Nation roundup for July 8


Procession brings home firefighters

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Firefighters on Sunday began a 125-mile procession to bring the bodies of 19 colleagues who died in a wildfire a week ago from Phoenix to the mountain community where they lived.

Nineteen hearses departed from the medical examiner’s office in Phoenix, rolled past a collection of firefighters outside the Arizona state Capitol and will pass through the community of Yarnell where the 19 died.

Firefighters, police officers and everyday people held hands over their hearts or saluted as the motorcycle-led escort slowly drove by and a quartet of bag pipers played a mournful song to a marching cadence. The firefighters’ names were posted on a side window of each hearse.

The procession included several firefighting vehicles, including a truck that bore the name of the elite crew to which the 19 firefighters who died on June 30 belonged.

Lon Reiman of Scottsdale carried two small American flags as he waited for the procession to begin. Reiman said he has several relatives who are firefighters and thought of them once he heard the news of the deaths.

“When you think about their wives, their families and their kids, it just brings tears to your eyes,” Reiman said.

Since their fellow firefighters arrived at the scene where they were killed, the fallen firefighters have not been alone, a tradition among those in the profession in the U.S.

BP settlement dispute weighed

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court is wading into a high-stakes dispute over the terms of a multibillion-dollar settlement of claims arising from BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments today by attorneys for the London-based oil giant and for Gulf Coast businesses that say the nation’s worst offshore oil spill cost them money.

BP asserts that the judge who approved the deal and a court-appointed claims administrator have misinterpreted the settlement, allowing thousands of businesses to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in payments for inflated and fictitious losses.

“The result is that thousands of claimants that suffered no losses are coming forward in ever-increasing numbers, seeking and obtaining outrageous windfalls and making a mockery of what was intended to be a fair and honest court-supervised settlement process,” company attorneys wrote in their brief for the hearing.

BP says it could be forced to pay billions more in “capricious awards to uninjured claimants” if the 5th Circuit doesn’t overturn rulings on the issue by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys who brokered the deal last year counter that BP undervalued the settlement and underestimated how many claimants would qualify for payments under the terms they negotiated.

“Buyer’s remorse does not alter the deal that was struck,” they wrote.

BP’s appeal doesn’t apply to payouts to individuals.

The April 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well off the Louisiana coast triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and led to millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf.

Sunken tug boat shuts Miss. River

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mississippi River traffic in southeastern Louisiana was shut down Sunday while the Coast Guard led a search for a sunken tugboat believed to have gone down in the middle of the river.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Carlos Vega said 28 southbound and 22 northbound vessels were anchored and waiting for the re-opening of the river; and numerous others not yet in the area would likely be affected. One cruise ship bound for New Orleans was diverted to Mobile, Ala., and contingency plans were being made to do the same for another cruise liner that had been set to reach the city Sunday night.

The Coast Guard closed the river Saturday at 1 p.m. after the sinking of the 48-foot tug C-Pec was reported near the town of Venice. Officials don’t know why the tug sank or exactly where but Vega said it was believed to have gone down in the middle of the river. Traffic in both directions was shut down from the mouth of the river to near mile marker 10.

It was to remain closed until authorities could locate the tug and determine whether it was a navigation hazard.

“Two people from the sunken tug were reported to enter the river and were rescued by a good Samaritan and transferred to the Coast Guard response boat and taken back to Station Venice,” the Coast Guard said in a news release. The names and condition of those rescued were not available.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local authorities were helping with the search, which included the use of sonar.

Ownership of the downed tug was unclear. The Coast Guard said it was working to find and contact the owner. Online records indicate the vessel was owned by a limited liability corporation with a Belle Chasse, La., address, but the corporation was listed as inactive on the Louisiana Secretary of State website.

Carnival Cruise Lines diverted its ship the Conquest from New Orleans to Mobile on Sunday afternoon and passengers were to be driven to New Orleans.

The Conquest’s next trip to the Bahamas has been shortened to a six-day voyage, scheduled to depart Mobile on Monday evening, Carnival said in a news release. Guests scheduled to sail on the shortened trip are being offered a one-day pro-rated refund, or a full refund if they decide to cancel their trip.

The company was making contingency plans in case another ship, the Elation, was unable to reach New Orleans on Sunday night because of the river closure, Carnival spokeswoman Joyce Oliva said in an email.

 

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