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

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SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE-CHICAGO

Suspicious package closes part of Lake Shore Drive

CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago police have shut down a portion of Lake Shore Drive north of downtown after a suspicious package was discovered.

Officer Janel Sedevic in the department's news affairs office says that the northbound and southbound lanes between Wilson and Foster avenues were closed Wednesday afternoon. She says they have been closed as a precaution after a bag was found.

The department's bomb and arson squad are at the scene.

GAMBLING HEARING

Legislative hearing on Chicago casino underway

CHICAGO (AP) - Anti-gambling advocates say plans calling for more casinos in Illinois will incur social costs.

Chicago pastors and a Chicago task force opposing gambling say they're worried about problem gambling and crime.

They spoke Wednesday at a legislative hearing where business groups argued that a proposed Chicago casino would boost business and tourism. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and others say a downtown casino would complement tourist attractions.

State Rep. Bob Rita is a bill sponsor. The Blue Island Democrat is offering two options: A plan to add five casinos plus slots at racetracks or a plan to allow a state-owned Chicago casino.

The Illinois Gaming Board says the bills are improvements from previous versions, but has questions about a state-owned casinos and saturation.

METRA-PATRONAGE FILES

Metra files reveal years of political patronage

CHICAGO (AP) - Files documenting political patronage hiring at Chicago's Metra commuter rail agency reveal that some of Illinois' most well-known politicians were pushing job candidates.

The nearly 800 index cards list the names of candidates for jobs, promotions or raises and the powerful politicians weighing in on their behalf over a period from 1983 to 1991. Their existence was made public March 31 by a panel scrutinizing the agency. Its report only named House Speaker Michael Madigan.

But copies released Tuesday by Metra in response to Freedom of Information Act requests show other prominent Democrats and Republicans were named in the cards.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that they included Democrats such as late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and late Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. Former Gov. George Ryan was among Republicans.

US SENATE-ILLINOIS

Kirk will campaign for Oberweis in Senate race

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he'll now campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Oberweis, weeks after saying he wouldn't actively campaign for the dairy magnate.

Last month, Kirk said he'd support Oberweis, but wouldn't campaign with the state senator from Sugar Grove so he could protect his relationship with Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat.

But during a stop in Quincy on Tuesday, Kirk told the Illinois Radio Network he will campaign for Oberweis after all.

Kirk says he doesn't believe the decision will affect his "very good relationship" with Durbin, who's running for a fourth term.

Kirk and Durbin have worked together and have had a public friendship, particularly after Kirk suffered a stroke in 2012.

Durbin told IRN he wasn't aware of Kirk's turnaround.

IMMIGRATION-ARRESTS

ICE arrests 24 in Missouri, Illinois

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 24 men in Missouri and Illinois for what ICE officials call "egregious" immigration violations, including illegal immigrants who committed crimes in the U.S. and repeat immigration offenders.

The arrests, made in a five-day roundup last week, were announced Tuesday. Arrests occurred in the Missouri counties of St. Charles and New Madrid, and in the Illinois counties of Champaign, McLean, Effingham and Jackson.

ICE says 15 of those arrested were criminals with convictions that include sexual misconduct, felonious restraint and other charges. Others arrested were fugitives with outstanding deportation orders.

ICE says 14 of the suspects are from Mexico, nine from Guatemala and one from India. An immigration judge will determine whether suspect should be deported.

POLICE STRIP SEARCH-CHARGES

Illinois trooper charged for roadside strip search

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A southwestern Illinois state trooper is facing a felony aggravated battery charge after authorities say he strip-searched a man along the side of a road during a traffic stop.

The (Belleville) News-Democrat reports 32-year-old Cory Alberson was released on $20,000 bail on Monday after he pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Alberson pulled down a man's pants during a traffic stop in January in East St. Louis without the driver's consent. He was never charged.

ISP Director Hiram Grau says the agency is taking "this matter seriously and will not tolerate misconduct on any level."

An ISP spokeswoman says Alberson has been relieved of duty.

