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CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn wants taxpayers to take advantage of a newly expanded tax credit.

The Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit provides low-income families with tax relief and an incentive to work. But the nonprofit Center for Economic Progress estimates between 10 to 20 percent of eligible taxpayers didn't file for the credit last year.

In an event at Truman College in Chicago Saturday, Quinn said he wants to get the word out about how eligible people may apply for the tax relief.

Families earning less than $50,000 annually and individuals making less than $25,000 may qualify for free tax preparation help at assistance centers across the state.

A list of assistance centers and other information about the tax credit is online.
Monday, 18 February 2013 02:30
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Spinach is again being recalled due to fears of E. coli contamination. Taylor Farms Retail of Salinas, California is voluntarily recalling select brands of organic baby spinach potentially contaminated with E. coli. The specific brands affected by the recall include 5-ounce Simple Truth Organic and 16-ounce Taylor Farms Organic. The recalled spinach is sold in the 39 states including Missouri and Illinois.

Actual brand and UPC info for web:

Simple Truth Organic - Baby Spinach, 5 oz. tray UPC code: 0-11110-91128-5 Best by: 2/24/2013
Sold in: AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, LA, MO, MT, NM, OR, TX, UT, WA, WY.

Taylor Farms Organic - Baby Spinach, 16 oz. tray UPC code: 0-30223-04780-3 Best by: 2/24/2013
Sold in: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, LA, MD, MO, MN, MS, MT, NC, NE, NM, NV, NJ, NY, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WY.

More information can be found on a special website set up by Taylor Farms.
Monday, 18 February 2013 01:55
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BRIDGETON, Mo. (AP) - State tests show that the odor from the Bridgeton Landfill outside St. Louis is not a health threat.

The Department of Natural Resources on Friday released a summary of recent air sampling results from the landfill. The samples showed "concentrations did not exceed a level of concern for public health." One sample collected near the landfill boundary, however, had a benzene concentration above the level considered safe.

An area deep within the inactive landfill has been smoldering for more than two years, emitting a foul odor that has generated several complaints.

Landfill operator, Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc., says it's spending millions of dollars to address the problem.

An environmental group says more testing is needed.
Monday, 18 February 2013 01:17
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Opponents of a plan to build a 400 acre coal ash landfill near the Missouri River are still trying to block it.

A circuit court judge had ruled last month that the Franklin County Commission acted lawfully when it approved zoning changes allowing the development of the landfill. Ameren Missouri has since filed for a permit to build the coal ash landfill next to its Labadie power plant.

But the Labadie Environmental Organization is now appealing the court's decision.
Monday, 18 February 2013 01:07
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The Chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is joining the Washington University administration. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Holden Thorp will take over as provost, the university's top academic officer, over the summer.

The 48 year old Thorp succeeds Edward Macias, who retired after 25 years in the post.
Monday, 18 February 2013 00:50
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The search for a missing Lincoln County woman has ended tragically.

Authorities say just before noon Sunday, searchers found the body of 48 year old Jennifer Bogert in a creek less than a mile from her Eolia home.

The Lincoln County Sheriff says Bogert appears to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Sheriff's deputies and volunteers had been searching for Bogert after she failed to show up for work Friday morning.
Monday, 18 February 2013 00:33
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Former Alton Mayor Don Sandidge has died.

Sandidge served three terms as mayor of the metro-east city, from 1997 to 2009. He spent 27 years on the Alton police force before that, including three years as chief.

Sandidge died early Sunday morning following a battle with cancer. He was 75.

Funeral arrangements are pending.
Monday, 18 February 2013 00:25
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Conventional wisdom holds that no one from the United States could be elected pope, that the superpower has more than enough worldly influence without an American in the seat of St. Peter. But after Pope Benedict XVI's extraordinary abdication, church analysts are wondering whether old assumptions still apply, including whether the idea of a U.S. pontiff remains off the table. Benedict himself has set a tone for change with his dramatic personal example. He is the first pontiff in six centuries to step down. Church leaders and canon lawyers are scrambling to resolve a litany of dilemmas they had never anticipated, such as scheduling a conclave without a funeral first and choosing a title for a former pope. The conclaves that created the last two pontificates had already upended one tradition: Polish-born Pope John Paul II ended 455 years of Italian papacies with his surprise selection in 1978. Benedict, born in Bavaria, was the first German pope since the 11th century. "With the election of John Paul, with the election of Benedict, one wonders if the former boundaries seem not to have any more credibility," New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, discussing Benedict's decision this week at SiriusXM's "The Catholic Channel." The election also follows a pontificate that featured Americans in unusually prominent roles. Cardinal William Levada, the former San Francisco archbishop, was the first U.S. prelate to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's powerful guardian of doctrine. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop, is the first American to lead the Vatican supreme court. And Benedict appointed others from the U.S. to handle some of his most pressing concerns, including rebuilding ties with breakaway Catholic traditionalists and overseeing the church's response to clergy abuse cases worldwide. But as Christopher Bellitto, a historian at Kean University in New Jersey who studies the papacy, said, "There's a big difference between letting somebody borrow the car and handing them the keys." "The American church," he said, "comes with a lot of baggage." Among the negatives is the clergy sex abuse scandal, which has affected every U.S. diocese and bishop. The 11 U.S. cardinals expected to vote in the conclave will include Cardinal Roger Mahony, the former Los Angeles archbishop who was recently stripped of public duties by his successor over his record on handling abuse cases. Also attending will be Cardinal Justin Rigali, who stepped down as Philadelphia archbishop after a landmark indictment of priests revealed he had kept several clergy on assignment despite claims they molested children. The cardinals are also struggling against the perception, held particularly by Europeans, that most Americans aren't sophisticated enough to handle the papacy. In a faith 2,000 years old, the United States is considered relatively new ground. Europe was still sending missionaries to the U.S. to create the church through the early 1900s. Popes are also expected to be multilingual, or to at minimum speak Italian fluently. Dolan, considered to have one of the highest profiles in the U.S. church, speaks only halting Italian and a little Spanish, but no French or Latin. He led the North American Seminary in Rome, a kind of West Point for American priests, but has never worked in a Vatican office. "There really never has been any American who rises above his American-ness and holds the esteem of the international group of cardinals because of his service, because of what he's done for the church," said Brother Charles Hilken, a historian at Saint Mary's College of California, who has studied the papacy. Beyond the qualities of individual candidates, the cardinals take church history into account. The church has tried to keep the papacy separate from a reigning superpower for centuries, whether the Holy Roman Empire, France or Spain, according to the Rev. Thomas Reese, author of "Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church." When France captured the papacy, the nation moved the seat to Avignon in 1309 and kept it there for seven decades. But the role of the United States in the world today is what weighs most heavily against a American pope. The Vatican navigates complex diplomatic relations within the Muslim world, in China over the state-backed church, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and beyond. An American pope could be perceived as acting in the interests of the United States instead of Catholics. "That would be enough of a concern for enough cardinals to make them leery about voting for an otherwise good American candidate," Hilken said. "These men come from places. They're citizens of other countries of the world." Despite all these factors, Dolan is being mentioned in some church circles as a potential - albeit longshot - choice. Round and quick to joke about his size, he is an ebullient and approachable representative of the church who is a strong speaker and is known in Rome. "He's the bear-hug bishop," Bellitto said. Dolan already was part of one upset election: In a surprise 2010 vote, his fellow church leaders chose him over the expected victor as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was the first time in the history of the conference that the man serving as sitting vice president was on the ballot for president and lost.
Sunday, 17 February 2013 08:26
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POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (AP) -- Democratic Party leaders from southeast Missouri picked state Rep. Steve Hodges on Saturday to run in a special election to replace resigned U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in the GOP-leaning 8th District.

The Southeast Missourian reported that he earned 39 votes during his party's meeting in Poplar Bluff. De Soto funeral home director Todd Mahn got 27 votes, and former Blodgett mayor Markel Fitchpatrick earned only two votes.

Hodges, 64, of East Prairie, is a former grocery store owner and high school sports referee who spent a dozen years on a local school board and first won election to the Missouri House in 2006. Only after other likely candidates bowed out did he belatedly enter the race Wednesday night to run in a June 4 special election against Republican state Rep. Jason Smith, who was nominated by his party last weekend.

In accepting the nomination, Hodges recalled his son Andrew's valedictorian address at West Point. "He said opportunities sometimes only come along once in your life," Hodges said. "And he said it's your choice to decide whether to accept that opportunity or let it pass. I thought about it a great deal for several days this week and I thought I think God is presenting this as an opportunity for me. So I need to decide whether this is something I should take advantage of or let pass by because it's not going to happen again."

