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Showdown looms on filibuster tactic

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Falwell (The Spokesman-Review)

Washington Democrats and Republicans are preparing to escalate a conflict each side describes as the “nuclear option” – changing the rules for confirming federal judges.

The countdown will begin today when members of Congress return from a two-week spring break. At issue is whether Senate procedures will be altered so Democrats no longer can use the most effective parliamentary weapon in their arsenal – the filibuster – to block votes on controversial nominees to the federal bench.

Cooler heads on both sides warn of the potential fallout: partisan warfare on a scale not seen since the government shut down in the mid-1990s.

Democrats say removing the filibuster to block judicial nominations would change the character of the Senate as designed by the Founding Fathers. Republicans say fault for the conflict lies with Democrats for using the filibuster on 10 nominees President Bush named to the federal bench his first term.

Rev. Jerry Falwell now in fair condition

Lynchburg, Va. Doctors have concluded the Rev. Jerry Falwell does not suffer from congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease, Falwell’s son said Sunday.

Jonathan Falwell said doctors made the determi- nation Friday after conducting tests on his father.

The elder Falwell was listed in fair condition Friday and was able to exercise for the first time by walking the halls of Lynchburg General Hospital.

The 71-year-old founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University had stopped breathing when he entered the hospital March 28 and had to be resuscitated.

New Jersey flooding prompts evacuations

Wayne, N.J. Heavy rains drenched parts of New Jersey over the weekend, flooding low-lying areas and causing thousands of people to evacuate homes threatened by the rising water.

The heavy rains began Saturday and persisted until midday Sunday, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency. Authorities urged hundreds of residents in six counties to leave low-lying areas.

In Trenton, gas and electric service was shut off while displaced residents were offered space at a high school shelter.

In northern New Jersey, flooding was expected in seven rivers. They had crested by early Sunday. Most were expected to reach at least 2 feet above flood levels before receding today.

Minuteman volunteers make border sightings

Phoenix Volunteers for an effort to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border have reported their first sighting of suspected illegal immigrants, resulting in 18 arrests, authorities said Sunday.

Participants in the Minuteman Project spotted the migrants Saturday as the volunteers were surveying the border to familiarize themselves with the area.

Minuteman volunteers plan to start regular patrols today.

Law enforcement officials said the volunteers are keeping the peace despite concerns they might be confrontational. Many of the volunteers were recruited over the Internet; some plan to be armed.

The Arizona-Mexico border is the most vulnerable stretch of the United States’ 2,000-mile-long southern border.

Of the 1.1 million illegal immigrants caught by the Border Patrol last year, 51 percent crossed into the country at the Arizona border.


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Zimbabwe leader calls assassination attempt ‘cowardly act’

UPDATED: 8:14 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s president was unscathed Saturday by an explosion at a campaign rally that state media called an attempt to assassinate him, later visiting his two injured vice presidents and declaring the “cowardly act” will not disrupt next month’s historic elections.