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Question of the day

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I have not been to a White Sox game this year, and I’m betting that I’m not the only one

The Chicago White Sox have had a season to forget so far in 2024, and they set yet another mark this weekend that they’d just as soon rather forget.

The White Sox wrapped up their pre-All Star Game schedule on Sunday with a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Guaranteed Rate Field, their fourth in a row and their seventh in their last eight games.

The loss puts the White Sox at 27-71 on the season as the All-Star break arrives, and that number is enough to put them in some less-than-desirable company.

According to Stathead, the White Sox now hold the record for most losses before the All-Star Game of any team in MLB history, outdueling the 1979 Oakland Athletics and 2018 Baltimore Orioles for that distinction.

The Athletics did have a winning percentage that was worse than the White Sox, who have won 27.6% of their games so far this season.

The first All-Star game was played in 1933. Heckuva job, Jerry.

My Sox hat is starting to look rather tatty of late, but I refuse to buy another one. Between the team’s losses and the owner’s stadium drama, I’m just beyond reluctant to give them any money.

* Lately, the team has been sending me increasingly desperate emails. The latest…

* The Question: How should I respond?


Bost and Bailey set aside feud as Illinois Republicans tout unity at RNC delegate breakfast

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* It’s opening day at the RNC in Milwaukee

Bailey and Bost had a turbulent primary, click here to get a taste.

* Ben Szalinski followed up

Bailey said in March he was putting his campaign signs in storage.

* More from reporters in the room…

* Tribune

The day after former President Donald Trump was targeted in an attempted assassination, Illinois Republicans converging on Milwaukee ahead of this week’s Republican National Convention said the alarming event will only serve to unite the GOP going into the November election. […]

“We have to, as elected officials, be very careful of the rhetoric that we’re using. Words have meaning,” state Sen. Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro and an at-large delegate, said of Republicans and Democrats. “And so, in this, I think that you may find some folks taking a step back to try to find a better way to get their message out without being incendiary.” […]

While the progress of uniting Republican voters in Illinois remains to be seen, delegate Aaron Del Mar, who dropped out of the running for Illinois GOP chairman before Friday’s vote, said Sunday that the shooting at the Trump rally has only intensified the unity among the party on a national level.

“I think that we were ahead to begin with. I think this even moves us further ahead,” said Del Mar, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2022. “Everyone … criticizes President Trump for all of his rhetoric. About immigration, about crime, about these issues. But nobody ever calls the Democrats on their rhetoric. Nobody ever says, ‘Hey, maybe that’s not such a hot idea to be so incendiary … regarding Donald Trump.’”

* Related…

    * ABC Chicago | No changes made to RNC security plan after Trump assassination attempt, Secret Service says: The RNC Secret Service Coordinator Audrey Gibson-Cicchino said they’ve made no change to their security plan and officials remain confident in the plan they’ve put forth. “This event is designated as a national special security event, which is the highest level of security for an event that can be designated by the government. So this is a whole of government approach. We’ve had an extensive planning process, to include many organizations,” Gibson-Cicchino said.

    * Daily Herald | Former suburban police chief wounded protecting Reagan expects ‘deep dive’ into security failures: “I expect it to be no holds barred,” said McCarthy, who retired from the south suburb’s police department in 2020 and now is president of a security firm. “If the protectee is injured, it’s a failure. So you have to look and find out why.” McCarthy was shot in the abdomen on March 30, 1981, when John Hinckley Jr. attempted to kill Reagan outside a Washington, D.C. hotel. […] “It doesn’t take a security expert to ask the question why wasn’t that building better covered. And there will be an investigation to determine that,” he said.

    * Daily Herald | GOP convention opens Monday; meet the suburban delegates: Trump’s popularity among GOP voters aside, it’s still up to the more than 2,400 delegates expected to attend the convention, which opens Monday, to make his nomination official. The delegates from Northeast Illinois are a diverse bunch: political operatives; restaurateurs; attorneys; local elected officials; congressional candidates.

    * Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | A list of all politicians and celebrities speaking at the Republican National Convention: Over 50 individuals are expected to speak at the RNC over the course of the four days. These include Republican politicians and candidates from across the country, high-ranking business leaders, members of the Trump family and administration, and conservative personalities and celebrities.

    * Variety | ‘Daily Show’ Cancels On-The-Ground RNC Plans After Trump Assassination Attempt: The “Daily Show” decision may raise pressure on several late-night programs to recalibrate their tone this week. CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” plans to broadcast live — in New York — on Thursday. And Fox News Channel had planned a week of live-in-Milwaukee broadcasts of the satirical roundtable program “Gutfeld” each evening during the RNC. “The Late Show” also had plans to broadcast live from Chicago, the site of the Democratic National Convention, later in the summer. “The Daily Show” also has plans to visit Chicago for tapings during the event.

  1 Comment      

State pre-pays $422 million in pension payments

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Comptroller Susana Mendoza…

Today, the Illinois Office of Comptroller (IOC) made the first pension pre-payments as allowed under new language included in the fiscal year 2025 budget implementation bill.  
Comptroller Mendoza sought the statutory change earlier this year. 
July payments to the state pension systems issued today total $1.284 billion, which includes $422 million in pre-payments, or 50% more than the usual monthly amount. 
Previously, the law prohibited the IOC from making more than the preset monthly payment to the pension systems. The change allows Comptroller Mendoza to pay more into state pensions earlier in the year when fund balances are strong.   
“I’m pleased the General Assembly and the Governor approved my request, enabling my office to make these early payments from existing funds,” said Comptroller Mendoza. “This will allow the pension systems to keep more money in their investment portfolios so they can continue to grow and provide greater predictability for the retirement systems in managing payments to state retirees.” 
“The pre-payment of monthly state contributions allows the retirement systems to keep assets working to generate investment returns longer, improving the financial condition of the systems and potentially reducing required state contributions in the future. We appreciate the efforts of Comptroller Mendoza in getting this law enacted and in making accelerated payments the first month the option is available,” said Tim Blair, Executive Secretary of the State Retirement Systems. 
It’s anticipated that pre-paying $422 million of the state’s monthly pension contribution will allow funds to remain invested for a few months longer, generating an additional $7 million.   
“We are fortunate to have this new cash management tool that is only possible because of continued improvements in the state’s general funds balances and overall finances,” said Mendoza.  



Dillard’s gambit

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

A little-noticed bill passed both the Illinois House and Senate that will generate $300 million to $400 million a year for local governments, including $95 million to $127 million for the Regional Transportation Authority.

Senate Bill 3362 will help capture sales tax revenue from more out-of-state retailers and in-state retailers who ship to Illinoisans in out-of-state locations.

The new money is not quite one-fifth of the $730 million “fiscal cliff” that northeastern Illinois’ mass transit agencies are facing starting next fiscal year, but it’s a decent start. A down payment, so to speak. But remember, the $730 million deficit is only for fiscal year 2026. It will rise to $1.2 billion by fiscal year 2031, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Even so, not one Chicago-area transit official mentioned that new money in their testimony to the Senate Transportation Committee last week. Instead, most of them simply demanded lots more money and refused to consider any sort of structural management reforms.

But those structural reforms are very much needed. Just a few years ago, the Chicago Transit Authority and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tried to stop a pilot project to cut South Side Metra fares to CTA levels and increase train service on the South Side and south suburbs as well as increase the frequency of some Pace bus service.

Why were they opposed to something that would help people? The CTA believed the proposal would reduce its revenues. So, once the pilot project got off the ground, the CTA refused to provide low-cost transfers between the lines and also prevented riders from using their CTA Ventra cards for Metra fares.

