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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Morning News and Views, Part II

This year's presidential and Congressional election has far greater stakes than the media reports, or most people think. It will impact the courts for decades to come. A second term for President Barack Obama would allow him to expand his replacement of Republican-appointedmajorities with Democratic ones on the nation's appeals courts, the final stop for almost all challenged federal court rulings. Despite his slow start in nominating judges and Republican delays in Senate confirmations, Obama has altered the balance of power on four of the nation's 13 circuit courts of appeals. Given a second term, Obama could have the chance to install Democratic majorities on several others. The next president, whether it's Obama or a Republican, also has a reasonable shot at transforming the majority on the Supreme Court, because three justices representing the closely divided court's liberal and conservative wings, as well as its center, will turn 80 before the next presidential term ends.

Do not belive media hype that the Republican nomination belongs to Romney. Mitt Romney has won at least 10 delegates after a strong first-place finish in Nevada's caucuses. With votes from 71 percent of the precincts counted, Romney has 48 percent, while Newt Gingrich has 23 percent, Ron Paul has 19 percent and Rick Santorum 11. That gives Gingrich at least four delegates, Paul three and Santorum two. Eight are still to be determined. More than 1,100 delegates are needed to win the Republican nomination. Romney has collected 97 so far.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for "friends of democratic Syria" to unite and rally against President Bashar Assad's regime.Speaking Sunday in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the day after Russia and China blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria, Clinton said the international community had a duty to halt ongoing bloodshed and promote a political transition that would see Assad step down.

Previewing the possible formation of a group to coordinate assistance to the Syrian opposition, she said the "friends of Syria" could work together to promote those goals. Such a group could be similar, but not identical, to the Contact Group on Libya, which oversaw international help for opponents of the late deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The commander of a force of rebel Syrian soldiers says they have no choice now but to fight to free the country of President Bashar Assad's regime after Russia and China vetoed a U.N. resolution aimed at resolving the crisis. The commander of the Free Syrian Army says that the veto was a "strike against the Syrian people."

Egyptian officials say 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, have been referred to trial before a criminal court for allegedly being involved in banned activity and illegally receiving foreign funds. The decision on Sunday by investigating judges is likely to further sour relations between Egypt's military rulers and the United States, the Arab nation's chief western backer for more than 30 years. Beside the 19 Americans, there are also five Serbs, two Germans and three non-Egyptian Arab nationals among the 43.  The Americans include Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of  U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A date has yet to be set for the start of the trial.

Queen Elizabeth marks 60 years on the throne tomorrow. Today, bundled in a brown coat and matching fur hat, the queen braved cold and snow to attend church on the eve of her Diamond Jubilee anniversary. Elizabeth ascended to the throne when her father, George VI, died on Feb. 6, 1952. She is the longest-serving monarch after Queen Victoria, who reigned for more than 63 years.

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