Roe v. Wade faces pressure on 30th birthday


The Supreme Court ruling allowing legal abortions turns 30 years this week, an anniversary heavily shadowed by speculation that a high court retirement could shift the balance of power in abortion politics.

For abortion rights supporters, the departure of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor would be most troublesome. For anti-abortion forces, the wild card could be the exit of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

The court is split 5-4 in favor of abortion rights. O’Connor is considered a cautious supporter and the swing vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case providing for legal abortions.

Should she retire, President Bush’s more conservative supporters will certainly press for him to pick a strong anti-abortion nominee.

“It’s in the greatest danger it’s ever been in,” Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said of the Roe decision. “You’re one vote away.”

Smeal cited what she called a White House track record of picking only presumed abortion foes for federal appeals courts slots and Bush’s campaign pledge to choose Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Both have voted to place restrictions on abortion.

Powell supports U.N.’s disarming of Iraq


Secretary of State Colin Powell, faced with stiff resistance and calls to go slow, bluntly told other nations yesterday that the United Nations “must not shrink” from its responsibility to disarm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

“We cannot be shocked into impotence because we’re afraid of the difficult choices ahead of us,” Powell told members of the U.N. Security Council.

Directly responding to qualms registered by several foreign ministers in two days of talks, and with only Britain explicitly standing alongside the United States, Powell spoke of war as a real option. In a speech at a U.N. conference on terrorism, and at a news conference, Powell urged reluctant nations to focus on Baghdad’s failure to disarm and to prepare to weigh the consequences by the end of the month when U.N. inspectors file a report on 60 days of searches in Iraq for illicit weapons.

“If Iraq is not disarming, the United Nations cannot turn away from its responsibilities,” Powell said.

He said the U.N. Security Council, which is due to consider the report Jan. 29, must come to grips with a regime that he said has acquired, developed and stocked weapons of mass destruction and trampled human rights at home.

Bush’s MLK speech focuses on inequality


President Bush, criticized for decisions on affirmative action and conservative federal judgeships, said yesterday “there’s still prejudice holding people back” from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dreams of equality.

The predominantly black congregation of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in suburban Washington welcomed Bush with a standing ovation as it celebrated in song and scripture the memory of King, who would have turned 74 last Wednesday.

“It is fitting that we honor Martin Luther King in a church, because, Gregory, I believe, like you, that the power of his words, the clarity of his vision, the courage of his leadership occurred because he put his faith in the Almighty,” Bush told Gregg Hunter, a teenager who had just read an essay on the slain civil rights leader.

Police arrest alleged terrorists after raid


British police with battering rams raided a mosque suspected of being a center of Islamic radicalism, arresting seven alleged terrorists early yesterday in a search linked to the recent discovery of the deadly poison ricin.

Officers stormed the Finsbury Park mosque at about 2 a.m. and searched two neighboring houses as helicopters circled overhead, shining bright lights on the buildings.

Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was not arrested, though Britain has ordered him to quit his pulpit for his inflammatory sermons and he is wanted in Yemen on terror charges.

Police, who have had al-Masri under surveillance for months, said the raid was linked to the Jan. 5 discovery of ricin in a London apartment.

Hollywood cartoonist Hirschfeld dies at 99


Al Hirschfeld, whose graceful, fluid caricatures captured the essence of performers from Charlie Chaplin to Jerry Seinfeld, died yesterday. He was 99.

Hirschfeld, who first had his drawings published in the 1920s and continued into the new century, died at his home, said his wife, Louise.

He claimed his creative process was somewhat of a mystery, even to himself.

“All I know is that when it works, I’m aware of it. But how it’s accomplished, I don’t know,” he once said.

“Through trial and error you eliminate and eliminate and get down to the pure line and how it communicates to the viewer,” he said. “The last drawing you do is the best one – it should be.”

His drawings usually contained hidden tributes to his daughter, Nina.

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