These interagency fights have gone on forever. And while there has been a little progress in cooperation among the CTA, Metra and Pace, it’s mostly because the transit bosses know they have to make a decent show because that horrific fiscal cliff is staring them in the face. If they get the money, they simply cannot be trusted to not revert to their old ways.

“The governance model is not the problem here,” CTA President Dorval Carter defiantly told the committee. The problem, he said, is funding.

Carter’s logic doesn’t quite compute. The CTA is still operating on COVID-era federal subsidies, but rider discontent is rampant. Scheduling is a wreck. Stations, buses and trains are too often dirty. Security is a constant concern, and CTA’s efforts have been a laughable attempt at security theater. Train and bus routes have been slashed. The system is in tatters even with full federal funding.

Also, a lack of capital spending oversight led directly to a recent scandal at Metra that I told you about not long ago. Metra was caught spending tens of millions of dollars on a warehouse purchased outside of any sort of procurement rules.

The only transit chief who told the Senate committee that he understood the stakes was RTA Chairperson Kirk Dillard. “As you said,” he told committee chair Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, “There’s going to be no new revenue without reform.”

Dillard is a former gubernatorial aide and a former Republican state senator who faced down huge blowback from his own caucus years ago when he voted to raise sales taxes to fund mass transit. He’s one of the last old-school “governing party” Republicans. And he told me he greatly appreciated the extra state funding this year.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has suggested two models for transit agency consolidation. One of them is “Integrate the RTA and the service boards into one regional transit entity.” Dillard has fully jumped on that recommendation.

Dillard told the committee the RTA wants to set regional standards for service and set a regional fare policy, wants greater oversight on capital spending, consolidation of staff, and “There should be a review of board seats to ensure regional and balanced decision makings.”

The problem with that last bit is suburban politicos view this consolidation idea as a Chicago takeover, and Chicago folks think it’s a suburban power grab. Assistant House Majority Leader Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, told the Tribune recently he was “adamantly opposed” to giving suburban officials control over the CTA.

So, Dillard most definitely has his work cut out for him. I think there is an appetite in the General Assembly for more transit funding, even above and beyond the fiscal cliff. But nobody wants to throw good money after bad, and regional mistrust is intense on this topic from all sides.


Isabel’s morning briefing

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* ICYMI: Illinois pharmacists, State Medical Society split over new test and treat practice. WAND

    - Illinois pharmacists are now allowed to administer tests for the flu, COVID-19, strep throat, lice and RSV.
    - The Illinois State Medical Society argues that pharmacists do not have proper training to provide certain exams or diagnose illnesses.
    - Advocates said the new law will help pharmacists fill a critical gap in care.

*** Isabel’s Top Picks ***

* Crain’s | Sidewalk plaques will memorialize 1919 race riot victims: The plaques will highlight victims of a horrific episode in Chicago’s history that “we need to know about because it literally explains why we’re so segregated,” said Peter Cole, a professor of history at Western Illinois University in Macomb and a part-time Chicago resident who heads the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project. The anger and mistrust that followed the riots contributed heavily to the patterns of segregation that became entrenched in the 20th century, Cole said. Until now, the only monument to the event has been a bronze plaque on a knee-high boulder near the beach where the riots started.

* Tribune | Alderman wants explanation for low arrest rates on cyberstalking, electronic harassment complaints: Ald. Nicole Lee, 11th, who heads the City Council’s women’s caucus, raised the issue this week in response to a Tribune investigation that found Chicago police made arrests in only 2% of the domestic-related electronic harassment and cyberstalking complaints received in the past 10 years. The arrest rate last year was about 1%. “I certainly want to have a conversation with CPD about it, to just better understand what their processes are and what the challenges are,” Lee said. “I know that we’ve got challenges across the city. … I think there’s a lot that needs to be done to better understand how we can support the police in providing more resources to address these issues. It seems like we’ve got the right laws on the books, but enforcement is key in terms of the actions that are taken.”

