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ILLINOIS: Dem convicted of tax evasion

An influential Chicago Democrat who famously compared himself to a virile hog was convicted by a jury Thursday of tax evasion for not declaring campaign cash he gambled away on slot machines as income. The tough-talking, rhetorically gifted William Beavers, 78, a Cook County commissioner, slumped in his courtroom chair after the verdict. But later, surrounded by TV cameras in the courthouse lobby, the former city alderman regained his swagger, smiling and sounding defiant. "I'm not backing down from nothing -- from him," he said about Judge James Zagel, whom he accused of treating him unfairly at trial. He said he would appeal the verdict: guilty on all four counts -- one for obstructing the IRS and three for filing false returns. Beavers lost $500,000 at Indiana's Horseshoe Casino, sometimes writing himself one $2,000 campaign check after another on daylong gambling binges, prosecutors said.

Chicago closing 54 schools

Tens of thousands of Chicago students, parents and teachers learned Thursday their schools were on a long-feared list of 54 the city plans to close to stabilize an educational system facing a huge budget shortfall. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the closings are necessary because too many buildings are half-empty, with 403,000 students in a system that can seat more than 500,000. Opponents say the closings will further erode troubled neighborhoods and endanger students who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to school. To be closed are overwhelmingly black elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods. Schools officials say money being spent to keep underutilized schools open could be better used to educate students elsewhere as the district deals with a $1 billion budget deficit. About 30,000 students will be affected, with half that number moving into new schools.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY: 21 detainees on hunger strike

A hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay prison has grown to 21 men, a U.S. military official said while denying reports of a more widespread protest and that lives are in danger. No prisoner faces any immediate health threat, though two have been admitted to the prison medical clinic because of dehydration, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a detention center spokesman.

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