URSA INFANT BATTLING STAGE 3 LIVER CANCER: Patrick Weppler paused, trying his best to explain his family's situation. "You feel, at times, like ... like you are drowning," he said, searching for that precise body of thought that might help the rest of the world relate to what is an extraordinary burden. But he's unable to come up with any sort of collection of words to do justice to what he, wife Leila and the rest of their immediate and extended families are confronting. "We just keep ... swimming," he said. The Wepplers' 3-year-old son, Jackson, is battling a rare form cancer -- hepatoblastoma -- that has covered 90 percent of his liver.
STATE OF STATE: Gov. Pat Quinn used his fifth State of the State speech to focus on several issues including a pension funding crisis he said must be job one for the Legislature. "Our vision for our Illinois cannot be fully realized without pension reform." Quinn said.
SATURDAY DELIVERY: Mike Cadwell spent a lot of time Wednesday listening to customers talk about the U.S. Postal Service plan to cut Saturday mail service to reduce costs, as it continues to struggle financially. Owner of Mike's Barber Shop in downtown Quincy, Cadwell spends lots of time talking about current events with customers. "Mostly it's just a concern over the financial aspect of the Postal service," he said.
MCLEOD COLUMN: Every organization has a poison person; some organizations have lots of poison people. They're the people who suck the energy out of projects, complain about routine events and whine about the slightest inconvenience.
RI NIGHTCLUB FIRE-CHARITY: Months after they were sentenced for a 2003 fire at their Rhode Island nightclub that killed 100 people, Jeffrey and Michael Derderian set up a charity to help educate the dozens of children who lost one or both parents in the blaze. The fund boasts on its website that it has secured $12.8 million in pledged scholarships and programs for 76 children. As the 10th anniversary of the tragedy approaches Feb. 20, an Associated Press review of the charity's accomplishments finds the reality is more modest.
BOY SCOUTS-GAYS: Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America are delaying until May a decision on whether to ease their policy of excluding gays as scouts and adult leaders. The move draws harsh criticism from opponents of the ban, and any eventual decision is likely to worsen schisms within scouting. Local Boy Scouts organizations are not commenting, referring all questions to the national office. MH and WIRE
NORTHEAST STORM: A major winter storm heading toward New England may not be one for the record books, with as much as 2 feet of snow could fall on a region that has seen mostly bare ground this winter. The news worried commuters and was welcome for ski resort operators.
ALABAMA BUNKER STANDOFF: Bomb inspectors have found no other explosive devices on the property of slain Alabama captor Jimmy Lee Dykes, whose body has been removed from the underground bunker where he held a 5-year-old boy for nearly a week. An autopsy was planned for the 65-year-old retired truck driver who died in a firefight with law enforcement agents. An FBI team trained in military tactics and outfitted with combat-style gear and weapons led the rescue operation.
MEXICO-SPAIN-TOURISTS ATTACKED: The tourism world has its eyes on Mexico once again after six Spaniards were raped during a holiday in the long-troubled Pacific coast resort of Acapulco. While there has been talk of reviving the resort city's old glitz of the ‘40s and ‘50s, international tourists have long steered away. The question now is whether the attack will affect Mexico's top beach destinations just before spring break and the season peak.
BRENNAN-CIA: President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA, John Brennan, faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing just hours after lawmakers are expected to receive a classified report providing the rationale for drone strikes targeting Americans working with al-Qaida overseas.
BRIEFLY: Obama chooses REI's Sally Jewel to lead the Interior Department; The death toll from a weekend tour bus crash rises to eight with the death of the driver of the pickup truck struck by the bus; Family members reflect on the lives and dedication of the six educators who died in Newtown and are posthumously receiving one of the nation's highest awards for civilians; The assassination of an opposition leader critical of the Islamist-led government sets off riots that leave downtown Tunis choked with tear gas; House Dems to offer 15-point gun control plan, including call for banning assault weapons; Think tank with close ties to White House outlines plan that would give all children preschool; Christie says ex-White House doctor who warned he might die because of his weight should ‘shut up'; Mistrial declared in Pa. assault case after victim's prosthetic eye pops out during testimony; 9-year-old girl gives birth, Mexican authorities look for 17-year-old father; Man who escaped prison 16 years ago is captured in Mexico; Serial killer's handwritten notes contained rambling poetry about victim under his control; Four dead, 9 hurt after pileup of more than 2 dozen vehicles on Ga. highway; College credit recommended for free online courses.
HLGU ENDOWMENT: Hannibal-LaGrange University is benefiting from the generosity and foresight of the late Willard and Hattie Middleton. The college has received $379,000 from the estate of the Middletons, who lived and worked in Hannibal for many years and were longtime supporters of HLGU. The money will be used to set up the Willard Burton and Hattie Holle Middleton Memorial Endowment Fund. Annual proceeds from the endowment will be used for student scholarships and to finance campus projects.
