Senators Discuss Bill on

President's Citizenship

The Senate took a first step yesterday toward opening the presidency to foreign-born citizens, including a particular Austrian-born actor who is running the nation's most populous state.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) held a two-hour hearing on his proposal, one of several in Congress to amend the Constitution by removing the requirement that only people born in the United States can be president.

Half a dozen members of Congress and three constitutional scholars testified in support of the idea, with some telling poignant stories of young children, adopted as infants from foreign countries, being unable to dream of becoming president one day.

But the image, mostly unstated, that was hanging over the hearing and the whole nascent congressional movement was the well-sculpted one of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's been a U.S. citizen since 1983, fulfilling the 20-year requirement Hatch is proposing.

"This hearing would not be complete if the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger were not mentioned at least once," testified Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a close friend of Schwarzenegger's who introduced a companion version of Hatch's proposal last month in the House.

House Votes to Split

9th U.S. Circuit Court

The Republican-led House voted yesterday to break up the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, an action opponents said was motivated by conservatives' ire over some of the court's rulings.

Nine states are currently covered by the 9th Circuit, but the legislation would leave just California and Hawaii in a revamped lineup.

The proposal splits the seven other states into two new courts: one to handle appeals from Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Nevada; and the other to oversee Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

Supporters said the new lineup reflects the need to address the region's bulging caseload and rapid population growth. They denied the vote was an expression of displeasure with court rulings, including the 2002 opinion that declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

But the measure, which passed by a vote of 205 to 194, was not expected to become law because of strong opposition in the Senate. It is part of a larger bill that passed by voice vote and would create 58 new judgeships across the nation.

Group: 30 States Are

Poised to Ban Abortion

Thirty states are poised to make abortion illegal within a year if the Supreme Court reverses its 1973 ruling establishing a woman's legal right to an abortion, an advocacy group said yesterday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights said some states have old laws on the books that would be triggered by the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Others have language in their state constitutions or strongly antiabortion legislatures that would act quickly if the federal protection for abortion was ended and the issue reverted to the states.

"The building blocks are already in place to recriminalize abortion," said Nancy Northup, the center's president.

Currently, it is believed that five of the nine justices support abortion rights, but that balance could be tipped if President Bush, in a second term, nominates a new justice who reflects his antiabortion views. Democratic nominee John F. Kerry is a strong supporter of abortion rights.

FTC Sues Marketers

Of Weight-Loss Pills

Federal regulators said they have sued the marketers of the widely advertised CortiSlim weight-loss supplement and are seeking to force them to reimburse customers.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles against Window Rock Enterprises Inc. and Infinity Advertising Inc., Los Angeles-based companies that tout supplements CortiSlim and CortiStress.

"The Window Rock defendants' weight-loss and disease-prevention claims fly in the face of reality," said Lydia Parnes, the FTC's acting consumer protection chief. "No pill can replace a healthy program of diet and exercise."

-- From News Services