Senate approves Alito to Supreme Court
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- By a vote of 58-42, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved President George Bush's nomination of conservative Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
Alito, 55, becomes the country's 110th justice voted onto the 9-member high court, replacing the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor. He watched the vote on television at the White House, and then headed to the court for swearing in. A White House swearing in ceremony also was scheduled for Wednesday.
Monday night, the Senate defeated in a 72-25 vote an attempt by Alito's Senate Democrat opponents to filibuster his nomination. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., made a passionate speech against proceeding, warning that Alito's presence in the court "is going to have echoes for years and years to come."
Alito was also scheduled to appear at Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night, and will first take his seat in the court Feb. 21.
Coretta Scott King dies at age 78
ATLANTA, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The wife of U.S. civil rights pioneer the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, died in her sleep Tuesday at the age of 78.
Her sister, Edythe Scott Bagley told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that King died at a holistic hospital in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, 16 miles south of San Diego.
Although she suffered a debilitating stroke and heart attack last August, she made a surprise appearance this month at the Salute to Greatness dinner held in her husband's honor in Atlanta by the King Center for Non-violent Social Change, which she founded in 1968.
Born in Heiberger, Ala., on April 27, 1927, King met her future husband in Boston, and they married in 1953. They moved to Montgomery, Ala., which was to become the hotbed of the U.S. civil rights movement, in which the couple became deeply involved. But on April 4, 1968, her husband was assassinated in Memphis.
Apart from creating and running the foundation, she also led the campaign to make Martin Luther King's Jan. 15 birthday a national holiday in the United States, which Congress supported, and the first national observance of the holiday took place in 1986.
She is survived by her four children.
Iraq reconstruction funding running out
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The $18.4 billion earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction is expected to run out this year with many of the projects, some critical, remaining to be completed.
In a report to Congress, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says more money will be needed as the current allocation will be exhausted by the end of the year, reports The Washington Post.
Bowen notes Iraq's water and electricity supply as well as oil output, the main items in the reconstruction program, are still below pre-war levels.
High-than-anticipated costs relating to security are blamed for the faster depletion of the reconstruction funds and U.S. officials are urging the need for the Iraqi government and foreign donors to bear more of the burden of rebuilding the nation.
There are no plans in the Bush administration's budget to ask for more funding, reports the Post.
France to mark day as 'stain of slavery'
PARIS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- French President Jacques Chirac has vowed to prosecute companies that knowingly use forced labor in any country, calling it a modern form of slavery.
Chirac gave the warning while announcing his country would remember the "indelible stain" of slavery on May 10, commemorating a 2001 French law designating slavery as a crime against humanity, reports the Financial Times.
"The grandeur of a country is to assume all its history. With its glorious pages but also its more shady parts," Chirac said. His remarks were meant to cool the racial tensions caused by last year's riots and end a bitter debate over French colonial history, the Times reported.
Chirac also proposed a European or international initiative to force companies to respect basic worker rights in poorer countries.
Recalling the outlawing of slavery in France in 1848, Chirac said: "The (French) Republic can be proud of the battles it has won against this ignominy."
Innocent pleas in 27 Canadian killings
NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A British Columbia pig farmer entered pleas of innocent to 27 counts of first-degree murder in the largest suspected serial killing case in Canadian history.
Robert Pickton, 56, appeared in court in New Westminster Monday to personally respond the each charge. However, there is a publication ban which is expected to last months as lawyers debate the admissibility of evidence, Sun Media reported.
Pickton was arrested in February 2002 by police investigating the disappearances of as many as 60 prostitutes from Vancouver's drug-infested east side from 1995 to 2001. Since, forensic crews unearthed hundreds of human remains scattered across his farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam.
Pickton and his legal team have not formally elected whether he will be tried by a jury or judge alone.
Outside the courthouse, demonstrators had a memorial service Monday for the missing women.