Sotomayor court reversed in key race case
WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower-court ruling Monday in a key civil rights case in which high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sat on the lower court.
The high court voted 5-4 along its ideological divide that federal civil rights law can be used to ban discrimination against whites. The case was brought by 20 white firefighters in New Haven, Conn. -- including one white Hispanic -- whose passing scores on a promotion test were thrown out because no blacks had scores high enough to be promoted.
The 2003 exam was designed to select 15 candidates for captain and lieutenant. When no blacks and only one Hispanic scored a passing grade, the city decided not to use the results for promotions, saying it did not want exposure to suits from blacks and Hispanics.
The white firefighters filed suit, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of race or sex. A federal judge and a federal appeals court ruled for the city. The U.S. Supreme Court said fear of litigation was not enough for the city to throw out the results of the test.
Sotomayor twice ruled for New Haven and against the white firefighters as a member of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Conservative critics of her nomination say they have been reviewing her role in the case as she approaches the nomination process in the U.S. Senate.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday he didn't think the ruling would have a negative affect on Sotomayor's chances of winning Senate confirmation.
"I don't foresee that this would represent anything that would prevent her from a seat on the Supreme Court," he said.
Gibbs said the Supreme Court's decision to hear an important First Amendment case Sept. 9 "underscores the importance of ensuring that we get a new Supreme Court nominee there in order to become -- in order to be an active participant in that case, rather than potentially have something that's a 4-to-4 decision."
He said Monday's ruling overturning the lower court shows Sotomayor "follows judicial precedent and that she doesn't legislate from the bench."
"It is a little interesting to watch today the people that criticize her -- in essence, I think you've seen a new interpretation of a piece of legislation by a court, and her critics are criticizing her ruling based on judicial precedent and in support of something where a court has interpreted in a new way the law," Gibbs said. "It's interesting to watch the gymnastics."
Council certifies Ahmadinejad's election
TEHRAN, June 29 (UPI) -- Iran's Guardian Council validated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election after conducting a recount of 10 percent of the votes Monday.
The sample was recounted before state television cameras to make the process seem transparent, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Guardian Council, which oversees Iran's elections, was supposed to certify presidential election results last week, but extended the deadline to allow election fraud claims to be filed. Ahmadinejad was declared the landslide winner June 12 over his nearest challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
The council's decision was announced hours after the panel said it would again extend the deadline for considering complaints of vote rigging.
"The outcome of today's meeting with the representative of Mr. Mousavi, as one of the protesting candidates, was not positive," council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodai said on state television.
On his Facebook page, Mousavi said he wasn't under house arrest.
"He is not about to leave the country," the posting said. "He is under strong pressure to end this. But he always said he will stand for the people's will, to the end. He is from and with the people."
Another presidential contender, Mehdi Karroubi, has called for a nullification of the vote, while a third candidate, Mohsen Rezai, declined to take part in the vote recount.
Asked about the council's actions, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the country's leaders have a "huge credibility gap" with their citizens.
"I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots," she said.
Clinton said the international community would have to see how events unfolded, reiterating the administration's position of supporting "the fundamental values of the people's voices being heard (and) their votes being counted."
Protesters denounce coup in Honduras
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, June 29 (UPI) -- Hundreds of demonstrators converged outside the presidential residence in Honduras Monday to protest President Manuel Zelaya's removal in a military coup.
Police reportedly used tear gas to quell the protesters calling for the return of the deposed president, El Heraldo newspaper reported online.
Meanwhile, the new head of the country, provisional President Roberto Micheletti swore in a new Cabinet Monday.
Military troops arrested Zelaya Sunday before a proposed referendum on presidential term limits. Zelaya wanted to seek a second term next year. By law, the Honduran leader, elected in 2005, is limited to one term in office.
President Barack Obama, during a media availability with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Monday, said the United States has joined other countries in the region in expressed concern about the coup.
"President Zelaya was democratically elected," Obama said. "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday during the department's daily briefing the Organization of American States will meet Wednesday to address the issue.
"Our immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country," she said. "As we move forward, all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday's events in a way that enhances democracy and the rule of law in Honduras."
She said the United States would work with the OAS and others to open communication channels, restore democratic order, address the problems of polarizing Honduran politics "and ensure that Honduras moves successfully towards its scheduled presidential elections in November of this year."
Obama orders Colombia trade groundwork
WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday he has directed top administration officials to work on "how we can proceed on a free-trade agreement" with Colombia.
Following a White House meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Obama told reporters the two leaders discussed security, drug trafficking, the Colombian economy and political stabilization in Colombia. Obama said he and Uribe discussed "most prominently … moving forward on a free-trade agreement."
"I have instructed Ambassador (Ron) Kirk, our U.S. trade representative, to begin working closely with President Uribe's team on how we can proceed on a free-trade agreement," Obama said. "There are obvious difficulties involved in the process and there remains work to do, but I'm confident that ultimately we can strike a deal that is good for the people of Colombia and good for the people of the United States."
Obama commended Uribe on what he called progress toward human rights in Colombia, including his handling of the killings of labor leaders. He said there have been "improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses."
"Along those same lines, we obviously think that the steps that have already been made on issues like extrajudicial killings and illegal surveillance, that it is important that Colombia pursue a path of rule of law and transparency, and I know that that is something that President Uribe is committed to doing," Obama said.