* WaPo | ‘Everyone is drinking it’: Why this type of ‘forever chemical’ seems to be everywhere: A growing body of research has raised concerns about a forever chemical known as TFA, which is short for trifluoroacetic acid and has been found in increasing amounts in rainwater, groundwater and drinking water. […] Recently released research by the Pesticide Action Network Europe, an organization that advocates against the use of pesticides, found strikingly high levels of TFA contamination in 23 surface and six groundwater samples from 10 European Union countries. The researchers found that the TFA levels were 70 times higher than those of other, better-known forever chemicals in the water.

*** Statehouse News ***

* WSIU | A Deep Dive Into This Years Illinois Fiscal Budget and Beyond: A little more than a week into the new Illinois fiscal year, CNI Broadcast Director Jennifer Fuller talks with Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Executive Director Ralph Martire. The discussion includes a look at the high points, the low points, and what Martire and others are keeping an eye on for future budget negotiations.

*** Statewide ***

* Tribune | Advocates criticize bid by Illinois power grid operator to skip some federal reforms: Last year federal regulators approved a long-awaited set of reforms designed to ease waitlists for new power sources seeking to come online and deliver electricity to homes and businesses. Such waitlists have emerged as one of the leading barriers to clean energy — including wind and solar power — and the federal reforms were widely viewed as an important step forward. But now PJM Interconnection, the powerful but little-known company that runs the waitlist in northern Illinois, is pushing back, with requests for exemptions from aspects of the reforms, including a new timeline for key studies.

* WTTW | From the Uihleins to Prominent Business Owners, Who Are Illinois’ Biggest Republican Donors?: Craig Duchossois, whose billionaire family previously owned the Arlington Park horse racing track, has given more than $9 million to an array of candidates and committees this cycle. According to federal records, Duchossois gave $3 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, which backs GOP House candidates; $2 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, which supports Republican Senate candidates; and $1 million to the PAC associated with the Koch Brothers-founded group Americans for Prosperity. He also gave $13,200 to Ricketts’ campaign and an associated fund.

*** Chicago ***

* Sun-Times | Johnson rejected by Board of Education on CPS loan, pension payment: Mayor Brandon Johnson’s appointed Board of Education has refused to take on a pension payment that the mayor had insisted be paid by the school district. And the board and Chicago Public Schools leaders are strongly opposing a City Hall request that they take out a loan to cover the payment and a new Chicago Teachers Union contract, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ. The stunning rejections from Johnson’s own school board and district leaders come as discussions continue on the short-term, high-interest loan CPS officials and board members fear could impact the district’s financial health.

* Block Club | Loretto Hospital Executive At Center Of COVID Scandal Charged With $15 Million In Fraud: The federal charges came after a Block Club Chicago investigation that began with allegations Ahmed funneled hard-to-get vaccines early in the pandemic to his neighbors at Trump Tower and to workers at high-end businesses he frequented. The vaccines were meant for the city’s poorest people but ended up in areas where Chicago’s wealthiest lived and played.

* Sun-Times | 3rd piping plover chick dies in 5 days at Montrose Beach: Late Saturday, the chick was seen “lethargic and struggling” by observers near Montrose Beach after “feeding and moving normally” throughout the day, according to the statement. After being cleared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the chick was collected and taken to Lincoln Park Zoo for observation. Despite no signs of external or internal injuries, the chick died overnight after being given warmth, fluids and oxygen.

* Block Club | Dogs And Cats Scared Of Fireworks Overcrowded Chicago’s Animal Shelter. Now They Need Your Help: Armando Tejeda, the public information officer for the [Chicago Animal Care and Control Department], said there were 251 dogs and 234 cats staying in the shelter as of Thursday. That’s 21 percent more than average, and the highest number of animals in their care in five years.

