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This Hour: Latest Illinois news, sports, business and entertainment

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Students sickened, carbon monoxide leak suspected

GIRARD, Ill. (AP) - More than 140 Illinois middle school students and adults were sent to hospitals Monday after becoming ill because of a carbon monoxide leak caused by a faulty furnace flue, school district and fire officials said.

Several students at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard complained about feeling nauseated, but all were conscious and talking as they were taken away in ambulances, Superintendent Marica Cullen said.

The source of the leak was a flue that came loose on a gas-powered boiler, and repairs have been made, school board member Terri Worth said. Officials said the gas was shut off.

Girard is a central Illinois city about 25 miles south of Springfield.

At least three students were admitted to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, but most were discharged or under evaluation, a hospital spokeswoman told the State Journal Register in Springfield. Students also were taken to two other hospitals.

Students not taken to hospitals were taken to nearby churches, where they were being monitored, authorities said.

The number of people taken to the hospital rose throughout the day, said school officials, who warned parents to be on the lookout for signs of poisoning.

Cullen said carbon monoxide had been cleared from the building by late afternoon, but officials canceled class for all district schools on Tuesday. Carbon monoxide detectors will be installed in all district buildings, Cullen told the newspaper.

"We don't want any students in the building until we've had multiple inspections and we know it is safe," she said.


Union: CPS layoffs will hurt school cleanliness

CHICAGO (AP) - The union representing custodians in Chicago Public Schools said Monday that it will be difficult to keep schools clean once a private company takes over the work.

Chicago Public School officials said Saturday that 468 janitors will be laid off by the end of the month, a move that comes after the district agreed to a $260 million deal earlier this year to contract the work to the firm Aramark, according to a story in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times.

Notice of their job status is expected by Sept. 30, said Leslie Norgren, a spokeswoman for the nation's third-largest district.

Principals and school administrators recently have complained about the cleanliness at schools.

But scheduling and other changes are causing the current problems, which will "only be exacerbated" when the janitors are laid off on Oct. 1, said Julie P. Valentine, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 1.


Governor candidates spotlights on business, hiring

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois' gubernatorial campaigns took jabs at each other on business and hiring Monday, with Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's running mate accusing Republican businessman Bruce Rauner of profiting "from fraud" and Rauner calling hiring under Quinn's Department of Transportation a "scam."

Both campaigns - locked in a competitive race - intensified focus on issues previously in the headlines.

Rauner blasted IDOT hiring three days after Quinn's administration released a list of agency employees who initially were hired under a title that's been the subject of a federal lawsuit and inspector general's report. He called for Quinn to fire them, vowing to work with a federal hiring monitor if elected.

"This scam, perpetrated by Pat Quinn, has got to end," Rauner told reporters.

Quinn has said he addressed hiring issues by calling for a systemic review, abolishing the "staff assistant" position and laying off those still holding the title.

His running mate, Paul Vallas, called attention to APS Healthcare Inc., a company owned by Rauner's former firm. The state of Georgia and the federal government alleged the company failed to provide services it was paid for. Without admitting fault, APS agreed to a 2011 federal settlement for $13 million.

"Bruce Rauner has no credibility when it comes to addressing waste, fraud and abuse, in fact, he has profited from fraud and abuse at his company," Vallas said in a statement.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said Rauner wasn't on the board at APS and played no role in managing the company.


AP Interview: Durbin denies 'bullying' businesses

CHICAGO (AP) - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is unabashedly defending his name-calling and other attacks on Illinois businesses looking to locate their headquarters overseas.

Durbin's opponent in the November election, Republican dairy entrepreneur and state Sen. Jim Oberweis, has called the Democrat's actions "bullying." He says it's the kind of anti-business behavior that's hampering Illinois' economic recovery.

Durbin, who's seeking his fourth U.S. Senate term, shined a spotlight on Deerfield-based Walgreen and other companies that considered relocating to take advantage of lower tax rates, calling them "deserters" and unpatriotic. He also started petitions, held news conferences and introduced legislation to prevent companies from getting federal contracts.

"I think it's my job," Durbin said in an interview with The Associated Press. "If an Illinois senator won't stand up to keep companies in this state and in this country he's got the backbone of a melting ice cream cone."

Oberweis, whose family owns a chain of ice cream shops, argued it's more evidence Durbin - who's served on Capitol Hill for 32 years - has grown arrogant and "has no idea how to create jobs in the private economy."

He says the solution to so-called corporate inversions is to make Illinois and the U.S. more business-friendly by lowering taxes and cutting regulations he says are too burdensome.

Durbin outlined his views on a range of issues during the hour-long interview with AP, including critics' argument that he's been in Washington too long and how much of the blame Democrats shoulder for the dysfunction there.


Man convicted in girl's death during 2011 burglary

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) - A guilty verdict was returned Monday against a parolee accused in the stabbing death of a suburban Chicago girl during a 2011 burglary of her home.

The jury deliberated for about two hours before convicting John Wilson Jr. in the death of 14-year-old Kelli O'Laughlin. The teenager was killed in her Indian Head Park home when she interrupted Wilson burglarizing the residence, according to prosecutors. Wilson also allegedly later taunted the victim's mother from the girl's stolen cellphone.

During closing arguments, Assistant State's Attorney Andreana Turano revisited the evidence in prosecution's case, including cellphone records that tracked Wilson and Kelli's phones and DNA evidence from a knit hat found at the murder scene. She also noted gold coins taken from the O'Laughlin home were traced to Wilson.

Defense attorney John Paul Carroll sprinkled nearly two hours of his closing arguments with accusations Wilson was charged because of his race.

After Cook County Circuit Judge John Hynes told Carroll to move on, the attorney said Wilson "is just convenient because he's black, homeless and a bit odd."


2nd year of Illinois osprey project wraps up

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois biologists are finishing the second phase of an eight-year project to strengthen the osprey population in the state.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources hopes to re-establish the fish-eating hawks as a nesting species by releasing them at Anderson Lake in Fulton County and Lake Shelbyville in Moultrie County.

"The young birds are loyal to the place where they grow up and often return to nest," biologist Patrick McDonald said. "Similar programs carried out in other states have been successful in boosting the number of nesting birds, and we hope to have the same result here in Illinois."

The osprey were taken from a Virginia military base where they posed a threat to flying aircraft and brought to the Illinois Raptor Center in Decatur. The birds received check-ups and were cared for by students and field technicians from the University of Illinois Springfield. Before they were released this summer, they were equipped with satellite transmitters that track their movement.

The osprey is listed as a state-endangered species in Illinois, which means it is at risk of disappearing as a breeding species.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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