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American Scene

- - Friday, May 14, 2010

ALABAMA

Claims discussed for loss of income

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Troy King met with residents to discuss how they could file damage claims against BP for verifiable loss of income from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

"This is not a sprint. It's a marathon, and we're talking months or years to sort everything out. It is our job to be certain the commitment [from BP] that is strong now cannot be allowed to weaken later," he said. BP has said it will pay all "legitimate claims" for damages.

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, filed court papers Thursday seeking to limit its liability for the Gulf of Mexico spill to about $27 million.

Nearly 100 lawsuits have already been filed across the Gulf region and the disaster, which lawyers see becoming one of the biggest class actions in U.S. history, involves billions of dollars in potential liabilities.

CALIFORNIA

Calmer winds help aid wildfire battle

PEDLEY — A 500-acre wildfire that briefly threatened a Southern California mobile-home park was contained Thursday morning without causing any injuries or burning any buildings, a state fire spokeswoman said.

The Riverside County blaze was fully surrounded at 4:30 a.m., Jody Hagemann said.

Calmer winds helped about 235 firefighters who battled the flames overnight and set backfires to keep the blaze from spreading, she said.

"The weather cooperated; the winds died down," she said.

Helicopters and air tankers flew in to battle the flames that erupted Wednesday afternoon near the Santiago Estates Mobile Home Park in the Glen Avon area north of Pedley. Residents of 32 homes in the 126-unit mobile-home park were evacuated for a few hours.

By sundown, the flames had moved into San Bernardino County, coming within a quarter-mile of homes in Fontana.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Southern California has had blustery and dry weather this week, but the winds Wednesday were southwesterly, not the sometimes fierce northeasterly Santa Anas that fan the region's worst wildfires.

Wildland fires that erupted Monday near Banning and Moreno Valley were held to a couple of acres.

DELAWARE

Ford CEO: 2010 will be profitable

WILMINGTON — Ford CEO Alan Mulally says the automaker should be "solidly" profitable in 2010 as it recovers from the severe downturn in the auto industry.

Mr. Mulally says that Ford should also see "continuing improvement" in 2011. He was speaking to shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Delaware.

Ford has rebounded faster than most rivals from the plunge in auto sales during the recession.

The company reported a $2.7 billion profit in the first quarter and has a growing market share. But it must also deal with a stubbornly high debt.

FLORIDA

NASA: All on track for Atlantis launch

CAPE CANAVERAL — With good weather expected, NASA was optimistic as it headed toward Friday's launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on its final voyage.

Atlantis is set to blast off at 2:20 p.m. Forecasters said there is a 70 percent chance of good weather, with low clouds the lone concern.

"We've had a very clean countdown so far," NASA test director Jeremy Graeber told reporters Thursday.

The shuttle and its six astronauts will deliver a Russian compartment to the International Space Station. The chamber is filled with more than 3,000 pounds of U.S. supplies, including food and laptop computers. It will be the first — and last — time a shuttle carries a Russian module to the orbiting lab. Only two other shuttle flights remain.

Once the shuttles are retired, NASA will leave station deliveries to commercial companies and other countries, and focus on eventual trips to asteroids and Mars.

Dozens of Russians were on hand for the launch, as were about 150 Twittering guests. It's the second time NASA has staged a tweet-up at the launch site; the first was late last year.

ILLINOIS

'Annie' comic strip ends after 85 years

CHICAGO — The iconic redheaded orphan Annie is ending her time on newspaper comics pages after 85 years.

Tribune Media Services announced Thursday that it will cease syndication of the "Annie" strip on June 13.

The company said in a news release it is taking Annie into the Internet age by pursuing new audiences for her in digital media.

The comic strip "Little Orphan Annie" made its newspaper debut on August 5, 1924, first written and illustrated by creator Harold Gray. The strip later was renamed simply "Annie." The spunky orphan was adopted by Daddy Warbucks and later joined by her lovable dog Sandy.

Annie is known for wearing a red dress with white collar and cuffs. Over decades she has become the center of a radio program, Broadway musical and movies.

NORTH CAROLINA

13 suffer injuries in train derailment

MEBANE — A commuter train with 36 passengers on board has derailed in North Carolina, injuring at least 13 people and setting the locomotive and a train car on fire.

Authorities say the train struck a trailer at a crossing shortly after 8 a.m. The train, which runs daily between Charlotte and Raleigh, is operated by Amtrak and owned by the state.

The accident is expected to disrupt long-distance service between Charlotte and New York through Friday. Passengers are being bused around the accident scene.

Amtrak said in a news release that 12 passengers and one crew member were injured and taken to hospitals.

A spokeswoman for the N.C. Rail Division said the crossing in the town of Mebane has a gate with flashing lights that was working at the time of the derailment.

OREGON

'Deadliest Catch' crewman convicted

EUGENE — A crab boat deckhand who appeared on the "Deadliest Catch" reality-TV show has pleaded guilty to three Oregon bank robbery charges and been sentenced to nine years in prison.

The shackled 23-year-old Joshua Tell Warner apologized to tellers who attended the hearing Wednesday in Lane County Circuit Court.

The Register-Guard reports Warner robbed a Eugene bank in October 2007 before he joined the crew of the Wizard and robbed two other banks last year after his stint in Alaska.

Warner's attorney, John Kolego, says the TV appearance led to his arrest. Viewers who recognized Warner as a suspect in the robberies called police last fall, and a warrant was issued. He was arrested in a traffic stop in East Peoria, Ill.

VIRGINIA

Western peak among endangered war sites

RICHMOND — The Civil War Preservation Trust's 2010 edition of the nation's most-endangered historic battlefields includes Gettysburg, the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia and a Western entry.

That would be Picacho Peak in Arizona, which is slated to close June 3 because of state budget cuts.

It is among the top 10 most-threatened Civil War battlefields contained in the trust's annual report, released Thursday.

The list of battlefields threatened by development or neglect includes some in states where the Civil War still resonates on the eve of its 150th anniversary. They are located primarily in the South and the mid-Atlantic.

From wire dispatches and staff reports