*** Cook County and Suburbs ***

* Daily Herald | ‘A big win for the community’: How $6 million project aims to end decades of flooding in Wheeling: “There are no pipes in the neighborhood,” Wheeling Public Works Director Dan Kaup said. “The water has nowhere to go.” As a result, water accumulates on streets and in yards during every heavy rainstorm, typically two or three times a year, Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said. Houses rarely take on water, but cars driving down flooded streets can create wakes that splash up to front doors and into garages. The new project should change that.

* Shaw Local | Storm damages downtown Joliet buildings, knocked down several trees: An exterior section of the Illinois Rock and Roll Museum on Route 66 was damaged in a freakish development during a storm that blew through downtown Joliet on Sunday morning. The storm intensified when it reached the near West Side of the city, blowing down trees that blocked at least one section of Broadway Street, which also serves as Route 53, before doing more damage downtown.

*** Downstate ***

* WCIA | ‘She was like a fresh breath of air’: Springfield community remembers Emma Shafer one year after her death: “Everywhere we went, Emma was there,” said Pastor Susan Philips from First Presbyterian Church in Springfield. “This last year has been really hard for many of us because we go to those same places and her absence is so profound. And it’s also inspired so many people to get more involved and to show up in deeper ways, and to make sure the things that have been part of Emma’s vision continue to be part of our future, too.”

*** National ***

* The Atlantic | AI Has Become a Technology of Faith: An important thing to realize about the grandest conversations surrounding AI is that, most of the time, everyone is making things up. This isn’t to say that people have no idea what they’re talking about or that leaders are lying. But the bulk of the conversation about AI’s greatest capabilities is premised on a vision of a theoretical future. It is a sales pitch, one in which the problems of today are brushed aside or softened as issues of now, which surely, leaders in the field insist, will be solved as the technology gets better. What we see today is merely a shadow of what is coming. We just have to trust them.


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Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Live coverage

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* You can click here or here to follow breaking news. It’s the best we can do unless or until Twitter gets its act together.


Selected press releases (Live updates)

Monday, Jul 15, 2024 - Posted by Isabel Miller


Illinois react (Updated and comments opened)

Sunday, Jul 14, 2024 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Comments are now open, but please take a deep breath.]

* Presented in no particular order. Gov. Pritzker…

* Sun-Times

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, called it a “horrific act of violence” and said the shooter’s actions “sought to undermine American democracy.” Curran said he’s “thankful that President Trump is doing well and for law enforcement’s quick response to this senseless violence.” […]

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Highland Park, who was the lead sponsor for Illinois’ assault weapons ban, echoed that sentiment on X, saying, “Political violence is NEVER the answer.”

* NPR Illinois

U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen, a Democrat who represents much of west-central and northwestern Illinois, said on the social media site X (formerly Twitter) he is “deeply concerned” by the incident.

“In the United States of America, we must always settle political differences with amicable dialogue.” […]

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, issued a statement that “political violence is never acceptable.”

“I’m keeping the former president, the bystander who was tragically killed, and all who were injured or whose safety was threatened in my thoughts,” Durbin said.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said those responsible for the shooting “must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“There is absolutely no excuse — and no place whatsoever—for violence in American politics, and those responsible for this must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Duckworth said. “I am keeping Donald Trump in my thoughts and hoping he has a swift and full recovery.

* Leader McCombie

In a statement to the Tribune, Illinois House Republican Leader Tony McCombie said, “today is a terrible day for our nation.”

“The deepening political divide is dangerous and any political violence is unacceptable,” she added. “Gunshots cannot silence our collective need for change. Our thoughts and prayers are with President Trump and others injured in today’s heinous act. We must come together to condemn violence and seek unity as a country.”

* US Rep. Darin LaHood

I am keeping President Trump, his family, and our country in my prayers following the horrific shooting at the Trump rally in Pennsylvania. I am grateful for the Secret Service and law enforcement who acted quickly to keep people safe.

