- The Washington Times - Monday, May 4, 2009

SUPREME COURT

Specter urges minority nominee

The next member of the U.S. Supreme Court should be a minority, Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday.

Justice David H. Souter plans to retire from the U.S. Supreme Court in June, creating a rare opening for President Obama to nominate someone to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and Sen. Richard C. Shelby, the committee’s ranking Republican, advised the president to pick a pragmatist to fill the seat.

But Mr. Specter said Sunday that the nine-member court needs more racial and gender balance.

“I’d be looking for someone with strong educational and professional background. I’d like to see more diversity,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I think another woman would be good. I think that ultimately maybe now we need an Hispanic. African-Americans are underrepresented.”

One woman and one black currently serve on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Specter also suggested that the next justice would not have to be a lawyer.

“Listen, the framers didn’t require a lawyer. They had that understanding,” he said.

NOMINATION

Napolitano dodges question on court

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was studiously evasive Sunday about whether she coveted an appointment to the Supreme Court, as Republicans and Democrats sparred over the next justice.

“I’ve got my hands full with the [swine] flu right now, and I’m going to stick with that [answer],” the former governor and attorney general of Arizona said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Ms. Napolitano’s name has been floated as a possible nominee for President Obama, after Justice David H. Souter announced Friday that he plans to retire in June.

Pressed on whether she would accept the job if asked by Mr. Obama, Ms. Napolitano said: “Listen, I think the president has many, many excellent choices before him and that’s his choice to make.”

CIVIL RIGHTS

Jackson seeks NAACP car action

DETROIT | The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has fought for a century to bring equal and civil rights to blacks, but the Rev. Jesse Jackson thinks the organization’s battle is with the troubled U.S. economy and struggling domestic auto industry.

“The struggle today is to re-industrialize our country,” Mr. Jackson told reporters Sunday before delivering the keynote address at the Detroit NAACP’s 54th Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Cobo Center. “And that’s where we’re free, but unemployed; free, but without health care.”

The civil rights activist and Operation PUSH founder said the employment picture in Detroit, among the cities hardest hit by withering economy, has shifted from “the Big Three to gambling casinos.”

Chrysler, the nation’s third-largest automaker behind General Motors and Ford, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday, after months of surviving on government loans. All three car companies have laid off thousands of workers and closed factories in the Detroit area and across the country.

Detroit has mirrored their failures. The city’s poverty and unemployment are among the highest in the country, as is its home foreclosure rate.

The city’s population is more than 80 percent black. Detroit’s black residential base began swelling decades ago as blacks from the South moved north to find jobs in manufacturing and in the auto industry, still the lifeblood of the city.

“We are now minorities with a majority responsibility to save the entire industry,” Mr. Jackson said.

DEFENSE

Nuclear-free world a ways off, Gates says

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Sunday lauded the sentiment behind President Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons, but said it would be “a long road to get there.”

“President Obama is the fourth president that I have worked for who has said publicly he would like to see an end to nuclear weapons and [have] a nuclear weapons-free world. I think that’s a laudable objective,” Mr. Gates said on CNN.

But Mr. Gates said any such move would be as the result of gradual and labored disarmament efforts.

“It’s a goal that you have to move toward step by step,” he said.

Mr. Obama made his call for a nuclear-free world last month in Strasbourg, France.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Report questions nuclear complex

RALEIGH, N.C. | An audit of a nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina said the Savannah River site did not meet several safety standards when constructing a facility.

The 31-page Department of Energy report released last month also found that one of the mistakes at the site near the South Carolina-Georgia border could have resulted in a spill of high-level radioactive waste.

The safety issues involved a facility being built to convert weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

Officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration, an Energy Department agency responsible for maintaining and securing the nation’s nuclear weapons, disputed the findings by the Energy Department’s inspector general.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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