AERIAL YOGA: Four years ago, Kate Wingerter and Kate Martin traveled to Ojai, Cal. to study aerial dance in a week-long course. Both instructors have performed with the Quincy Dance Theater and maintain a passion for dance and fitness. They returned to the Tri-state region with the knowledge but with nowhere to use the skills.
MYERS SENTENCING: Nearly two weeks ago, Judge Scott Walden sent Rannie S. Myers to jail when she tested positive for methamphetamine prior to a sentencing hearing on two methamphetamine charges. On Wednesday, Myers was given a second chance by Walden when he sentenced her to 36 months probation instead of sending her to prison.
HASTING PLEA: A Quincy woman who was arrested on methamphetamine charges last year at two different Quincy hotels pleaded guilty in two separate cases on Wednesday. Heather M. Hasting, 24, agreed to a sentencing cap of eight years in the Illinois Department of Corrections and had all other charges dropped in exchange for her guilty pleas.
FELON ARREST: Adams County Sheriff's deputies arrested a 24-year-old Quincy man Tuesday who was charged with possession of ammunition by a felon.
METH ARREST: A 44-year-old Quincy woman was arrested Wednesday on four methamphetamine-related charges.
STRIKING VEHICLE: A Quincy woman is arrested for intentionally striking another vehicle in the Cassano's Pizza lot at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
TRUCKING: Area farmers heard an update on trucking regulations at a regional trucking/crop insurance seminar held Wednesday afternoon in Quincy.
SMALL TOWN SWINDLE: An attorney for a former small-town Illinois bookkeeper who stole a staggering $53 million in public funds is arguing for a lenient prison sentence, saying the woman has cooperated with investigators since her arrest and must endure "disrepute and shame" for the rest of her life. For more than two decades, Rita Crundwell, the former comptroller in the northern Illinois city of Dixon, which is best known as Ronald Reagan's boyhood home, used the stolen money to fund her nationally renowned horse-breeding operation and luxurious tastes. Public defender Paul Gaziano is arguing for a sentence at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, which call for possible punishment of between 13 and 16 years in prison when taking into account her acceptance of responsibility and lack of prior criminal history.
SMARTPHONES OVERTIME: Does scanning emails and answering calls from bosses on your smartphone after hours constitute work that should be compensated? A lawsuit winding its way through federal court in Chicago says that it does. Chicago police Sgt. Jeffrey Allen claims in the suit that the city owes him and fellow officers overtime pay for work performed on department-requisitioned BlackBerry phones. If the plaintiffs eventually prevail, it could mean millions of dollars in back pay. The issue impacts workers everywhere, Allen's lawyer said Wednesday after a hearing in the case.
HANDCUFFED TEEN: Authorities found a frail 17-year-old boy handcuffed to a pole in his parents' Kansas City basement, where he said he'd been kept since his father withdrew him from school in September. Police said Wednesday that they were still investigating and hadn't turned over any of their findings to prosecutors for consideration of possible charges. Police have not released the names of anyone involved in the case. The teen was placed in the custody of child services.
LOCAL TAXES-VEHICLES: Amid warnings of possible lost jobs and declining revenue for cities and counties, Missouri lawmakers are making another run at reinstating local sales tax on vehicle purchases after Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed an attempt last year. A Senate transportation committee heard testimony Wednesday on the Legislature's most recent proposal that would allow cities and counties to impose a local sales tax on all sales of motor vehicles, trailers, boats and outboard motors but require voters to decide whether to continue levying it.
LARGEST PRIME NUMBER: Mathematicians at the University of Central Missouri have identified the largest prime number yet, but good luck remembering it. The university said Wednesday that a group led by computer science and mathematics professor Curtis Cooper found the 17 million-digit prime number last month. It is the 48th known Mersenne prime and is the third discovered at the 11,800-student university in Warrensburg, about 50 miles east of Kansas City.
BRIEFLY: The University of Illinois may open a new institute financed by the Chinese government and focused on Chinese language and culture; The Illinois Department of Insurance is warning consumers that a Florida-based company is illegally marketing home warranty services to Illinois residents; Chicago transit officials are planning to spend up to $2 billion on a new generation of rail cars to modernize the nation's second-largest mass transit system; Dredging operations in the middle Mississippi River are finished for the winter; The tenure of a University of Missouri curator has come to an end after barely a month. But J. Michael Ponder could get a second chance at serving; A one-time congressional candidate and a former state lawmaker will compete in a special election to fill a seat in the Missouri House; The Will County Forest Preserve District may approve a plan to harvest Asian carp.
RIGHT TO WORK: A standing-room-only crowd spilled into Capitol hallways Wednesday to watch a Missouri House committee hearing on a bill that would bar payment of union dues as a condition of employment and make Missouri the nation's 25th "right-to-work" state. Union members sat silently as the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee debated the issue that attracted attention from legislative leaders of both parties.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: The Labor Department reports on the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits for the first time last week.
