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American Scene

- - Monday, December 13, 2010

CALIFORNIA

Discharged gay veterans sue for reinstatement

SAN FRANCISCO | Three military veterans who were discharged under the law that prohibits gays from serving openly in uniform sued the government Monday to be reinstated and to pressure lawmakers to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law before a new Congress is sworn in.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco also seeks to have the ban on openly gay troops declared unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable for any service members.

"I don't feel like I'm going up against the military; I really don't. I just feel like this is a necessary step for doing away with this policy," said former Air Force Staff Sgt. Anthony Loverde. "I believe the military, the majority of troops I've served with, and those who have been studied to death are with us."

Sgt. Loverde, 31, is working in Iraq for a private military contractor that's providing the Army with technical support. The lawsuit also was filed on behalf of former Air Force Maj. Michael Almy, 40, and former Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight, 28.

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

MISSISSIPPI

Gulf-spill claimants offered new, faster option

OCEAN SPRINGS | The administrator of a $20 billion fund doling out money to Gulf oil-spill victims said Monday that people who want more cash can get a quick check within two weeks, but there's a catch: Cashing it means giving up the right to sue BP or receive any more payments.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who took over the claims process from BP PLC in August, said individual claimants who already received some compensation from the fund can get a $5,000 check, but they can't sue BP and won't be eligible for a final settlement. Businesses could seek a $25,000 check. The payments would be issued within two weeks.

The other options are to seek quarterly interim payments for losses until August 2013, or file for a lump-sum final settlement. Getting the lump sum also means giving up the right to sue BP over its April 20 oil-well blowout, which spewed more than 170 million gallons of crude into the sea. Some who haven't decided whether to accept the final payment or to sue BP can opt for the interim payments in the meantime.

By Wednesday, Mr. Feinberg said, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility will have paid about $2.5 billion to roughly 170,000 claimants, but many have been complaining that the process is taking too long or they are being shortchanged. Some large businesses with claims of more than $500,000 say they haven't been paid at all.

NEW YORK

Aide in domestic violence case is fired

ALBANY | An aide to New York Gov. David Paterson who was accused of domestic violence in an incident that embroiled Mr. Paterson in scandal, has been terminated.

The state comptroller's office records show that David Johnson has been off the state payroll since Nov. 19. He had been on unpaid leave since Feb. 25.

Mr. Johnson has pleaded not guilty to assault, menacing, harassment and criminal mischief in the Halloween 2009 incident. His girlfriend claimed Mr. Johnson was angry over how she was dressed, choked her, threw her against a dresser and ripped her costume.

The case led to claims of evidence-tampering at the top levels of the governor's office. None was proved.

Mr. Paterson ended his campaign for a full term amid the scandal, saying he couldn't clear his name and run for office at the same time.

OHIO

Sick kids 'visit' North Pole

CLEVELAND | What was billed as a flight to the North Pole never left the ground, but that didn't matter to about 50 children and their families in Cleveland.

Most of the children who took part in the weekend adventure at Cleveland Hopkins Airport were ailing patients from two hospitals. Many had never been on an airplane.

The Plain Dealer newspaper reports they were guided onto a Continental Airlines jet Saturday by elves wearing candy-cane-striped tights and green curly-toed shoes.

Crew members lowered the shades inside the cabin so the inside lights wouldn't hurt the eyes of reindeer. Then the engines roared for the fantasy journey.

The children deplaned to find Santa, Christmas trees and gifts. It was all part of a tradition that began several years ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports