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

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Unemployment falls again in all Ill. metro areas

CHICAGO (AP) - Unemployment fell in all 12 Illinois metro areas in July. It was the fourth straight month of falling jobless rates across the state's metro areas.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday in its monthly report on metro unemployment that jobless rates also dropped in all 102 of the state's counties for a second straight month.

Department Director Jay Rowell said the report reflects a growing state economy.

Earlier this month the department said statewide unemployment fell to 6.8 percent. It was the fifth consecutive month of improvement.

Across the state, the Decatur area saw its unemployment rate fall from 13 percent in July 2013 to 9.5 percent last month. Chicago-area unemployment fell from 9.6 percent to 6.8 percent.


Hostess closing bakery that created the Twinkie

CHICAGO (AP) - About 400 people will lose their jobs and a piece of American baking history will shut down when Hostess Brands closes the suburban Chicago bakery where the Twinkie was invented.

Hostess said Wednesday it will close the bakery in Schiller Park in October. The bakery reopened a little more than a year ago following Hostess' 2012 bankruptcy.

Donald Woods is president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 1. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that workers were shocked by the news.

Hostess Brands CEO Bill Toler said the company is closing the plant as it tries to improve efficiency.

The Twinkie was invented in Schiller Park in 1930 by a bakery manager looking for uses for idle shortcake pans.


Term-limit backers seek Supreme Court intervention

CHICAGO (AP) - Republican Bruce Rauner (ROW'-nur) and other supporters of political term limits have asked the Illinois Supreme Court to quickly decide whether the question can go on November's ballot.

The Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits filed an emergency petition Thursday morning. Friday is the deadline for election officials to certify the Nov. 4 ballot.

The committee is headed by Rauner, the GOP candidate for governor.

An appellate court ruled Wednesday that the plan to ask voter permission to limit legislators to eight years in office did not meet constitutional requirements to go on the ballot.

Rauner says the court should consider the proposal's overwhelming voter support.

The State Board of Elections meets Friday. It could also vote to suspend the process until the term limits issue is resolved.


AG: Hotline available for settlement mortgage help

CHICAGO (AP) - Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Illinois consumers who believe they were impacted by "shoddy" mortgages through Bank of America can call her office or the bank for help.

Madigan says that Illinois' share of a nearly $17 billion national settlement with Bank of America is about $300 million. One-third of that money will be used for consumer relief, including for those with mortgages and blight reduction.

An independent monitor will oversee the relief distribution.

The deal announced Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department stems from the bank's role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis.

The nearly $17 billion settlement is the largest deal the Justice Department has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown.


Officials announce start of Springfield rail work

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The first major construction work is beginning on a project to combine rail lines running through the state capital into a single corridor.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin joined other officials Thursday in Springfield for a ceremonial groundbreaking on a planned $20 million underpass at Carpenter Street.

The project is aimed at reducing accidents as well as delays at crossings.

Most of the cost is being funded by a $14.4 million federal grant. Work should be finished by fall 2015.

It is part of a plan to combine several rail lines into a single route along 10th Street and improve Amtrak passenger service without adding to congestion.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that Durbin noted there were strong disagreements over details and "it wasn't easy to get to this point."


Man charged in attack on Chicago teen gang recruit

CHICAGO (AP) - A third person has been charged in connection with a brutal attack on a 15-year-old Chicago boy who refused to join a gang.

Police on Thursday announced that Marco Garcia-Bojorquez has been charged with attempted first-degree murder in the March attack in the city's Little Village neighborhood.

The teen victim was struck in the face, stabbed, robbed of his belongings and thrown in a garbage bin, but survived.

The 27-year-old Garcia-Bojorquez was scheduled to appear in bond court Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether he already had an attorney.


Illinois student dies after basketball practice

O'FALLON, Ill. (AP) - A student at a southwest Illinois junior high school has died after suffering a medical emergency during a basketball practice.

The eighth grader at Fulton Jr. High School went to the bathroom during training Wednesday for his basketball club and didn't come back.

District 90 Superintendent Douglas Wood tells the Belleville News-Democrat that the student was found there later in distress and was taken to a hospital. There were no details on what illness or medical condition the boy was suffering.

St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone says an autopsy would be performed Thursday.

The area has been under a heat advisory, but Wood said he did not think heat was an issue in the gym, which is air conditioned.

The student's name was not immediately released.


Sewer blast launches manhole covers; 1 injury

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Officials in a small town in southwestern Illinois town are trying to figure out what caused a sewer explosion that sent manhole covers flying so high they damaged power lines.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, one employee of a chemical plant near the site of the explosion in Sauget (SAW'-zhay) was injured by the blast just after 5:15 a.m. Thursday. The injuries weren't believed to be life-threatening.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Sauget has just 150 residents. The town sits just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Sauget Police Chief Patrick Delaney said the explosion happened when workers tried to turn the power to the sewer system on after it went down.

One power line was knocked down, forcing the closure of Illinois Route 3.

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

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