World briefly 2/26

Sotomayor criticizes prosecutor for remark

WASHINGTON — Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice, strongly criticized a Texas prosecutor Monday for citing the race of a defendant as grounds for convicting him of a drug deal, saying the government attorney had tried to “substitute racial stereotype for evidence and racial prejudice for reason.”

Sotomayor filed a rare statement commenting on the court’s refusal to hear an appeal, not to dissent from the decision, but rather to “dispel any doubt” that the action “should be understood to signal our tolerance of a federal prosecutor’s racially charged remark. It should not.”

Sotomayor, who began her career as a prosecutor in New York City, she said she was troubled by what happened.

Bongani Calhoun appealed after he was convicted of participating in a drug conspiracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He contended that while he went along on a road trip with several friends, he did not know they planned to buy cocaine. The jury heard testimony that Calhoun knew about the drug deal. They also said they had more than $400,000 in cash in the room.

When Calhoun took the stand, Sam Ponder, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Antonio, said, “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you — a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, ‘This is a drug deal?’ ” the prosecutor said.

British cardinal first to skip conclave because of personal scandal

VATICAN CITY — In a season of startling change for the Catholic Church, the latest break with tradition was as unexpected as it was a wake-up call to the 115 men who will elect the next pope.

Britain’s highest-ranking Catholic leader resigned and removed himself Monday from the upcoming conclave, saying he did not want allegations that he engaged in improper conduct with priests to be a distraction during the solemn process of choosing the next leader of the church’s 1.2 billion-member flock.

It was the first time a cardinal has recused himself from a conclave because of personal scandal, according to Vatican historians.

The Vatican insisted that Pope Benedict XVI accepted Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s resignation purely because O’Brien was nearing the retirement age of 75.

But O’Brien himself issued a statement Monday saying he would skip the conclave because he wanted to avoid becoming the focus of media attention at a delicate time.

C. Everett Koop dies in NH at 96

With his striking beard and starched uniform, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop became one of the most recognizable figures of the Reagan era — and one of the most unexpectedly enduring.

His nomination in 1981 met a wall of opposition from women’s groups and liberal politicians, who complained President Ronald Reagan selected Koop, a pediatric surgeon and evangelical Christian from Philadelphia, only because of his conservative views, especially his staunch opposition to abortion.

Soon, though, he was a hero to AIDS activists, who chanted “Koop, Koop” at his appearances but booed other officials. And when he left his post in 1989, he left behind a landscape where AIDS was a top research and educational priority, smoking was considered a public health hazard, and access to abortion remained largely intact.

Koop, who turned his once-obscure post into a bully pulpit for seven years during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and who surprised both ends of the political spectrum by setting aside his conservative personal views on issues such as homosexuality and abortion to keep his focus sharply medical, died Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.

An assistant at Koop’s Dartmouth College institute, Susan Wills, confirmed his death but not its cause.

By wire sources