Other Railroad Stories: A Night to Remember

GintherJune 10, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

The aroma of brewing coffee hung in the morning air as many of us viewed the incredible sight before us. It was a cold winter morning in January 1969, although slightly above freezing, as we surveyed the wreckage of a head on collision between two trains. The crash had occurred in the early morning hours that same day at Indian Oaks just a short distance north of Kankakee, Ill. at a junction point where three tracks converged into two. The aroma was the result of a box car carrying coffee being demolished and its contents strewn over the melting snow and standing water puddles.
This train wreck happened about 46 years ago, and I still remember how the visual and olfactory inputs at the scene presented a striking contrast. The smell of morning coffee and the devastation before us just didn’t go together. At that point in time all of the deceased had yet to be recovered. Read More

Understanding Illinois: New Sheriff in Town, but Old Sheriff Hasn’t Left

NowlanJune 10, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

Based on a couple of days nosing around the state capitol at the end of the regular session of the legislature, which adjourned with a whimper May 31, I sense that Illinois is in for several years of rancorous political conflict. There is a new sheriff in town (Gov. Bruce Rauner), but the old one hasn’t left (House Speaker Mike Madigan).
Maybe a more apt simile is that of the dueling popes of Avignon and Rome, battling for years for papal supremacy around the end of the 14th Century.
After all, there won’t be a single gunfight to the death between Republican Rauner and Madigan, but instead a protracted “Battle for the future of Illinois,” as Rauner terms it, which appears likely to go on for years.
The combatants come from different worlds. Rauner is a businessman from the rarefied high-finance atmosphere of buying and selling companies; he is used to being king of the hill.
Madigan and his protégé, state senate president John Cullerton, are professional politicians, for whom politics is also a business. They have pretty much run the state legislature since the 1980s.
Rauner wants to take them down. Read More

LTE: 6.10.15

When Should Churches Be Silent?

In regard to the writer of the “Cherry Picking Scripture” letter on the editorial page May 27, I would voice my disagreement. I appreciate the fact that the writer may, in a sense, not object to Christians holding beliefs based on God’s word, but the view that one is “cherry picking” when he picks one sin to object to, when that sin is spoken of less in the Bible than other sins. Would he think, therefore, that if pedophilia or incestuous relationships were being forced upon us, demanding our acceptance of such, as homosexuality presently is, that churches should keep silent? There are more passages of Scripture dealing specifically with homosexuality, such as Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, Romans 1 :24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:9-10, than with the other two combined. There is no “cherry” on God’s cherry tree that is to be picked. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Foreign Experts Give State Mixed Reviews: Part 1

NowlanJune 3, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

I worry about weak job growth in Illinois, which has been slower in recent decades than in the nation as a whole as well as in the rest of the Midwest.
Our state still has to recover about a quarter million jobs just to get back to where we were in 2000, while the nation has surged far beyond 2000 numbers.
Illinois did add 51,000 jobs in 2014, yet job numbers in Texas jumped last year by a whopping 458,000—and a majority of the Texas jobs are good-paying ones, not the minimum wage kind, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Recently the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity asked the consuls general of our 10 largest trading partner nations to provide their perspectives on what our state has going for—and against—us when it comes to economic growth. Read More

LTE: 6.3.15

Re. to: Cherry Picking Scripture

I appreciated the letter to editor the other day concerning the remarks on “homosexuality.” However, I was disappointed in that there was no mention of some specifics relative to “some local churches” in his critical remarks. He used a “blanket” approach to speak ill of “some local churches” and their accentuation of immoral behavior, but these same “local churches” seemed to have failed to accomplish other, more positive things in the community. Again, we are not told wherein some specific church (or churches) has failed. He remarked, “Instead of focusing on lending a helping hand to those in need, they choose to use divisive and destructive rhetoric that perpetuates hatred and animosity. Why is that?”
It is most unfortunate that in both of his critical remarks (above) he offers no illustrations. Evidently, he wanted to just throw a “blanket” over the issue and hope others would agree and say, “Yeah! That’s right! You are all hypocrites!” He would get much further in a conversation of this sort if he was specific in his concerns. Read More

