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HEALTH OVERHAUL-CONSUMER TOOL
CHICAGO — It can be tricky to compare health plans on the government sites that are a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's health care law. A nonprofit group is offering an add-on tool that could help. The free site uses actuarial data to estimate total annual costs for each health plan tailored to a consumer's health needs. Illinois is a testing ground for the site, a possible solution to what many see as a national problem with the new government health insurance websites. By Carla K. Johnson. UPCOMING: 650 words by 2 p.m., photo.
CHICAGO — A reputed lieutenant of recently captured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is scheduled to change his plea to guilty in a federal trafficking case in Chicago. Alfredo Vasquez Hernandez' change-of-plea hearing is set for Friday. It comes less than two weeks after Guzman's arrest in Mexico. Mexican authorities extradited the 58-year-old Hernandez to Chicago in 2012. Government filings describe him as a talented logistics chief who organized cocaine shipments by train to Chicago for the Sinaloa cartel. By Jason Keyser. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 500 words. Developing from 1:30 p.m. hearing.
CHICAGO — A new report says Illinois leads the nation when it comes to switching to renewable energy. The report is being released by national and state environmental groups, including the World Wildlife Fund and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. An Illinois law passed in 2009 allows communities to buy their own electricity, rather than relying on a central purchasing agency. Since then, more than 600 communities have opted to do just that. And the report says 91 of them are providing 100 percent renewable energy, either by buying it directly or buying credits that help fund renewable energy development. By Tammy Webber. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 330 words.
DENVER — Frustrated and angry, more than 100 cabbies pulled up outside the Colorado Statehouse early this legislative session to protest tech startups known as ridesharing services. The taxi drivers say the emerging firms, which allow passengers to hail rides with the swipe of a smartphone, are avoiding costly requirements that they and other commercial drivers are forced to follow. On the city level, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an ordinance that would license ridesharing operations and require insurance. Critics By Ivan Moreno and Ray Henry. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
BLACK BASKETBALL HISTORY
NEW YORK — Just a few years after the invention of "Basket Ball," black players in segregated America formed leagues of their own, eventually creating a barnstorming circuit featuring such teams as the New York Renaissance, the Washington Bears and the Harlem Globetrotters. Dozens of teams flourished between 1904 and 1950 in what became known as the Black Fives Era, an often-overlooked piece of black history that is the subject of an exhibition opening at the New-York Historical Society on March 14. By Ula Ilnytzky. SENT: 670 words, photos.
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U OF ILLINOIS-PRESIDENT
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois hopes to have a new president selected by January. The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports a 19-member search committee will be appointed in May to recruit and review candidates to replace President Robert Easter. Easter is retiring in June 2015 when his contract expires. He was named president in March 2012 and planned at the time to keep the job only until June 2014 before school trustees voted to extend his contract in July. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 200 words.
MATTOON, Ill. — Mattoon couple Fred and Gretchen Decker found a final destination for a detailed, handcrafted wooden train they've owned for more than a decade. The Deckers donated the piece to the Mattoon Arts Council and city Department of Tourism and Arts and it is on display at their offices at the Illinois Central Railroad Depot. The couple says they're glad to pass it on. "It's something that needs to be somewhere it can be appreciated," Mrs. Decker said. "It's a good legacy for many generations to come to enjoy." By Kayleigh Zyskowski. Journal-Gazette and Times-Courier. SENT: 450 words, photos.
— AIRPLANE SEARCHED: An American Airlines flight from Chicago's O'Hare Airport was taken to a remote area at Kansas City International Airport and searched after it landed because of a bomb threat. SENT: 130 words.
— FATAL FIRE-RIVERTON: A central Illinois woman died and her son was seriously injured after an apartment fire in Riverton. SENT: 130 words.
— FATAL FIRE-WOODSTOCK: Authorities say one person has died after a house fire in the far-northern Chicago suburb of Woodstock. SENT: 130 words.
— HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE: Several years of severe weather is costing Illinois homeowners more for insurance through one major carrier. SENT: 130 words.
— CAMPAIGN FINANCE-LAWSUIT: A lawsuit challenging Illinois' caps on political donations is unlikely to be resolved before the 2014 elections. SENT: 130 words.
— COMMITTMENT HEARING: A psychologist has told a McHenry County judge that a repeat sex offender poses a considerable risk of re-offending if released. SENT: 130 words.
— INTERNET TAX-HULTGREN: An Illinois congressman wants to extend a measure that currently prevents state and local governments from taxing Internet services. SENT: 130 words.
— ANCIENT MOUNDS-TOURISM: A group is closing out its public comment period on a push to get an ancient southwestern Illinois historical site designated as a national park. SENT: 130 words.
— ILLINOIS LOTTERY-MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: Proceeds from the newest Illinois Lottery game will be used to fund research into multiple sclerosis.
— ILLINOIS RIVER-FERRIES REOPEN: Two ferries that regularly cross the Illinois River in western Illinois are back in business after being shut down due to adverse river conditions. SENT: 130 words.
— HIGH SCHOOL POETRY CONTEST: Sixteen high school students from around Illinois will compete for the state championship in an annual poetry performance contest. SENT: 130 words.
— RARE BOOK: A rare book of French botanical art has found a home in the Sterling Morton Library at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. SENT: 130 words.
CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies meet for the second time this season. The Bulls got 26 points from Jimmy Butler in a 95-91 victory at Memphis on Dec. 30. By Jay Cohen. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos. Game starts 6 p.m. CT.
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