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Republicans turn judicial power into a campaign issue

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidates are issuing biting and sustained attacks on the federal courts and the role they play in American life, reflecting and stoking skepticism among conservatives about the judiciary.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas favors term limits for Supreme Court justices. Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, say they would forbid the court from deciding cases concerning same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, the former house speaker, and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania want to abolish the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, calling it “a rogue court” that is “consistently radical.”

“If you want to send a signal to judges that we are tired of them feeling that these elites in society can dictate to us,” Santorum said at an event in Ames, Iowa, “then you have to fight back. I will fight back.”

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has so far shied away from the far-reaching criticisms of his rivals. At a conservative forum in South Carolina, he dismissed the idea of a congressional confrontation with the Supreme Court over abortion, saying, “I’m not looking to create a constitutional crisis.”

—Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

Libya’s interim leaders to investigate Gadhafi killing

BENGHAZI, Libya — The leader of Libya’s interim government announced the creation of a committee Monday to examine the circumstances of Moammar Gadhafi’s death last week.

In his announcement, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, acknowledged that pressure from foreign powers and rights groups — including some that had supported the rebellion against Gadhafi — had prompted the decision to investigate how the Libyan leader wound up dead with a bullet to the head.

But it was unclear how much authority the committee would have or whether anyone would be held accountable. Abdul-Jalil hinted that the shots might have come from Gadhafi’s supporters. That suggestion is at odds with the video evidence that surfaced after his death.

The grisly images established that Gadhafi’s was killed shortly after fighters seized him Thursday. His capture followed a NATO airstrike on an armed convoy that was leaving Sirte, his hometown, where he had spent two months as a fugitive after the fall of Tripoli. One of his sons, Muatassim, also was captured and killed, apparently while in custody.

—Adam Nossiter and Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

US to keep strong presence in Pacific, Panetta says

BALI, Indonesia — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Sunday that despite hundreds of billions of dollars in expected cuts to the Pentagon budget, the United States would remain a Pacific power even as China expanded its military presence in the region.

Panetta, who is on his first trip to Asia as defense secretary, made the comments at a meeting of Southeast Asian nations on this Indonesian resort island. He sought to reassure Pacific nations concerned about China’s assertiveness that the United States, as he put it, would be “a force for peace and prosperity.”

He acknowledged that nations in the region were worried about the impact of at least $450 billion in Pentagon budget cuts over the next decade and whether the United States could afford to maintain a strong military presence in the Pacific.

—Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times