Farmers’ Markets Arrive in June

KimForColumnJune 3, 2015

by Kim Riedel
N•P Columnist

June is going to be great! I am thinking about going back out to some of the farmers markets as I did a handful of years ago when I had my worm farm, though this year I will be taking my plants that I have grown and some of my produce. Well, maybe I’ll even take some of my red worms as long as the days don’t get scorchingly hot enough to bake the worms like what happened last time.
Farmers markets are good for a community and a great place to incubate small businesses for producers. Besides the classes and workshops that I helped with through the MG program, the farmers markets were a great way to get the word out that I offered worm castings and live worms for fishing or for adding to the garden. Each market is unique…some are large, structured and more competitive, and some are more laid back. They are a good place for the smaller grower (anyone with a few acres and the ability to grow good crops) where there is minimal start up costs, little or no packaging, advertising or promotion costs, and immediate and direct feedback about price, quality, variety, preferences and ideas. Farmers may talk about their product and meet those who use their product, and the consumers may find out how the produce is grown–a win-win situation. Read More

Illinois Crop Report Looking Good So Far

HarveyMay 27, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

It is that time again for the planters to be rolling and the crops to be emerging. We have been very fortunate in the last few weeks to have optimal planting weather. As of Sunday, May 24, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) had Illinois at 97 percent corn planted compared to a five year average of 93 percent planted by this date. Soybeans, meanwhile, came in at 69 percent planted compared to the five year average of 57 planted by this date. Corn and soybeans are also above the five year average for emergence with corn at 87 percent and soybeans at 38.
With the lack of rain and the cooler temperatures lately, the percentages will not move up as fast as most would like. However, overall this year is on track with the crop season last year. Driving between Tuscola and Sullivan and looking at various crops, this crop year is off to a great start. NASS has an updated crop report come out every Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. I expect the numbers in Illinois for corn emerging, soybeans planted, and soybeans emerging to change a good amount in the following days especially if we can get a nice steady rain over the crops. Illinois is still ahead of our neighbors to the east, Indiana, in planting both corn and soybeans, and Illinois is ahead of Iowa in corn planting and right behind with soybean planting.
In other news, this last week has been very busy on a legislative front. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Looming Public Unions Strike

NowlanMay 27, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

From my distant vantage point, I foresee as inevitable a first-ever strike in July by state of Illinois public employee unions.
There is just no way to bridge a chasm wide as the Grand Canyon between feisty GOP governor Bruce Rauner, who is probably spoiling for a strike, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is the lead union in negotiations with the state that are on-going to replace a contract that expires July 1.
I think Rauner wants to make a national name for himself as the governor who toppled the unions from their comfortable perches. He cannot do so in the union-friendly Democratic legislature so he will seek to break the backs of the unions via the collective bargaining process.
If successful, he would indeed become a national political figure. Read More

LTE: 5.27.15

Cherry Picking Scripture

There are a few scriptures in the Bible on homosexuality and hundreds on heterosexual relationships, marriage and behavior, yet some local churches strangely choose to cherry pick those scriptures that focus on homosexuals instead of the broader community of relationships within their own church. Why is that?
It seems bizarre that Jesus died on the cross so that a few people could turn that cross into a weapon against a few. Instead of using his life and sacrifice as a guide, they’ve turned their Bible into a sword. Instead of focusing on lending a helping hand to those in need, they choose to use divisive and destructive rhetoric that perpetuates hatred and animosity. Why is that? Read More

Understanding Illinois: Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road

NowlanMay 20, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

There is no way to sugarcoat the bitter pill that Illinois taxpayers will have to swallow this summer if we are to put the state onto a path of long-term fiscal stability and predictability, characteristics that are critical to persuading business to locate and expand here.
As you have read, the Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that policymakers cannot wiggle out of responsibilities to meet state pension obligations that are underfunded to the tune of $100+ billion.
Illinois has started to fill that pension hole by appropriating $8 billion a year for that purpose, which is about $7 billion more than would be the annual cost if the state had a fully-funded pension system (on a $32 billion general funds budget). Read More