UNITED AIRLINES-787: United Airlines is taking the troubled Boeing 787 out of its flying plans for the rest of this month.
FAKE CANCER DRUG-FDA: The Food and Drug Administration is warning U.S. doctors about another counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin, the third case involving the best-selling Roche drug in the past year.
BRIEFCASE: Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Wednesday that its board approved an increase of more than 8 percent in its quarterly dividend.; A 21-year-old Bangladesh native accused of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb is expected to plead guilty; Freddie Mac reports on mortgage rates for this week; The government reports on worker productivity and labor costs in the October-December quarter; Ireland liquidates ‘bad bank' after midnight debate, nears deal with ECB to ease its debt bill.
DAVIS PLEA: A Pleasant Hill man pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse Wednesday in exchange for a sentencing cap. Darryl J. Davis, 25, will face a sentencing cap of four years in the Department of Corrections when he is sentenced by Judge William Mays on April 10. Davis is eligible for parole.
BLACK PLEA: One of five people arrested in a drug raid on a Quincy house in December pleaded guilty to a methamphetamine charge on Wednesday. Rita R. Black, 25, of Quincy entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge after being arrested Dec. 19 during a raid on a house in the 2000 block of Hampshire on Quincy's north side.
EQUIPMENT STOLEN: Lewis County makes three theft arrests stemming from a December incident in which stainless steel livestock equipment was stolen.
DOUBLE HOMICIDE-VERSAILLES: Three people have been charged with killing a central Missouri couple in what authorities said was a botched attempt to obtain prescription drugs. Derrell Spellmeyer, 43, of Eldon, Mandy Mitchell, 28, of Jefferson City, and Garland Mitchell, 47, also of Jefferson City, were charged Tuesday with two counts each of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. They each are jailed on $1 million bond.
CHURCHES-BOMB PLOT: An Illinois man charged with plotting to firebomb dozens of churches in northeastern Oklahoma with Molotov cocktails will be tried in federal -- not state -- court.
FIRE CHIEF-FRAUD: A former fire chief has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $500,000 from the St. Clair Fire District in eastern Missouri.
FIRE-KILLING: An eastern Missouri man is accused of shooting a man in the head as he sat in a recliner, then dousing the man in gasoline and setting him on fire.
MEMORIAL FUND-EMBEZZLEMENT: A former Illinois Department of Corrections accountant has pleaded guilty to embezzling around $77,000 from an association formed to memorialize prison workers killed on the job.
TEXAS EXECUTION-APPEAL: A federal appeals court has refused an appeal from a Missouri man condemned for the slayings of a Texas Tech University dean and an 18-year-old Lubbock woman 12 years ago.
TRIPLE KILLING: Problems with evidence management prompted a judge to announce a four-month delay in the trial of a man charged with killing three people in central Missouri.
ZEKE CERNEA: The owner of the Quincy Gymnastics Center is good and flipping around, but he's also making a name for himself in local music circles.
QU FOOTBALL TEAM SIGNS 29: Quincy University football coach Tom Pajic unveiled a group of 28 high school players and one transfer who signed national letters of intent Wednesday with the Hawks. Finding athletes appears to be a priority as 12 of the 29 signees are listed as defensive backs who may or may not stick at that position as time wears on. The centerpiece of this recruiting class, Chris Harris is the bruising, physical running back that fits well in Pajic's run-first scheme. He's a Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin product.
FOUR AREA PRODUCTS INK WITH QU: Ethan Rockhold, a Quincy High School senior, was one of four area football players to sign a national letter of intent with Quincy University on Wednesday's national signing day. Central-Southeastern's Dalton Heubner and Drew Miller also signed with QU, and the Hawks also added Dillon Butler, a transfer from McKendree who played high school football at Pittsfield.
SCHUCKMAN COLUMN: In a little more than a year of living and working here, Quincy University football coach Tom Pajic caught on to a secret past coaches seemed to ignore. "Football is good here," Pajic said. He means high school football, which is why Pajic and his coaching staff concentrated their recruiting efforts in close proximity to the Gem City campus. Of the 29 players who signed national letters of intent Wednesday with the Hawks, 15 were from Illinois, 13 from Missouri and one from Iowa.
TIGERS SHOW SOLIDARITY: David McReynolds and his teammates were given a choice. After the Canton boys soccer team lost in the state quarterfinals Nov. 10, basketball practice was slated to start the next day. Tigers coach Andy Anderson said anyone who played on the soccer team could skip the first day of practice and come in the next day. Most of the players on Canton's basketball team also played soccer, and they all came to the same decision. It was a show of solidarity that has helped the Tigers roll to a 21-0 start and a No. 2 ranking in Class 2 from the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.