Burris caught in limbo between Senate, court



CHICAGO: Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said yesterday that Roland Burris should not be seated in the U.S. Senate because he has failed to get the Illinois secretary of state's signature on his appointment to replace President-elect Barack Obama. "There has never in the history of the Senate been a waiver of the requirement that the secretary of state's signature be part of the appointment process - never," Durbin, a Democrat, said hours after Illinois' top court ruled that no law requires Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the appointment, made by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. White has refused to sign because federal corruption charges against Blagojevich include allegations that he tried to sell or trade the seat for favors. Burris' lawyers vowed to file suit in federal court Monday unless top Senate Democrats reverse their rejection of Blagojevich's choice.

Illinois House votes to impeach Blagojevich



SPRINGFIELD, Ill. : In a historic display of anger and frustration, the Illinois House voted yesterday to impeach disgraced Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and send him to trial in the Senate with the aim of removing the state's 40th chief executive from public office. The governor's Dec. 9 arrest on corruption charges was the trigger, but lawmakers unloaded six years' worth of grievances in a swift and overwhelming 114-1 vote that made the two-term Democrat the first governor to be impeached in the state's 190-year history. Representatives said there was no place in government for a man who ran roughshod over the legislature, wasted millions of dollars in state money and sought to sell everything from state contracts to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. His trial is expected to start Jan. 26.

House moves two bills on worker inequality


WASHINGTON : House Democrats marked the first week of the new Congress yesterday by pushing through two bills to help workers, particularly women, who are victims of pay discrimination. The Lilly Ledbetter Act would reverse a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that a worker must file claims of wage discrimination within 180 days of the first decision to pay that worker less, even if the person was unaware of the pay disparity. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes that have let employers evade the 1963 law requiring equal pay for equal work. The Ledbetter bill could reach the Senate floor next week. Republican opponents of the bills argued that they would foster lawsuits against businesses and benefit trial lawyers.

Europe shivers; Russia, Ukraine bicker over gas


KIEV, Ukraine : Russian and Ukrainian officials bickered into the night yesterday over a deal on resuming Russian natural gas supplies, squelching hope for an end to a dispute that has left parts of Europe in the cold and dark. European Union representatives started work in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, to monitor the flow of gas, offering an independent assessment that was critical to sealing a bargain. But Russia said it would restart pumping gas to Europe via Ukraine only after a written deal is signed. Russia wants monitors in place to prevent what it described as Ukraine's theft of supplies meant for Europe - a charge that Kiev hotly denies.


High court to review law on minority poll access


WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to consider overturning a key feature of the federal law that ensures access to the polls by minorities. The justices said they will review a lower court ruling upholding a provision of the Voting Rights Act that requires all or parts of 16 states with a history of racial discrimination, most in the South, to get approval before implementing any changes in the way elections are held. In 2006, Congress voted to extend the measure for 25 years. The 1965 law was designed to prevent governments from making it harder for minorities to vote. The high court has upheld earlier extensions of the provision that calls for either the U.S. attorney general or a court to sign off on changes in the conduct of elections.

Five injured in shooting at Chicago high school


CHICAGO: Authorities said five people were sent to hospitals after a shooting yesterday at a high school on the city's South Side. Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman Eve Rodriguez said that three people were in serious condition and two were in critical condition. She said the five male victims had been in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. The Chicago Tribune reported that the victims had been shot. Police had no comment.