CNN is reporting that President Obama has chosen Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to fill Associate Justice David Souter’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor’s nomination will inevitably raise the usual issues of politics and legal philosophy, as well as questions about “identity politics.” The latter, of course, refers in this context to the practice of taking into consideration the identity of potential nominees as members of historically disadvantaged groups, in order to compensate for the structural barriers which have caused these groups to be dramatically under-represented on the Court.

The issue of “identity politics” will probably be raised more sharply with this nominee than with others, for the simple reason that her selection involves multiple identities and another “first” for the Court: Judge Sotomayor, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, would be the first Hispanic justice and only the third female justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismIn an important development in the controversy over next month’s U.N. conference on racism, negotiators have removed several controversial passages, including references to Israel, religious defamation, and reparations for slavery, from the draft conference text.

This change follows a threat by the European Union to boycott the Durban Review Conference (also known as Durban II), and it may permit the United States to participate in the conference in Geneva in April. The U.S. and other nations had earlier threatened to boycott the conference if there were not changes to these passages in the document, while Canada and Israel had already announced that they were not attending because of the specific references to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The draft text, which still must be reviewed by regional groups, is not yet public. So it is not clear, for instance, whether the shortened text drops all references to reparations for slavery, or whether it merely reverts to the milder language adopted at Durban in 2001. That language, which the U.S. said weeks ago that it was willing to accept, acknowledged the history of slavery, particularly the transatlantic slave trade, and suggested that reparations for slavery are appropriate, while stopping short of actually calling on nations to offer reparations.

U.N. World Conference Against Racism

On Friday, the State Department announced that the U.S. does not intend to participate in the U.N. conference on racism in April unless there are significant changes to the working draft of the conference document, including toning down references to reparations for slavery.

This development appears to be the inevitable result of the Obama administration’s original position on the conference, coupled with the inability of the U.S. delegation to secure changes to the draft last week in Geneva.

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U.N. World Conference Against RacismPresident Barack Obama has taken a key step to reverse the Bush administration’s long-standing boycott of the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

This move is an early result of the Obama administration’s determination to engage more fully with the U.N. and other multilateral organizations. It is also a sign that the new U.S. administration has changed, but not entirely different, attitudes on such issues as human rights, Israel, and the Muslim world.

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New York Post cartoonThe New York Post, in its infinite wisdom, ran the cartoon shown here in today’s edition.

The illustration refers to yesterday’s shooting by police in Connecticut of an out-of-control chimpanzee, while the dialogue refers to President Obama’s signature legislative item, the stimulus bill which he signed on the same day.

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Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams has a perplexing column in tomorrow’s Washington Times in which he claims that with the election of Barack Obama, “all the ‘-isms’ that were born from racism, reparations, and white guilt are now dead and buried.”

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In a revealing moment, a committee of the Arkansas House of Representatives yesterday rejected a resolution congratulating Barack Obama on becoming president, on the basis that the United States should not be described, even in that context, as “a nation founded by slave owners.”

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Barack Obama was just sworn in as the 44th, and first black, president of the United States.

I watched his inauguration in the Philadelphia airport, en route from a speaking engagement on slavery and race to an audience of five hundred on Martin Luther King Day in State College, Pennsylvania.

I was privileged to be able to join a roomful of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees as they watched the inauguration on a television set. There were absolutely no tears in the room — until the audience in Washington was asked to stand for the swearing-in, and the entire room in the Philadelphia airport rose to its feet. I’m sure that the applause, cheers, tears, and camaraderie which we exchanged after he took the oath of office were mirrored in locations across the land.

At last, after more than two weeks, we have the final results of the presidential election:

I don’t mind saying that I correctly predicted 49 out of 50 states.

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While several results remain too close to call this morning, I think it’s time to post an indication of where the races stand at this time.

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