Accused in probe, top aide resigns

WASHINGTON - The State Department's inspector general, who was accused of impeding a Justice Department investigation of Blackwater Worldwide, announced his resignation yesterday, citing a poisonous political atmosphere in Washington.

Howard Krongard told President Bush in a letter he would quit effective Jan. 15.

In November, Krongard was forced to recuse himself from any inquiries into Blackwater after it was disclosed that his brother, Alvin Krongard, had joined the advisory board of the company, which is a State Department contractor. Howard Krongard had initially maintained his brother had no ties to Blackwater. He was sharply criticized by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

- AP

Chicago settles torture cases

CHICAGO - The city has agreed to pay nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits filed by four former death row inmates who claimed they were tortured by Chicago police and wrongly convicted, Alderman Ed Smith said yesterday.

The four - Aaron Patterson, Leroy Orange, Stanley Howard and Madison Hobley - were part of a story that made international headlines in January 2003 when then-Gov. George Ryan pardoned them and commuted the sentences of every death row inmate in the state in a stinging rebuke of capital punishment.

The deal involving the actions of former Lt. Jon Burge and his officers means "the city has stepped up to try to amend what a bad police commander did to the general public," Smith said. Last year, two special prosecutors said nearly 200 black men were tortured by police interrogators in the '70s and '80s.

- AP

Lesbians can't divorce in R.I.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Two lesbians who married in Massachusetts cannot get divorced in their home state of Rhode Island, the state's Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The court, in a 3-2 decision, said the state's family court lacks the authority to grant the divorce because Rhode Island lawmakers have not defined marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman. Massachusetts, the only state where gay marriage is legal, restricts the unions to residents of states where the marriage would be recognized, and a Massachusetts judge decided last year that Rhode Island is one of those states.

Cassandra Ormiston and Margaret Chambers wed in Massachusetts in 2004 and filed for divorce last year in Rhode Island, where they both live. The women's lawyers have said that at least one would have to move to Massachusetts to get a divorce.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Rescue crews used

special cameras and audio equipment to hunt for a missing construction worker believed to be trapped under debris after a parking garage in Jacksonville, Fla., partially collapsed during construction.

A window washer

fell 47 stories to his death in New York when the scaffolding on a high-rise apartment building gave way, authorities said. Another worker, his brother, was taken to a hospital in serious condition, fire officials said.