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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    CNN - Sources: High court selection process down to finalists

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    Sources: High court selection process down to finalists

    The search for a Supreme Court nominee has been trimmed to about half a dozen candidates by top White House officials, and an announcement may come by month's end, two sources close to the selection process tell CNN.

    Among the finalists are federal appeals court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood, and Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak by the White House.

    Women make up all but one of the top candidates currently being given serious scrutiny, the sources said.

    Also on the list, a source said, was California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. The 60-year-old Los Angeles, California, native was not among the early favorites mentioned by legal analysts and the media. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs previously hinted some of the names under consideration were under the political radar.

    Moreno was a federal trial judge before his 2001 appointment to California's top court.

    A new round of vetting the finalists' records is under way by a small group of top staff led by the White House counsel's office, the sources said. Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod are also extensively involved.

    Sources say some administration officials are pushing for an announcement before the Memorial Day weekend, when Congress goes on recess for a week. A bipartisan group of senators including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, all met in private with President Obama Wednesday about the upcoming vacancy.

    "My impression was [Obama] doesn't want to let it take too long," Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told reporters after the meeting.

    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the committee, which will hold confirmation hearings, refused to offer a timetable for consideration of the nominee. He said it will depend on how soon a choice is named.

    McConnell said he is optimistic that a confirmation vote can happen quickly.

    "Unless the president sends up a very controversial nominee, the vote should occur well in advance of the first Monday in October, which is when the court reconvenes," McConnell said.

    Both McConnell and Sessions said they hope Obama will not name what they call a "judicial activist" as his nominee.

    "I didn't recommend anyone, but I do believe that someone who is not a judicial activist would be best for the country. Someone who does take the law as written seriously. Someone who does not confuse the role with that of a legislator, and hopefully the president will name someone along those lines," McConnell said.

    Sessions added, "We are hopeful that a nominee will come forth that is a unifying nominee that we can all support."

    Asked if Senate Republicans would consider using a filibuster, McConnell said, "We'll take a look at the nominee and respond appropriately."

    A filibuster is a tactic of the minority party in the chamber that can stall or kill a bill or a nomination before the whole Senate. Sixty votes are needed to end a filibuster.

    White House press secretary Gibbs said the president is hopeful hearings and a vote by the full Senate will be completed before the monthlong August recess. Leahy said he expected the next justice to be ready when the high court returns to work in late September.

    Several names on the short list have no judicial experience, sources said. Those include Kagan, Napolitano and Granholm, the sources said.

    They said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, also was receiving serious consideration in recent weeks.

    Leading candidates from the federal bench that have been vetted are appeals court judges Merrick Garland in the District of Columbia, Ann Claire Williams in Illinois, and Kim Wardlaw in California.

    Sources say the list of finalists may expand depending on face-to-face meetings Obama has with the current top-tier candidates. The White House has given no public indication whether those personal meetings have concluded.

    The nominee would replace Justice David Souter, who announced he will step down after 19 years on the bench when the high court term recesses for the summer in late June.

    Three of the finalists have been mentioned for months as leading contenders for any vacant Supreme Court seat, long before Obama took office. Here is a detailed look at those three:

    Sotomayor -- The 54-year-old judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would be the first Hispanic justice. She was named a district judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and was elevated to her current seat by President Bill Clinton. Supporters say that appointment history, along with what they call her moderate-liberal views, would give her some bipartisan backing in the Senate. But she has suffered through recent stinging criticism in the media and blogs from both the left and right over perceived -- some defenders say invented -- concerns about her temperament and intellect. Some Hispanic groups expressed concern after a skit last week on "The Late Show with David Letterman" compared Sotomayor with a noisy Spanish-speaking judge on a popular TV courtroom show that settles petty legal disputes.

    Kagan -- As the administration's top lawyer when arguing before the Supreme Court, her recent confirmation hearing was a breeze, with leading conservative lawyers voicing their support. She has been touted for consensus-building skills she showed as the recent leader of Harvard Law School. At age 49, she has no judicial experience, which some insiders say can be viewed as either a political asset or liability. Sources say Kagan's profile has risen somewhat among White House officials looking at the pros and cons she would bring. Some conservative legal activists privately believe she would be more "reasonable" in her views on executive power than other contenders.

    Wood -- Considered one of the sharpest minds on the Chicago, Illinois-based appeals court, she also teaches part time at the University of Chicago, where she met former fellow instructor Obama. They have remained casual, but not close, friends since then. At 59, she is among the oldest candidates being given serious scrutiny for the high court.

    Sources say the age of the nominee will be a key selection criteria, since justices have lifetime appointments and the longer they serve the greater the potential legacy for the president. "It isn't the main criteria, but certainly the president is looking for a justice who will be an intellectual force on the court for many years to come," said one source close to the selection process.

    Sources say Obama told colleagues privately he has great respect for the records of federal appeals judges such as David Tatel, Diana Motz, Jose Cabranes, and Amalya Kearse, as well as constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, but is aware all are at least 65. President George W. Bush's two successful 2005 choices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Samuel Alito -- are still in their 50s.

    Reuters - Cell phones, TVs undo efficiency gains: study

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    Cell phones, TVs undo efficiency gains: study

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 7:8PM UTC

    By Gerard Wynn

    LONDON (Reuters) - Demand for energy-thirsty gadgets such as cell phones, iPods, PCs and plasma TVs is undoing efficiency gains elsewhere, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

    The Paris-based energy adviser to 28 developed countries urged governments in a report to keep pace with the invention of new consumer devices when crafting efficiency standards, and implored people to make thriftier choices.

