- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Exxon owes interest on spill payout

ANCHORAGE | Exxon Mobil Corp. was ordered Monday to pay about $500 million in interest on punitive damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska, nearly doubling the payout to Alaska Natives, fishermen, business owners and others harmed by the 1989 disaster.

The ruling was issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court set punitive damages at $507.5 million. But two months later, the high court declined to decide whether Exxon Mobil must pay interest on the punitive damages awarded in the nation’s worst oil spill and instead sent it back to the appeals court.

Monday’s decision would double the average payout of about $15,000 for the nearly 33,000 claimants.


Simpson ‘acquittal suit’ stays stored

SANTA MONICA | A judge Monday ordered O.J. Simpson’s former manager to keep the former football star’s so-called acquittal suit in storage until it is determined who rightfully owns it.

The ruling came after a contentious hearing that ultimately spilled into a courthouse hallway, where the former manager, Mike Gilbert, and a lawyer for Fred Goldman exchanged heated accusations.

Mr. Goldman, the father of Ronald Goldman, who was slain alongside Simpson’s ex-wife 15 years ago, is seeking to satisfy a $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson by selling the suit the Hall of Famer wore to court when he was acquitted on murder charges.


NASA schedules Wednesday launch

CAPE CANAVERAL | NASA will try to launch Space Shuttle Endeavour again Wednesday, after repairing a hydrogen gas leak that thwarted the first attempt.

Top officials decided Monday to bump an unmanned moon mission so Endeavour could have another shot at flying to the International Space Station. The delayed moon mission is NASA’s first in a decade and is critical to the space agency’s long-term effort to return humans to the lunar surface.

The Atlas V rocket had been scheduled to blast off Wednesday with a pair of lunar probes, a moon-mapping orbiter and a craft meant to crash into a shadowed crater at the moon’s south pole. That launch is now scheduled for no earlier than Thursday.


U.S. swine flu deaths at 46

CHICAGO | A child infected with the A(H1N1) flu died in the midwestern state of Minnesota, local health authorities said Monday, bringing the U.S. swine flu death toll to 46.

The child, “who had underlying medical conditions, was briefly hospitalized and died late last week,” the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement.

Laboratory tests “subsequently determined that the child had the H1N1 novel influenza,” said the statement.

Officials have no further information on the age or sex of the child, or how the child may have contracted the virus.

In its latest statistics out Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 45 A(H1N1) deaths across the U.S., as well as 17,855 confirmed cases.

Swine flu has now infected 35,928 people in 76 countries since the disease was first uncovered in late March, data from the World Health Organization showed Monday.

Around the world, 163 people have died, according to the latest WHO tally of confirmed influenza A(H1N1) cases. Late Monday, Argentina reported its first death from swine flu, with the health ministry saying the victim was a 3-month-old baby girl.


Indicted eye doctor, wife found dead

SOUTH BEND | An eye surgeon and his wife were found fatally shot Monday, hours before they were scheduled to surrender to authorities on charges of performing unnecessary surgeries on patients, including children, and bilking money from health insurers.

The bodies of Dr. Philip Gabriele, 44, and his wife, Marcella, 43, both of Granger, were found inside his Gabriele Eye Institute in Elkhart by police investigating a possible suicide attempt, Elkhart police spokesman Lt. Ed Windbigler said.

Dr. Gabriele died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Elkhart County Coroner John White said. Authorities were trying to determine who shot Mrs. Gabriele, Lt. Windbigler said. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday.


Boy found dead in church elevator

STURGIS | The body of an 8-year-old boy was found with his head pinned in a church elevator as his family was cleaning up after his grandmother’s wedding reception, authorities said Monday.

No foul play is suspected in the death Saturday of Zachary Waddell at First Christian Church in Sturgis, Kentucky State Police said in a statement. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Nate Harper, found the boy’s body in the doorway at the lower level of the shaft connecting the church’s first and second floors, authorities said.

Union County Coroner Stephen Shouse said the boy died as a result of compression asphyxia, meaning he couldn’t breathe after the elevator came down on him.


Seattle Times sells Maine newspapers

PORTLAND | The Seattle Times Co. has sold its Blethen Maine newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, to an investor group led by Bangor native Richard Connor.

Terms of Monday’s sale haven’t been disclosed. The Seattle Times reportedly paid upward of $200 million for the former Guy Gannett chain in 1998, but the price that newspapers fetch has declined sharply amid a drop in ad revenues and the migration of readers to the Internet.

Mr. Connor is editor and publisher of the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He signed a purchase agreement in November, but the sale was put off while he scrambled to line up financing.

