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ABA rates Roberts as ‘well-qualified’


Supreme Court nominee John Roberts earned a “well-qualified” rating from the American Bar Association on Wednesday, clearing one hurdle in his path to joining the high court.

The rating by unanimous vote of an ABA committee was disclosed as the Senate Judiciary Committee announced plans for the start of confirmation hearings on Sept. 6. Roberts will face almost an hour of questioning from each of the 18 senators on the committee.

The committee also will hold one hearing that will be closed to the public.

For more than 50 years, the ABA has evaluated the credentials of nominees for the federal bench, though the nation’s largest lawyers’ group has no official standing in the process. Supreme Court nominees get the most scrutiny.

Former AOL worker gets jail for selling list

New York A 25-year-old former America Online employee who admitted he became a cyberspace “outlaw” when he sold all 92 million screen names and e-mail addresses to spammers was sentenced Wednesday to a year and three months in prison.

“I know I’ve done something very wrong,” the soft-spoken and teary eyed Jason Smathers told U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein as he apologized for a theft that resulted in spammers sending out up to 7 billion unsolicited e-mails.

“The Internet is not lawless” was the lesson of the case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Siegal.

“The public at large has an interest in making sure people respect the same values that apply in everyday life, on the Internet,” Siegal said.

Smathers’ lawyer, Jeffrey Hoffman, called the theft a “dumb, stupid, insane act” that his client feels terrible about.

Smathers admitted accepting $28,000 from someone who wanted to pitch an offshore gambling site to AOL customers, knowing that the list of screen names might make its way to others who would send e-mail solicitations.

Stroke hospitalizes Coretta Scott King

Atlanta Coretta Scott King was hospitalized in fair condition Wednesday after what two family friends described as a stroke.

The 78-year-old widow of Martin Luther King Jr. was conscious and her vital signs were stable, but she likely will remain in the hospital for at least another day, Piedmont Hospital spokeswoman Diana Lewis said.

The King family declined to publicly discuss her condition but issued a statement thanking supporters.

“Please continue to keep her and us in your thoughts and prayers as she moves toward a speedy and complete recovery,” Martin Luther King III said in the statement.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery and poet Maya Angelou said Wednesday that King had suffered a stroke, and Lowery said she was having difficulty speaking.

King had canceled some recent public appearances, raising concerns about her health. Quoting unidentified friends, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday that she was diagnosed with a heart malady this spring and has had several small strokes since then before the more serious one Tuesday.

Broken main floods downtown Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh A downtown water main ruptured Wednesday, flooding streets and businesses, knocking out electrical power and floating cars in underground parking garages.

City officials said they did not know what caused the 80-year-old, 36-inch main to break at about 10:35 a.m. beneath Fort Duquesne Boulevard, a major thoroughfare along the Allegheny River.

Officials estimated that 20 million to 30 million gallons of water gushed out over several hours before city workers shut valves leading to the broken line.

People scrambled to their vehicles to grab belongings as the water rose as high as four feet in the garages, which were part of at least seven major buildings that had water damage, Mayor Tom Murphy said. The buildings included a high-rise with 380 apartments.

Allegheny General Hospital, about two miles from the break, stopped admitting new patients for a few hours because of low water pressure.

Murphy said it was too early for a damage estimate.

WSU to share grant in bid for a better grid

Urbana, Ill. Researchers armed with $7.5 million from the federal government are setting out to develop a computer network that can improve the reliability of the nation’s power grid and make it secure from attack.

The project follows the largest blackout in U.S. history, which left millions of people in the Northeast and southern Canada without power in August 2003.

“Although the blackout was accidental, it showed that current controls and computer software are inadequate,” said William H. Sanders, director of the university’s Information Trust Institute. “Today, people are trying to patch it. But those patches will not get us to where we need to be.”

Researchers from the University of Illinois, Cornell University, Dartmouth College and Washington State University will join with electricity companies to focus over the next five years on developing controls and sensors for the network, protocol for sharing information and technology for keeping the information trustworthy and secure.

Lott’s book blames Frist for his downfall

Washington Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott blames his fall from power in 2002 on a “personal betrayal” by an ambitious Sen. Bill Frist, his successor.

Frist, R-Tenn., “didn’t even have the courtesy to call and tell me personally that he was going to run,” the Mississippi Republican wrote of a tumultuous period in which he lost his position as Senate leader after making racially tinged remarks.

“If Frist had not announced exactly when he did, as the fire was about to burn out, I would still be majority leader of the Senate today,” Lott said in “Herding Cats, A Life in Politics.”

A native of Mississippi, Lott recalled feeling “anger in my heart over the way the federal government had invaded Ole Miss to accomplish something that could have been handled peacefully and administratively,” the admission of the first black student to the University of Mississippi in 1962.


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