Senate act urges slavery apology

WASHINGTON - The Senate passed a resolution yesterday calling on the United States to apologize officially for the enslavement and segregation of millions of African Americans and to acknowledge "the fundamental injustice, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws."

The resolution, sponsored with little fanfare by Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), passed on a voice vote. It moves to the House, where it may meet an unlikely foe: members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Several caucus members expressed concerns about a disclaimer that states that "nothing in this resolution authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States." The members think the disclaimer is an effort to stave off reparations claims from slaves' descendants. - McClatchy Newspapers

Cornyn questions Sotomayor view

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said yesterday that he would use hearings on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court to ask whether she intended to be a justice "for all of us, or just for some of us."

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to open hearings July 13, Cornyn said Sotomayor must explain whether she believed in colorblind justice. Cornyn, a committee member, also questioned her stance on gun rights, property rights, and discrimination.

His comments came as Republicans step gingerly in the debate over President Obama's nominee. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Judiciary Republican, has criticized Obama's criteria for a judge and argued that liberals were destroying the rule of law by picking judges who would bring their own feelings and politics to the bench. - AP

Heater work cited in Slim Jim blast

RALEIGH, N.C. - A contractor clearing a natural-gas line during a water-heater installation most likely released a flammable cloud that ignited in a fatal blast at a North Carolina Slim Jim factory, federal investigators said yesterday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board echoed another agency's report from last week in blaming natural gas for the blast that killed three people June 9 at the ConAgra Inc. plant.

Board investigator Don Holmstrom said investigators still had not determined what ignited the gas. Board chairman John Bresland said it was unsafe to purge a natural-gas line indoors. - AP

Elsewhere:

Authorities say they found child pornography on a computer belonging to James von Brunn, 88, the white supremacist charged with killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The FBI also said it found dozens of rounds of .22-caliber ammunition in von Brunn's car.

A judge said he wanted to look at notes from the FBI's 2004 interview of former Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the Justice Department must give him more precise reasons for keeping the interview from the public.