on the verge of being freed from prison after serving time for a drug conviction has been accused in the southwestern Illinois beating death of a teenage honor student nearly a quarter century ago. St. Clair County prosecutors charged Carlos Garrett, 51, with first-degree murder in the death of Nicole Willis, whose partly clothed, bludgeoned body was found in October 1989 by her grandfather on a weedy lot near her home in Centreville, just east of St. Louis. Authorities and relatives said Willis — a high school junior committed to anti-drug efforts and on a quest to be homecoming queen and eventually a lawyer — had been abducted while walking home from her bus stop. By Jim Suhr.
AP Photo CX115.
DALLAS — US Airways CEO Doug Parker has landed the big merger he sought for years. Now the soon-to-be CEO of the new American Airlines has to make it work. The fleet needs new planes and new paint. Frequent flier programs have to be combined. American's on-time performance must improve. And the airline, which has a major hub in Chicago, needs to win back business travelers who have drifted to competitors. But Parker's nothing if not persistent. After months of courting, the companies on Thursday announced an $11 billion merger that will turn American into the world's biggest airline, with 6,700 daily flights and annual revenue of roughly $40 billion. By AP Airlines Writer David Koenig.
AP Photos NYBZ505-506, AZPHP801.
—US AIRWAYS-TIMELINE, AMERICAN AIRLINES-TIMELINE, AMERICAN AIRLINES-GLANCE, US AIRWAYS-GLANCE.
WASHINGTON — The outlook for the U.S. job market is brightening after a government report showed a sharp drop in the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits. Weekly applications fell 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Outside a few weeks last month affected by seasonal distortions, that's the lowest level in nearly five years. The four-week average, which smooths week-to-week fluctuations, stayed near a five-year low. Economists were encouraged by the decline but want to see the progress sustained and more jobs created. Since the recession ended in June 2009, the job market has shown brief bursts of improvement in the winter months only to falter in the spring.
AP Photo NYBZ150.
—TERRORISM ARREST, from CHICAGO: There's a status hearing scheduled for a suburban Chicago man accused of trying to set off what he thought was a car bomb outside a Chicago bar.
—CHICAGO-OBAMA, from CHICAGO: President Barack Obama is expected to address gun violence and other issues when speaks at a Chicago high school.
—HIGHWAY DEATH-CHARGE, from DOLTON: Illinois State Police say a southern Illinois man has been charged in connection with the death of woman who was killed after falling from a vehicle on a Chicago freeway.
—ILLINOIS FIREARMS-SIMON, from CHICAGO: Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon says the group of lawmakers she's put together to study firearms will meet with families impacted by gun violence.
—GOOD SAMARITAN, from CHICAGO: Three men are being celebrated for coming to the aid of a Chicago woman who was being attacked on a running path along Lake Michigan.
—POISON CENTER-ANNIVERSARY, from CHICAGO: The nation's oldest poison center is marking 60 years of protecting the health and safety of Illinois residents.
—DISASTER PLANNING FUNDS, from SPRINGFIELD: The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is sending $62 million to 55 communities around the state for use on disaster plans.
—CHICAGO SYMPHONY-ARETHA FRANKLIN, from CHICAGO: Aretha Franklin will perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this spring.
—CHICAGO VIOLENCE-GANG, from CHICAGO: The Chicago street gang in which police say the alleged killers of Hadiya Pendleton belong to has become the target of the city's police department.
—GUNS SUMMIT, from GARY, Ind.: A sheriff says authorities will scrutinize the sponsors of gun shows more closely under a joint Indiana-Illinois-federal effort to impede the flow of guns from Indiana to Illinois.
—NIU SHOOTINGS-ANNIVERSARY, from DEKALB: Gov. Pat Quinn says the days since the deadly shootings at Northern Illinois University have been filled with "hope, strength and compassion."
—BRIBERY ALLEGATION, from CHICAGO: A judge in Chicago is considering whether to let a defense motion to quash an Illinois state representative's arrest on bribery charges move forward.
—SOUTHERN ILLINOIS-MINER DIES, from CUTLER: Federal workplace safety officials are investigating the death of a worker in an underground southern Illinois coal mine.
—KNOX COLLEGE-COMMENCEMENT, from GALESBURG: Comedian and actor Ed Helms will be the speaker at Knox College's commencement this spring.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The reality of sitting in the general manager's chair hit Rick Hahn on the first day of spring training. Being the man in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the Chicago White Sox comes with more responsibility, more scrutiny and more pressure, and Hahn was feeling that on day one of camp. "I frankly thought that given that I've been here now, my 13th spring training with the White Sox with a lot of the player and coaching staff personnel having been the same for the last several years, it wasn't going to be that much different," Hahn said. "The last 24 hours or so I've felt a little bit more on my shoulders. This is one of those times where it sinks in a little bit."