* Sen. Chesney…

On Saturday afternoon at a rally in Western Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump was injured after gunfire rang out while he was speaking. In response to the attack, State Senator Andrew Chesney issued the following statement:

“There is no place within our political debate for violence against any public official. The assassination attempt on President Trump this afternoon is proof that Trump derangement syndrome is real, and that the radical left will do anything in their power to take him out. President Trump is a fighter, and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

* Rep. Ugaste…

State Representative Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) issued the following statement in response to tonight’s horrific violence at former President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania:

“Today is a terrible day for our nation. Nothing anyone says or beliefs they hold can EVER justify political violence - it is always unacceptable. My thoughts and prayers are with injured victims today, including former President Trump and his family, from today’s horrific act. We must come together to condemn all violence, seek unity and work to do better as a country.”

* Daily Herald

DuPage County GOP Chairman Jim Zay lamented what he called a “sad state of affairs.”

“It seems like lately if you have a different opinion than someone, you’re the enemy,” said Zay, a county board member. “It’s not agree to disagree anymore. It’s more a fight than it’s ever been.”

Joseph Folisi, another RNC delegate and Trump supporter, said “some people need to ratchet down the rhetoric.”

“I was shocked,” said Folisi, a Schaumburg Township Republican committeeman. “You have to wonder what this country is coming to, really.”

* More…

…Adding… More…

* AG Raoul…

Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a statement following a shooting that took place at a political rally held by former President Donald Trump.

“There should be no tolerance for political violence and the type of rhetoric that incites it. No one should politicize this tragedy by pointing a finger of blame.

“I commend the men and women of the United States Secret Service for their heroic swift response. This tragedy should be a reminder that we should work continuously to prevent acts of targeted violence. I am grateful to have had an ongoing partnership over the past few years with the U.S. Secretary Service and their National Threat Assessment Center aimed toward training members of the public on how to contribute to preventing acts of targeted violence in schools, houses of worship and other public gatherings.”

* US Rep. LaHood…

Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-16) released the following statement on the assassination attempt on former President Donald J. Trump and political violence:

“I condemn the assassination attempt on President Trump at his rally yesterday in Pennsylvania in the strongest possible terms and we are grateful that President Trump is doing well. My prayers remain with those at the rally who were injured in this horrific attack and the family who lost a loved one. Congress should conduct a thorough investigation and oversight on the Secret Service.

“Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned by the rise in violence against government officials and candidates. Political violence of any kind is wholly unacceptable and has no place in our country. As we head to November, elected officials, the media, and we as Americans have an obligation to elevate the discourse and lower the temperature.”

* Rep. Niemerg…

State Representative Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich) says the hatred and vitriol aimed at President Donald Trump has gone too far in light of the failed assassination attempt at a rally on Saturday.

“We don’t yet know the background of the shooter, which probably means the shooter is a card-carrying leftist. But even if the person is not a leftwinger, there is one thing that is abundantly clear – the individual who shot multiple people at a political rally and tried to kill President Trump is an evil person filled with hate. The hatred for President Trump on social media and in the mainstream media needs to stop immediately because what happened today is the end result of the hateful rhetoric.

President Trump is a candidate for office like any candidate and deserves to be treated as such. The over-the-top rhetoric we see so often in the media and especially on social media is only serving to fuel the kind of horrific violence we witnessed on Saturday. People should be able to go to political rallies without fear of being shot. Presidential candidates should be able to discuss their ideas and vision for the future of this country without being fired upon for simply having an opinion. The violent rhetoric against President Trump has gone too far. The only positive takeaway from today is the resilience of President Trump. He has been impeached, charged with bogus crimes, and convicted on those same bogus charges and now he has been shot but through it all he is still standing.”


* Question of the day
* Bost and Bailey set aside feud as Illinois Republicans tout unity at RNC delegate breakfast
* State pre-pays $422 million in pension payments
* Dillard's gambit
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Live coverage
* Selected press releases (Live updates)
* Illinois react (Updated and comments opened)
* Yesterday's stories

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