- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009

COURTS

Obama names 2 judicial choices

President Obama plans to nominate a federal judge from Maryland and another from New York to serve on U.S. appeals courts, changing the political balance of both courts, officials said Thursday.

The Maryland judge, Andre Davis, would serve on the Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals if confirmed by the Senate. His confirmation would give the circuit six Democrat-appointed and six Republican-named judges, leaving three vacancies. The court has handled cases involving terrorism defendants or detainees.

Gerard Lynch would fill the only vacancy on the New York-centered 2nd Circuit, giving the court seven Democratic and six Republican judges. The court often presides over Wall Street-related financial cases.

“Judges Lynch and Davis are two jurists with exceptional records of integrity and fairness,” Mr. Obama said. “They will be voices of reason and evenhandedness on the Second and Fourth circuits.”

STIMULUS

Some veterans to receive $250

The Veterans Affairs Department says it will issue a one-time payment of $250 to qualifying veterans as part of its stimulus spending.

The VA announced Thursday it will spend more than $1.4 billion in stimulus money as part of President Obama’s economic recovery plan. Funding will also go to hire and train 1,500 temporary claims processors to help reduce a six-month backlog in disability claims.

The $250 payments will be issued as early as June. To be eligible, a veteran must have received a qualifying compensation between November 2008 and January.

CLOSINGS

Postal Service to lay off 1,490

CHARLESTON, W.Va. | The U.S. Postal Service says it’s closing three mail-processing centers and eliminating about 1,490 jobs in West Virginia, Indiana and Arizona.

Spokeswoman Freda Sauter said Thursday the closings aren’t directly related to the service’s financial woes. They are among five of 55 centers opened in 1990 to handle mail that couldn’t be read by optical scanners.

The spokeswoman said better scanners now read 95 percent of handwritten addresses. The centers are in Charleston; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Glendale, Ariz.

Centers in Wichita, Kan., and Salt Lake City will remain open.

The Postal Service expects the cuts to save approximately $4.9 million. The agency is in the midst of broad cost-cutting efforts after losing $2.8 billion last year.

SENATE

GOP seeks Begich’s resignation

ANCHORAGE, Alaska | The Alaska Republican Party is calling for the resignation of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich after the Justice Department dropped charges against the incumbent he defeated last fall, Ted Stevens.

Party officials say Mr. Begich, a Democrat, should resign to allow for a special election so Alaskans can vote for a senator without the improper influence of the “corrupt” Justice Department.

Mr. Stevens was the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history but lost in November by nearly 4,000 votes to Mr. Begich.

The state Republican Party says the only reason Mr. Begich won is because a few thousand Alaskans thought that Mr. Stevens was guilty of seven felonies. Mr. Stevens was charged with failing to disclose gifts and home renovations.

TRANSPORTATION

Flight deaths rise in one category

There was a spike last year in deaths from crashes of air medical, air taxi and tour flights, federal safety officials said Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said there were 56 so-called on-demand flight accidents in which 66 people were killed in 2008. That’s the highest number of fatalities for such flights in eight years and an increase of 13 deaths over 2007. The on-demand accident rate was 1.52 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, virtually unchanged from the previous year.

The board held a public hearing earlier this year examining the safety practices of the air medical helicopter industry. Fifteen people were killed in four medical helicopter crashes in 2008.

Major U.S. airlines, however, suffered no accident fatalities in 2008 for the second consecutive year despite carrying 753 million passengers on more than 10.8 million flights, the NTSB said. Major airlines experienced 28 accidents last year, the same as 2007.

Commuter airlines, which typically fly smaller turboprop planes, also didn’t have any accident fatalities despite making 581,000 flights last year, the board said. However, there were seven commuter airline accidents in 2008, up three from the previous year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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