Blethen Maine includes the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the MaineToday.com Web site.


Guilty plea in sludge probe

DETROIT | A Detroit businessman pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe a City Council member in exchange for supporting a $47 million-a-year sludge-hauling contract.

Rayford Jackson said he arranged for bribes totaling more than $6,000 to the council member, who was not named in federal court documents or during the plea hearing.

His plea comes after a representative of Houston-based Synagro Technologies also pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy charges. Jim Rosendall said he gave gifts - including chartered flights to Las Vegas, hundreds of dollars tucked into a pack of gum and a case of Cristal Champagne - to city officials, an official’s relative and the same council member Jackson was accused of bribing.

Jackson, 44, faces up to five years in prison.


Friend: Boy responds to chemotherapy

SLEEPY EYE | X-rays show the tumor in the chest of a 13-year-old boy who resisted treatment has shrunk significantly after two courses of court-ordered chemotherapy, a family spokesman said Monday.

However, family friend and spokesman Daniel Zwakman said the side effects of the treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma have left Danny Hauser weak and miserable.

It’s been 11 days since Danny’s latest treatment and still most of his day is spent on the couch, Mr. Zwakman said.

Danny received a single treatment of chemotherapy in February but stopped after enduring the harsh side effects. The family insisted on alternative medicine inspired by American Indian traditions.


Immigration files open to public soon

KANSAS CITY | Millions of files containing detailed information about U.S. immigrants - including their spouses’ names, as well as personal photographs and letters - will soon become available to the public through a federal facility in suburban Kansas City.

Preservationists had been worried that the documents providing an important picture of immigration after 1944 would be lost because the federal government considered them temporary and could have destroyed them after 75 years.

But a deal signed this month between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Archives and Records Administration preserves all 53 million files. About 21 million will be sent to the National Archives and made available in batches to genealogists, families and others.


9/11 contractor office chief quits

NEW YORK | The head of the New York City office for a contractor investigated for overbilling on projects like the Sept. 11 memorial has resigned.

James Abadie left his job Monday as principal in charge of Bovis Lend Lease’s New York office. An internal Bovis memo didn’t give a reason for Mr. Abadie’s departure.

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Bovis overbilled clients on five high-profile city projects, including the Sept. 11 memorial and the New York Mets’ new Citi Field stadium. Officials familiar with the probe say prosecutors are looking into whether the contractor padded its billing reports with bogus overtime.

Bovis has said it’s cooperating with the investigation.


10 Scouts test swine-flu positive

RALEIGH | Boy Scouts reporting to camp in western North Carolina are being screened for signs of swine flu after 10 Scouts who attended last week tested positive for the disease, authorities said Monday.

Camp Daniel Boone executive Connie Bowes said no new cases were reported this week. Last week’s campers moved out Friday and a new group of about 700 from all across the country moved in Sunday into the camp near Asheville.

Ms. Bowes said 38 Scouts and staff reported flulike symptoms last week and sick staffers were quarantined. Nineteen Scouts were sent home.

The 10 who tested positive for swine flu were from Dunwoody, Ga., and Palm Beach, Fla., officials said.


Mayors to accept White House invite

PROVIDENCE | Officials from the U.S. Conference of Mayors said Monday they plan to accept a White House invitation to meet on economic issues facing their cities.

But the conference’s newly sworn-in president, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, said the mayors won’t be able to make the administration’s proposed date of June 29 because they want to develop a substantive agenda that reflected the conference’s national meeting in Providence. He wouldn’t say when they might be able to go.

Among the topics on the agenda are federal stimulus aid, gun control and the 2010 census.

“It’ll take a little longer than two weeks to put together. This took six months to put together,” Mr. Nickels said, referring to the group’s four-day gathering.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other officials skipped this year’s U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting to avoid crossing a Providence firefighter picket line, although the White House has said the Obama administration isn’t taking a position on the labor dispute.


Salazar defends probe into thefts

PARK CITY | Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he stands behind the investigation that resulted in the indictments of two dozen people accused of illegally trafficking in ancient artifacts from the Four Corners region.

Responding to a question from the Associated Press on Monday, Mr. Salazar said he had no regrets about the investigation and ensuing arrests.

On Saturday, Utah’s two U.S. senators said they want Congress to investigate the actions of federal agents who arrested 23 of those indicted last week after a two-year undercover investigation. One of the indicted men was found dead in an apparent suicide.

The senators said the raid was excessive.

Mr. Salazar said federal agents were only following laws intended to protect American Indian artifacts.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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