Missouri's 8th District stretches across 30 counties, from the outer suburbs of St. Louis south to the agricultural-base of the Missouri Bootheel and west to the rolling Ozark hills. The district's residents are the poorest and least educated in Missouri, with a median household income of less than $36,000 and more than 85 percent lacking bachelor's degrees. For 32 years, much of the area had been represented by either Bill Emerson or Jo Ann Emerson, who succeeded her husband after he died in 1996. Jo Ann Emerson resigned Jan. 22 to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Although of opposite political parties, Hodges praised the Emersons and vowed to continue their legacies of supporting labor and agriculture. He also stressed the need to balance the budget.

Hodges described Smith, the Republican nominee, as a friend and said he hoped to conduct the campaign as friends. "That was the way I was reared," he said. "But in politics as Gov. (Jay) Nixon has said, `There is no second place.' There are only winners and losers, and I hope to give you a winner."

Smith, an attorney, farmer and real estate partner, won a special election to the Missouri House of Representatives in November 2005. Because of term limits, Smith, 32, is now one of the most senior members of the chamber. After serving as majority party whip, his colleagues elected him in January as House speaker pro tem - the No. 2 ranking position.
Sunday, 17 February 2013 08:23
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A state Supreme Court decision and a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon have cost Missouri cities and counties at least $43 million in lost tax revenues that they otherwise could have collected from the sale of cars, trucks and boats, according to figures compiled by a state senator.

The estimate of lost tax revenues is being used by Sen. Mike Kehoe as one of his main arguments why lawmakers should enact a measure reinstating local taxes on vehicles bought from other states or sold in private deals between Missouri residents. The bill, which already has won initial Senate approval, is expected to receive a second vote this week that would send it to the House.

The legislation was prompted by a Missouri Supreme Court decision last year that said local sales taxes cannot be levied when vehicle purchases are made in another state. The ruling also applied to cars sold by one person to another, because sales taxes only can be collected from retail businesses. The court said a local "use tax" could be charged on such vehicles, but only if approved by local voters.

Almost all counties and municipalities had been collecting the tax on out-of-state vehicle sales before the Supreme Court's decision, but less than half had a voter-approved "use tax" and so have been unable to keep collecting the revenue.

State lawmakers reacted to the Supreme Court decision by passing a bill last May that would have allowed local governments to collect the tax. But Nixon vetoed the measure and said voters should have a say in whether the tax should be imposed. Some lawmakers launched an effort to override Nixon's veto over concerns that Missouri car dealers were at a competitive disadvantage, because customers were going out of state to avoid paying local vehicle taxes. The veto-override attempt ultimately failed.

Now lawmakers are trying again to re-instate the local taxes. "Who in their right mind would think it is right for the state of Missouri that we would tax our own local businesses, but not those out-of-state," said Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa.

This year's Senate bill would try to alleviate the governor's concerns. Republican Sen. Mike Kehoe, a former Jefferson City car dealership owner, said it's a "new version for the same conversation."

The bill would allow local governments to start collecting the sales tax immediately after Nixon's signature. But it would also require local governments to put a "repeal" vote on the ballot sometime between November 2014 and November 2016 in which voters would be asked whether they want to keep the local tax.

Kehoe said he thought his bill would be a "bit more palatable" to Nixon than the version he vetoed, because it lets voters decide whether to keep the tax.

One Senator said she was "a little nervous" about how the bill would allow taxes to be collected immediately without voter approval. But Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said she still wants the bill's end result.

Since the issue has been unresolved, counties and municipalities lost $43 million in revenue between April and December 2012, according to figures compiled by Kehoe's office. During that period, $1.4 billion in motor vehicle sales were not subject to local sales taxes. Missouri dealers sold $5.1 billion worth of vehicles, which were subject to local taxes.

At the time of Nixon's veto, just 43 of Missouri's 114 counties and more than 90 of the roughly 950 municipalities had the ability to continue to collect a sales tax on cars not bought at Missouri dealers. Under the Senate bill, these local governments would not have to hold a "repeal" vote and currently can collect taxes on motor vehicles not purchased from Missouri car dealers. With Kehoe's bill still in the legislative process, some counties are looking to fix the problem on their own. At least 18 counties or municipalities have placed "use taxes" on the April ballot that would apply to vehicles sold in other states or between individuals, according to Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates for lower taxes and limited government.
Sunday, 17 February 2013 08:19
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