Daily dose: Freedom to blow stuff up, UI tuition growth in 50 years, great pension deals, Tim Johnson in, Samuel Spradlin in, world's fastest supercomputer (for now)

Daily dose: Freedom to blow stuff up, UI tuition growth in 50 years, great pension deals, Tim Johnson in, Samuel Spradlin in, world's fastest supercomputer (for now)

Ah, for the freedom to shoot fireworks

In 1911, Bradley Mittendorf, 14, and Lester Hammer, 15, have formed the Mittendorf & Hammer partnership at 117 S. Neil St. that is selling fireworks. They have put in a stock of $75 worth and will remain at their store ready for business until after the glorious Fourth. The lads have shown business acumen beyond their years by advertising in The Gazette and offering prizes to the person buying the largest quantity of fireworks — a balloon 7 feet long. Bradley is in eighth grade at the Avenue School and Lester will enter Champaign High School this fall.

Tuition and fees growth over the last 50 years at the UI

In 1961, University of Illinois trustees upped the tuition at the UI by $10 per semester, bringing in-state tuition to $85 and out-of-state tuition to $260 per semester, effective Sept. 1. In addition to tuition, students at the Urbana campus will pay the following fees: laboratory, library and supply fee, $10; hospital-medical-surgical fee, $10; Illini Union fee, $10.

In the 2011-2012 school year, the undergraduate base tuition at the Ui's Urbana campus will be $11,104 for in-state students and $25,246 for out of state studentsd (and $25,996 for international students).

On a per semester basis, UI tuition at the Urbana campus wil be $5,552.

The inflation calculator says something that was worth $85 would be worth $642.37 this year.

Not $5,552.

Fees at the UI will be $3,310 for the entire school year.

From Sunday's column: sweet pension deal

A bill awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval would put an end to a costly, controversial enhanced pension program for county officials — but not before a number of Champaign County officials have taken advantage of it.
It has been a financial bonanza for six retired Champaign County officials, three of whom have died. And four other county officials, all still working, have signed up and are eligible for it, according to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which oversees the so-called Elected County Officials plan.
The biggest local winner from the ECO program is former Sheriff Dave Madigan, who contributed $102,358 to IMRF during his 23 years in the retirement system. He retired as sheriff in 2002. Madigan’s now collecting $6,668 a month from ECO, or more than $80,000 a year. The estimated present value of his pension, according to actuaries, is more than $985,000. (All of these figures come from IMRF, which provided them under a Freedom of Information Act request.)
Former county Coroner Eldon Quick gets $27,600 a year from the program, after contributing $54,431 into it over 13 years. His pension has a present value of $259,990.
And then there’s former county board Chairman Francis J. Barker who paid just $9,369 into IMRF but is collecting $2,078 a month under ECO — or $24,936 a year. At the time the county board adopted the enhanced pension plan — at a meeting on July 22, 1997 — Barker was careful enough to note that he abstained (in a voice vote) from voting on the issue, thus avoiding any charges of a conflict of interest.
Three other county officials who took advantage of ECO have died: Roger Little, who was county treasurer; Gerrie Parr, who was county auditor; and Roger Swaney, who was county coroner. In the case of Little and Swaney, their spouses are receiving benefits through ECO.
Four current county officials have ECO service, according to IMRF. They are Circuit Clerk Linda Frank, County Treasurer Dan Welch, Recorder Barb Frasca and board of review member Steve Bantz.
Bantz’s participation is particularly galling since he claimed shortly after the 1997 county board vote that the board was deceived into voting for it.
But he later joined Barker as the only county board members to sign up for it.
When he quit the board in 1997, Bantz noted that he was several months short of being able to be vested in the ECO plan. But when he was appointed to the board of review, which hears property tax assessment appeals, he signed up again for IMRF (in 2008) and is now eligible for the ECO program.
Bantz did not return phone calls for comment about his renewed interest in the enhanced retirement program.
The county’s participation in the enhanced pension system does not come without a steep cost to taxpayers. According to figures provided to the county by IMRF, the ECO program alone cost Champaign County $198,168 in the current fiscal year.
All other county contributions to IMRF for employees under the general fund totaled another $3.8 million.
The bill that would put an end to ECO — although it “grandfathers in” existing participants — is SB 3253, sponsored in the House by Rep. Karen May, D-Highland Park, and in the Senate by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign. It was approved unanimously in both chambers and was officially sent to Quinn on June 10. IMRF officials said they are urging the governor to sign the bill.

Today's paper: Tim Johnson is in, and Samuel Spradlin

"U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, hasn’t formally announced that he’s running for re-election, but here’s a pretty good hint: He’s rented a two-bedroom apartment in the center of his new congressional district.
“I’m going to be living in an apartment in downtown Litchfield so I can take day trips to Carlinville and Edwardsville and Springfield and all that,” said the six-term congressman, who has been moved out of his old 15th Congressional District into the 13th District, which arcs from Champaign-Urbana through central Illinois to the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis.
“To do this right you’ve got to be a hands-on person, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “It’s like going from riding a bike to going back and using three wheels. It will be interesting.”
Johnson said Monday that he was busy visiting a host of communities in the new district: Blue Mound, Taylorville, Raymond, Stonington, Carlinville, White Hall, Carrollton, Roodhouse."

and ...

"A 46-year-old Springfield truck driver says he will challenge Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, in the 13th Congressional District GOP primary election next March 20.
If Samuel Thomas Spradlin stays in the Republican election, he will be Johnson’s first primary opponent since 2000, when the congressman won a four-way GOP race. That year he got 31 percent of the Republican vote in the 15th Congressional District he currently represents.
But next year will be different, provided that Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill creating a new congressional district map and the map withstands an expected court challenge.
Spradlin said he drives every day between Springfield and Danville on Interstate 72 for R&L Carriers, based in Springfield.
“In fact, that’s what made me choose Tim Johnson as my target,” said Spradlin, who currently lives in the 19th District represented by John Shimkus, R-Collinsville. “And then when they drew this new district that goes to Springfield I thought, ‘Man ain’t that something?’”
He said he would never run against Shimkus.
“If it meant me never running for Congress, then I would never run against John Shimkus,” he said. “I think he’s a fine congressman. I’ve met him on three occasions and I have nothing but good to say about him."

Japanese have world's fastest computer but ...

From The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — In the rankings of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, a Japanese machine has earned the top spot with a performance that essentially laps the competition.

Parts for a “K”  supercomputer are assembled at the  Fujitsu plant in Hokuto City,  Japan.
The computer, known as “K Computer,” is three times faster than a Chinese rival that previously held the top position, said Jack Dongarra, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville who keeps the official rankings of computer performance.

K, built by Fujitsu and located at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan, represents a giant leap forward in speed. It will also undoubtedly be a source of national pride for Japan, at least among computer scientists, who take the race for fastest computer quite seriously.

“It’s a very impressive machine,” Mr. Dongarra said. “It’s a lot more powerful than the other computers.”

and ..

Japan’s top supercomputer ranking is its first since 2004. The United States and China are the only other countries to have held the title.

The rankings, which are issued every six months, change frequently and reflect how fast computer power is advancing. For example, the top ranked computer in June 2008, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, is now in 10th place.

Mr. Dongarra said a computer called Blue Waters, being developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, may rival K in speed.











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