Alberson's lawyer says the Swansea man denies any wrongdoing and plans to fight the charge in court.

MARIJUANA ORDINANCE

Illinois village considers marijuana fines

BRADLEY, Ill. (AP) - A Kankakee County village is considering decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Daily Journal in Kankakee reports that village leaders in Bradley will vote on a proposed law later this month. The village board considered a draft of a new ordinance on Monday. It would allow police to fine people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana. The fines would range between $200 and $750. Community service also is a possible sentence.

Village attorney Jim Rowe says the ordinance gives police another tool "to ensure that those who violate the law have to face consequences for their actions."

DRUG TREATMENT-BUDGET CUTS

Addiction experts: Cuts could hurt drug treatment

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Addiction experts say thousands of Illinois residents could lose drug treatment services if a temporary tax increase expires later next year.

The Springfield bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reports the Illinois Department of Public Health's drug treatment programs could lose $20 million in funding if the income tax falls from 5 percent to 3.75 percent.

IDPH officials estimate that would cut services for almost 16,000 people.

Sara Howe is a spokeswoman for the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association.

She says the potential budget cuts come at a time when heroin use is increasing in Illinois.

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make the tax increase permanent before it expires on Jan. 1.

DRUG WAR-CHICAGO

4th Mexican cartel associate charged in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) - Federal court documents show that an associate of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was arrested in Las Vegas in January and brought to Chicago.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Edgar Manuel Valencia Ortega pleaded not guilty last week in a closed hearing before U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago. Prosecutors accused him of coordinating the delivery of large shipments of cocaine from Mexico to the U.S. He's also accused of collecting and laundering drug money.

Guzman is considered the world's most powerful drug lord. U.S. and Mexican authorities arrested him in February in a hotel in Mexico.

Valencia is the fourth co-defendant charged alongside Guzman in Chicago. Two others have pleaded guilty and a third is awaiting trial next month.

ILLINOIS COMPTROLLER-TOPINKA

Topinka reports $125,000 in Illinois income

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka reported $125,000 in income last year and paid about $20,000 in state and federal taxes.

The Republican candidate for re-election posted her income-tax return to her website Tuesday. It listed $45,000 in itemized deductions, including $12,000 in medical expenses, $9,000 in charitable cash contributions and $3,600 in other contributions.

In-kind contributions included $1,000 worth of war-related books, maps, correspondence and other papers to a Chicago military museum; and $750 worth of Czech books, books of Czech-English literature and Czech genealogy to the University of Chicago. A spokeswoman says Topinka collected the items over the years.

Topinka released her statements a day after her Democratic opponent for comptroller, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, reported she and her husband made $208,000 last year and paid $44,000 in taxes.

QUINCY-FATAL FIRE

House fire kills man, infant son in Quincy

QUINCY, Ill. (AP) - A man and his infant son have died after a fire that heavily damaged a home in western Illinois.

Investigators say Wednesday's early morning fire in Quincy was caused by an overloaded electrical junction box in the home's attic.

Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning says rescuers were able to pull the child's mother from a basement window. But the man and 4-month-old boy became trapped on the home's main floor, where the fire was most intense.

The boy was taken by ambulance to a hospital, and paramedics tried to resuscitate his father while waiting for a second ambulance. Both were pronounced dead at the hospital.

The woman was also taken to Blessing Hospital.

LAWYER KILLED-CHARGES

Inmate charged in Rockford lawyer's 2008 death

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) - Charges have been filed against the one-time client of a Rockford attorney shot dead while clearing snow from his driveway in 2008.

Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato announced Wednesday that a grand jury has indicted 53-year-old Richard Wanke Jr. on charges of first-degree murder in the death of 60-year-old Gregory Clark.

Wanke was arrested Wednesday at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill. He has been serving a 14-year sentence on burglary charges with a projected parole date of May 7.

Wanke had been considered a person of interest in the case. The Rockford Register Star reports that he has denied involvement in Clark's death.

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

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