- - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

JUSTICE

Holder aims to stem killings of police

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says a sharp increase in the number of deaths of law enforcement officers is tragic.

The attorney general met Tuesday with police chiefs at the Justice Department to ask what needs to be done to address the problem.

Mr. Holder is directing the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices across the country to work with state and local police departments on the issue.

A total of 162 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty last year, up from 117 in 2009. So far this year, 49 officers have lost their lives, a 20 percent rise from the same time last year.

COURT

Judges weigh Obama’s authority on Yucca

Federal appeals court judges are considering whether the Obama administration had the authority to stop plans to bury the nation’s nuclear waste in Nevada.

South Carolina and Washington state are among those suing the president and other federal officials to try to restart plans to ship their radioactive spent nuclear fuel to a repository 90 miles from Las Vegas at Yucca Mountain.

Congress chose Yucca Mountain as the leading candidate for waste disposal, but opponents expressed concerned about contamination. The Obama administration said it would not consider the site.

Arguments before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday focused on whether the federal government has made a final decision that the states can appeal.

UNITED NATIONS

White House backs U.N. gay rights push

The Obama administration is behind a new, nonbinding United Nations statement decrying discrimination against gays and lesbians around the world.

The U.S. declaration will be made Tuesday at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and has the support of more than 80 countries.

The issue of gay rights has polarized nations at the U.N. for years. And despite growing acceptance for homosexuality in Western nations and parts of Latin America, lawyers say there is still a gap in human rights treaties for the protection of gays against discrimination and mistreatment.

Mr. Obama has stepped up the case for gay rights in recent months, winning a congressional vote to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military and urging last weekend in a joint statement with the Brazilian president for the establishment of a special investigator to monitor respect for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals in the Western Hemisphere.

VICE PRESIDENT

Biden pushes for boost in college graduation

Vice President Joseph R. Biden says the way to improve college graduation rates is to make high schools more rigorous academically and colleges more accessible financially so young people seeking college degrees don’t end up with so much debt.

Mr. Biden spoke at a conference to encourage leaders in education, politics and other fields to take action to achieve the goal set by President Obama for the United States to once again lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Mr. Biden called that goal “a necessity.”

Mr. Biden called for the governor of every state to host a college completion summit. He also announced a grant competition to help colleges boost graduation rates.

FLORIDA

Mayor, businessman seek Rep. West’s seat

The 2012 congressional elections are 19 months away, but Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican, already has two Democratic challengers.

On Monday, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel announced that she will run for the seat Mr. West captured less than five months ago. She joins Patrick Murphy, a Fort Lauderdale businessman who announced his intention to seek the seat earlier this month.

Ms. Frankel, a longtime fixture in Palm Beach County politics who is stepping down as mayor at the end of the month because of term limits, is considered the much stronger challenger of the pair. She served 14 years in the Florida House before becoming mayor in 2003.

Ms. Frankel, in a statement announcing her candidacy, portrayed Mr. West as being too partisan and beholden only to his conservative constituents.

“My interest is in the people of South Florida. We need policies that create jobs, not cut them,” she said.

There also has been speculation that former Rep. Ron Klein, a Democrat whom Mr. West defeated in November by 8 percentage points, may join the race.

MARYLAND

Prisoners reallocated for redistricting

Maryland has finished counting prison inmates to comply with a new state law that changes how they are counted for legislative redistricting purposes.

The results were certified on Tuesday by state agencies.

Maryland last year became the first state in the nation to decide to count inmates as residents of where they last lived, instead of the areas where they’re imprisoned.

State legislative districts in Baltimore gained the most from the adjustment process. However, state officials say the increases were modest compared with the overall population of the five districts. The districts are still well below the ideal district size of 122,813.

The biggest losses were in areas with large state correctional institutions in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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