MESA, Ariz. — Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol thought he was headed to the Los Angeles Angels. That was three months ago, when the Cubs asked Marmol to waive his limited no-trade clause because they were close to finalizing a deal to acquire Dan Haren from the Angels.
"They told me I was traded," he said. "The next day I was told, 'No, you're not going there.'" Marmol is still with the Cubs, and his status is still unclear. Marmol is entering the final year of a three-year, $9.8 million. The 2008 All-Star is certain to be trade bait for the rebuilding organization near the July 31 trade deadline if the Cubs are out of contention.
AP Photo AZMG115.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Deshaun Thomas scored 22 points and No. 13 Ohio State used a late 12-0 run to beat Northwestern 69-59, the Buckeyes' 32nd consecutive home win against the Wildcats. Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 12 points — all in the first half — with Sam Thompson adding 11 and Amir Williams a career-high 10 for the Buckeyes. Pesky Northwestern led throughout the second half despite having only seven scholarship players due to injuries. Tre Demps led the Wildcats with 16 points, Reggie Hearn had 12 and Dave Sobolewski 10. By Rusty Miller.
AP Photos OHPV101, OHPV103, OHPV105.
—BKC-MURRAY ST-SIU-EDWARDSVILLE, from EDWARDSVILLE: Kris Davis and Mark Yelovich led a balanced scoring effort with 11 points each and SIU-Edwardsville defeated Murray State 65-60.
—BKC-W ILLINOIS-N DAKOTA, from FARGO, N.D.: Terell Parks scored 13 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, helping Western Illinois dominate the second half of a 49-36 victory over North Dakota State and hold onto first place in the Summit League.
—BKC-AUSTIN PEAY-E ILLINOIS, from CHARLESTON: Anthony Campbell hit five 3-pointers and scored 24 points as Austin Peay snapped an eight-game losing streak, beating Eastern Illinois 71-64.
BKN-BULLS AT BREAK
CHICAGO — Given all the gasps around Chicago after Derrick Rose indicated he might not play this season, the All-Star break appears to be coming at a good time for the Bulls. They can take a deep breath. They can hardly breathe easy, though. Until their sidelined superstar point guard is back to tying opponents in knots with that wicked crossover they can forget about that. For now, the Bulls are doing what they can without him, and all things considered, they're not in a bad spot even after dropping four of five. By Andrew Seligman.
AP Photos SPANUTRB103, MAEA105, MAEA107, UTRB104.
BKN-LEBRON & JORDAN
OKLAHOMA CITY — LeBron James changed his jersey number, won an NBA championship and still gets inevitably compared to Michael Jordan at nearly every opportunity. With James producing at a record-setting clip that no one in league history had reached, just as Jordan's 50th birthday approaches this weekend, classifying James' place in the league couldn't be a hotter topic. James wants no part of it, posting on Twitter that he's "not MJ." And his peers say it's time to back off all the comparisons. "It's simple. There will never be another Michael Jordan," said Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, who grew up in Chicago watching Jordan's games on WGN. "He was the first to do a lot of things. Whenever you're the first, there can never be another. By Jeff Latzke.
AP Photo AAA109.
LAKE FOREST — The Chicago Bears' defense will likely have a similar look next season, with or without Brian Urlacher. New coach Marc Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said the Bears will stick with a 4-3 set and won't change much schematically with a defense that ranked among the league's best under Lovie Smith. The big question is whether Urlacher will be a part of it. The eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker has an expiring contract and missed the last four games with a hamstring injury after being slowed by a knee problem. By Andrew Seligman.
ILLINOIS SPOTLIGHT: ALGONQUIN TAXIDERMIST
ALGONQUIN — Vern Brancamp is an artist. Unlike other artists who interpret nature on a canvas or with a camera, nature is his canvas.
His craft is taxidermy. And it's been a lifelong passion for the 70-year-old from Algonquin. "I got started when I was kid," he said. "My dad was a hunter and when we'd come back with pheasant he'd pluck all the feathers and throw them in the trash," he said. "It would eat at my insides to see all those beautiful feathers go to waste so I would pick them out of the trash and pin them out on cardboard. By Rick West. (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald.
AP Photos ILARL501-504.