Housing crunch now a legal issue

Fallout from the collapse of the housing market now clouds the courts.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last week became the first of what undoubtedly will be a number of state attorneys general to file a lawsuit alleging that Countrywide Financial Corp. engaged in massive lending fraud that contributed to the collapse of the subprime lending market.

Even though it's hit 'speed bump,' don't count out ethanol

The ethanol industry is hurting but it's not likely to go away, not as long as energy demand increases and supplies of oil tighten.

The ethanol industry, king of the mountain a year ago, has fallen hard and fast. Earlier this month, a Tennessee-based ethanol company announced it was throwing in the towel on seven plants it had proposed to build in Illinois, including one in Royal. Another local plant, this one to be built by The Andersons west of Champaign, is on hold, likely for quite some time. Several Midwestern plants already built have had their openings delayed until market and financial conditions improve. The share prices of companies deep into ethanol, such as Decatur's Archer Daniels Midland, have taken a hit as well.

Lean state budget yields new summer jobs program

There's a lot of existing programs that state government can't afford, says Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but it apparently can afford a $14 million summer jobs program that wasn't included in the new budget and never got legislative approval.

Even though Gov. Rod Blagojevich says the state budget is out of balance by as much as $2 billion and that extensive cuts may be needed, he nonetheless has taken $14 million from three agencies – corrections, transportation and human services – to pay for a new summer youth employment program.

Don't let the Jon White case fade away

The ugliness of the Jon White case and the number of his young female victims demands that Urbana school officials disclose how they have responded to it. Further, prosecutors should pursue charges against any of the "mandated reporters" who failed to notify authorities of accusations against White.

The story of Jon White isn't over. Even after the former Urbana teacher pleaded guilty to eight counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Champaign County and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term and even though most of the school administrators in charge at the time of his transgressions apparently have left, there still are important questions to be answered.

Districts anxiously await their state aid payments

At this time every year, local school administrators begin to fret about if and when they are going to get the final portion of their general state aid payments.

The money isn't chump change, either. The payments represent about 1/12th of the money that public schools need to pay their bills. For example, the payment owed to the Rantoul City Schools is $622,280, and for Danville School District 118 it's $2,344,981.

Close case limits death penalty

The nation's highest court has slammed the door on death as a possibly penalty for any crime other than murder.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the death penalty for a Louisiana man convicted of raping a child comes as no surprise. The high court years ago signaled its discontent with the death penalty in cases other than those involving murder.

Progress made on Korean nukes

A surprise turn of events boosts U.S. efforts to end a rogue country's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's decision to turn over information on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of trade sanctions puts a hopeful face on long-running U.S. efforts to stop that country from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Olympic team has local flavor

Two more Fighting Illini have joined the ranks of University of Illinois athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team.

Congratulations are due to Deron Williams and Justin Spring for their selection as U.S. Olympians who will be competing Aug. 8-24 at Beijing, China.

Illinois' coming financial wreck

Illinois' divided Democrats are at it again, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich threatening $1.5 billion in budget cuts and House Speaker Michael Madigan essentially daring him to do it. The 12 million people of Illinois unfortunately can only watch their silly sandbox feud.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich now finds himself in an uncomfortable position; he has to govern.

Obama's broken promise could be a good sign

Barack Obama is being criticized, rightly, for breaking a promise to abide by public financing of his presidential campaign. In the long run, though, his decision to raise all his general election money on his own should please those who favor no limitations on political speech.

If the last week of the presidential campaign has taught us anything, it's that even for Barack Obama there are limits to being a reformer or an agent for change in American politics. His decision to forgo public financing of his presidential campaign – the first time that's been done in a general election since 1976 – shows that for Obama winning an election is paramount to all else. If he sees there's a benefit to him, he will take it.