    The IEA warned that otherwise energy used by household electronic devices could triple by 2030.

    Energy consumption is associated with carbon emissions because most electricity is generated from burning high-carbon fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

    But the world doesn't have to curb an insatiable appetite for ever more clever, exciting or fashionable gadgets, provided people chose the most efficient versions available, said IEA analyst Paul Waide.

    "There is a way of having our cake and eating it at the same time by being much more proactive on efficiency," he said.

    "We can hold total consumption at today's levels by using best available technologies, despite a dramatic growth in use."

    He said that governments have generally been a bit more reluctant to introduce policies for these types of products because they've been changing so much.

    "They need to be less hung up on what they call the product and focus on functions," he added referring to categories such as surfing the internet.

    Technologies were already available to improve efficiency by at least 40 percent across most appliances, the report found, but uptake depends on choices by fickle consumers.

    "The extent of savings is large; however the energy and financial savings on individual residential appliances often appear insignificant to consumers," the report said.

    Green activists have dubbed 2009 as the year of climate change because of a deadline to agree in December a U.N.-led global climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

    But rising home energy use underlines how dramatic action on climate change would need action by individuals as well as governments. The report underlined the difficulty of cutting greenhouse gases as people's lifestyles became increasingly affluent.

    Residential electricity consumption has been growing in all regions of the world at an average of 3.4 percent a year since 1990, the report said.

    In many rich countries electricity use by appliances which had previously accounted for most usage, white goods such as refrigerators and clothes washers, was now falling.

    But growth in use of electronic devices such as iPods, video games, televisions, personal computers, modems, mobile phones and printers more than offset those falls.

    For example, U.S. electricity consumption by television sets has more than trebled in the past 10 years, and personal computers (PCs) showed sharp rises. Power use for heating and refrigeration fell.

    The study estimated that the number of people using a PC would pass one billion this year. Already there were nearly 2 billion television sets in use and over half the global population subscribe to a mobile telephone service.

    Reuters - Craigslist to drop "erotic services" ads

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    Craigslist to drop "erotic services" ads

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 6:0PM UTC

    By Jason Szep

    BOSTON (Reuters) - Online classified site Craigslist will replace its "erotic services" ads with a new adult category following pressure by state authorities after the murder of a masseuse who advertised on the site.

    The "erotic services" section will end within seven days and be replaced by an "adult services" category where advertisements will be individually screened by Craigslist staff, Craigslist said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The measures could set a precedent for similar sites, said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who led a 40-state task-force on Craigslist and campaigned publicly for tighter controls on the San Francisco-based service.

    "Closing the erotic services section, a blatant Internet brothel, should lead to other blocking and screening measures, and set a model for other sites, if Craigslist keeps its word," he said.

    Craigslist's sex-service listings have faced intense scrutiny since the April 14 murder of 25-year-old masseuse Julissa Brisman, who advertised on Craigslist in Boston.

    Philip Markoff, a 23-year-old Boston University medical student, was charged with killing Brisman and with attacks on two other women who he met through Craigslist ads.

    Craigslist, a 14-year-old online bazaar that generates more than 20 billion page views per month in 50 countries with a staff of just 28 people, is partially owned by online auctioneer eBay, which bought 25 percent in 2004.

    Along with free listings for everything from apartments and furniture to jobs and cars, carries one of the largest and most controversial sex-service listings. Its rapid growth and low-cost business model have hurt newspapers by siphoning away advertising revenue.

    Postings to the "erotic services" section will no longer be accepted, Craigslist said. Postings to the new section, which opened on Wednesday, cost $10. Once they are approved, they will be eligible for reposting at $5, the website added.

    In April, Blumenthal asked Craigslist officials to eliminate photographs in the "erotic services" and similar sections of the site, hire staff to screen ads that violate Craigslist rules and offer incentives for people who flag and report prostitution advertisements.

    "We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from erotic to adult and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography," Blumenthal said.

    Tabloids dubbed Markoff "the Craigslist killer."

    The murder followed the killing of George Weber, a New York reporter knifed to death after responding to a personal ad he placed on Craigslist in March, and the early-April sentencing of Michael Anderson, a Minnesota man convicted of killing a woman who responded to a babysitting ad.

    (Editing by Helen Popper)

    Reuters - GM, Chrysler to cut up to 3,000 dealers: sources

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    GM, Chrysler to cut up to 3,000 dealers: sources

    Wednesday, May 13, 2009 7:4PM UTC

    DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp and Chrysler aim to drop as many as 3,000 U.S. dealers and are expected to begin sending notifications as early as Thursday, three people briefed on the still developing plans said.

    GM, facing a U.S. government-imposed deadline of June 1 to restructure or file for bankruptcy, is expected to send termination notices to up to 2,000 dealers -- a third of its roughly 6,000 U.S. dealers, the sources told Reuters.

    Chrysler, which filed for bankruptcy on April 30, will also tell up to 1,000 of its 3,189 U.S. dealers that it is terminating their franchise agreements, according to the sources who asked not to be identified because the controversial closure plans have not been yet announced.

    The moves to shut down auto dealerships underscores how the economic pain caused by the downward spiral of both automakers -- now operating under U.S. government oversight -- is spreading beyond their home base in Detroit.

    Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham said the automaker had not announced its dealership closure plans.

    "We have not announced anything at this point," she said. "We are not done with our process at this point."

    A GM spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

    (Reporting by Soyoung Kim and John Crawley in Washington; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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