Nation & World Briefs 10-04-12 Ill. powerbroker to be sentenced in shakedown plot


CHICAGO -- The final case to stem from the corruption investigation into imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich comes to a close today, when a multimillionaire who once wielded enormous political influence in the state is expected to face a judge for sentencing.

William Cellini, 77, was convicted last year for his role in trying to get a $1.5 million campaign contribution for Blagojevich from the Oscar-winning producer of "Million Dollar Baby" in exchange for state business. The Springfield businessman was once known to political insiders as the King of Clout for his behind-the-scenes influence in state government.

Federal prosecutors want a 61⁄2- to eight-year prison sentence, while defense attorneys have asked for probation.

The judge who will hand down the sentence is Judge James Zagel, who also sentenced Blagojevich last year to 14 years in prison. The Chicago Democrat was convicted of corruption charges that included seeking to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

Cellini's trial was the last to stem from the decade-long investigation into Blagojevich.

His sentencing has been delayed because of his health, which defense attorneys say is failing and should be factored into the sentence. Cellini suffered a heart attack in June while undergoing a medical procedure.

Finds salmonella, unclean conditions: A federal inspector found two strains of salmonella and unclean conditions at an Indiana cantaloupe farm's fruit-packing plant during inspections prompted by a deadly outbreak linked to the farm's melons. The Food and Drug Administration's report on the mid-August inspections at Chamberlain Farm Produce Inc. shows an inspector found improperly cleaned and apparently rusted and corroded equipment. The inspector also found what appeared to be algae growing in standing water beneath conveyer belts at the Owensville, Ind., plant, the report said. Two strains of salmonella were found on cantaloupes in the farm's fields and on surfaces throughout the packing building located about 20 miles north of Evansville in southwest Indiana, according to the report, which was posted Tuesday night on the FDA's website.

Approves lottery outsourcing deal: Indiana's lottery commission voted Wednesday to hire a private company to run the lottery's marketing, sales and distribution services in the hopes that it will boost the game's profits by about $100 million a year. The commission voted 3-0, with two members absent, to approve a 15-year contract with Rhode Island-based GTECH that is expected to make $1.7 billion in profit over five years -- a $500 million increase over state projections. GTECH already provides and maintains vending machines for the Hoosier Lottery. In exchange for running the lottery's marketing and other services, GTECH will be paid a management fee that hasn't yet been determined as well as a share of the lottery profits. The state received $188 million in lottery proceeds last year.

Will charge to 'promote' user posts: Facebook has long declared that it's "free and always will be." And it still is -- unless you want more friends to see what you have to say. The social media giant is rolling out a feature in the U.S. that lets users pay to promote their posts to friends, just as advertisers do. Facebook has been testing the service in New Zealand, where it tries out a lot of new features, and has gradually introduced it in more than 20 other countries. Facebook said Wednesday that promoting a post -- such as announcing a garage sale, charity drive or big news like an engagement -- will bump it higher in your friends' news feeds. Facebook didn't say how much it will cost to promote the posts, only that it's considering a range of prices as part of the test. On Wednesday, though, some users could have seen $7 as the price for each update that they wanted to promote.

Resumes artillery strikes: Turkey fired on Syrian targets for a second day today but said it has no intention of declaring war, despite tensions after deadly shelling from Syria killed five civilians in a Turkish border town. Turkey's Parliament, meanwhile, began an emergency session to discuss a bill authorizing the military to launch cross border operations in Syria. If approved, the bill could more easily open the way to unilateral action by Turkey's armed forces inside Syria, without the involvement of its Western and Arab allies. The cross-border tensions escalated on Wednesday.

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