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THE QUIET SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

It's been said that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has never asked a question nor made a comment during any court session he has attended. Is this true?

Not true, though Justice Thomas, now 61, has been a notably quiet justice from the Supreme Court bench since he began serving almost 18 years ago.

On April 13, 2009, the New York Times reported that Thomas had not asked a question from the bench since Feb. 22, 2006. In that period, he spoke only to announce his majority opinions.

In 2000, he explained to an audience of high school students his reluctance to speak in court: "I have some very active colleagues who like to ask questions. Usually, if you wait long enough, someone will ask your question. The other thing, I was on that other side of the podium before, in my earlier life, and it's hard to stand up by yourself and to have judges who are going to rule on your case ask you tough questions. I don't want to give them a hard time."

He also is averse to speaking with the media, saying in 2007: "One of the reasons I don't do media interviews is, in the past, the media often has its own script."

Thomas has been a justice since Oct. 19, 1991, after his appointment by the first President Bush and a bruising confirmation fight in which he was accused of sexual harassment. He was confirmed on a 52-48 vote, the narrowest in more than a century, with support from 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats who overcame opposition from 46 Democrats and two Republicans.

Thomas, along with Justice Antonin Scalia, are widely viewed as the most conservative members of the court, and Thomas has acknowledged he has some libertarian "leanings" as well. Thomas generally takes an "originalist" approach in decisionmaking, in which he seeks to uphold the intent of the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution and statutes.

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Current base combat pay

As an E-4 with no dependents in Vietnam in 1968, I was paid $248 (a month). How much does an E-4 with no dependents make today in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Base pay for an E-4 (the ranks of a corporal or specialist) depends on time of service. For someone with two years or less, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, monthly pay is $1,827.60. With more than two years but less than three, $1,920.90; more than three but less than four, $2,025; more than four, $2,127.60; at six and above, $2,218.50.

Soldiers on hazardous duty, such as in combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan, get paid extra depending on their duties - generally in the range of a couple of hundred dollars a month.

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Update

From an item Sept. 4: The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon on Sept. 6-7 drew pledges of $60,481,231.

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