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Obama confirms Justice Souter resignation

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday confirmed David Souter will step down as a Supreme Court justice at the end of the court's current term.

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Obama interrupted the regular White House press briefing to say he had just talked by phone with Souter about his retirement decision.

"Throughout his two decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda," Obama said, adding that he had thanked Souter for his service.

Obama said he would seek to replace Souter with "somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity.

"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."

Obama said he hopes to have a new justice in place when the court convenes for its next term in October.

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Speculation on who will replace Souter has ranged from governors like Jennifer Granholm of Michigan or Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to federal judges like Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, who would be the first Hispanic on the court, or Diane Wood of the 7th Circuit, a former colleague of Obama's when he taught at the University of Chicago, The Washington Post reported.

One name on many speculative lists is Solicitor General Elena Kagan, who was confirmed in March.


WHO: 365 cases of H1N1 influenza confirmed

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said his administration is taking the swine flu outbreak seriously and preparing for the possibility of a long-term battle.

Influenza A H1N1 has spread to 13 countries with 365 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, the World Health Organization said Friday.

Mexico -- the epicenter of the outbreak -- leads the list with 156 cases and nine deaths, followed by the United States with 141 cases and one death -- that of Mexican child who traveled to Houston for treatment. WHO said 34 cases were confirmed in Canada, 13 in Spain, eight in the United Kingdom, two in Israel and three each in New Zealand and Germany. Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland each have one confirmed case.

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One case was confirmed Friday in Hong Kong, marking the flu's arrival in Asia. Hong Kong authorities said a 25-year-old traveler who arrived from Mexico Thursday after a stop in Shanghai was confirmed to have the H1N1 virus. The man is hospitalized and officials have quarantined all 200 guests at the Metropark Hotel in Hong Kong, where the traveler stayed Friday night, China's Xinhua news service reported.

Obama said he is pleased with efforts by U.S. officials to prepare for a possible pandemic.

"Even if it turns out that the H1N1 is relatively mild on the front end, it could come back in a more virulent form during the actual flu season," Obama told reporters Friday. "We've had discussions about the production of vaccines ... in anticipation of the flu season. And we've made sure that all our agencies here are coordinating, that they have appropriate action plans."

Continental Airlines is reducing the number of flights from the United States to Mexico and several cruise lines are diverting ships to other ports. WHO, however, maintains travel restrictions are unlikely to be effective at preventing the spread of swine flu.

"Today, international travel moves rapidly, with large numbers of individuals visiting various parts of the world," the international organization said in a statement. "Limiting travel and imposing travel restrictions would have very little effect on stopping the virus from spreading, but would be highly disruptive to the global community."

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Mexican health officials say Mexico's first swine flu fatality waited too long to go to the doctor after she started showing symptoms. Adela Maria Gutierrez spent more than a week in bed before seeking medical attention, The New York Times reported.

"If we can treat a disease like this early, we can stay ahead," Dr. Marcelo Noguera, Mexico's undersecretary of health for the state of Oaxaca.

The World Bank said Mexico's public health budget is about 3 percent of its gross domestic product, well below the rate in developed countries.


Alleged killer's Jeep found

ATHENS, Ga., May 1 (UPI) -- Police searched a wooded area west of Athens, Ga., Friday after a Jeep belonging to a professor who allegedly killed his wife and two other people was found.

After combing about 1,100 acres of woods, investigators determined that George Zinkhan was not in the area, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The hunt, using night-vision equipment before daylight and helicopters and ground searchers later, was abandoned late in the day.

The Jeep was discovered late Thursday near Zinkhan's home in Bogart, Ga. FBI Special Agent in Charge Gregory Jones said a phone signal led investigators to the vehicle.

Zinkhan, a marketing professor at the University of Georgia, disappeared April 25 after his wife and two men were gunned down at a community theater picnic in Athens. He dropped his two young children at a neighbor's.

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Investigators said at a news conference the Jeep looked as if Zinkhan had put it in drive and sent it down an embankment into a ravine, where it could not be spotted from the road.

"You can draw a couple of conclusions from it," Athens-Clarke County Police Capt. Clarence Holeman said. "It's not far from his home. If you think back on it, when he dropped his kids off he could have gone right then and there and pushed it over the edge. Other than that, we don't know."


Yacht killer gets death sentence

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., May 1 (UPI) -- A third person convicted of killing two people by throwing the couple off their yacht and then plundering the pair's fortune has been sentenced to death.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 43, was sentence for his role in the deaths of Thomas and Jackie Hawks, who were tied to the anchor of their yacht and thrown overboard off the coast of Newport Beach, Calif.

Kennedy's accomplice, Skylar Deleon, was sentenced earlier for his role in the murders.

The newspaper reported Deleon was the mastermind behind the crime. His ex-wife, Jennifer Deleon, was found guilty in 2006 of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Another man on board the boat, Alonso Machain, cooperated with authorities and is awaiting trial.

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