- - Thursday, December 15, 2011


Settlement reached in Chinese drywall suit

NEW ORLEANS | A Chinese drywall manufacturer has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve court claims by thousands of Gulf Coast property owners that the product corroded pipes and wires and otherwise wrecked their homes. It is the largest settlement of its kind.

The deal announced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon calls for Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. to create an uncapped fund to pay for repairing roughly 4,500 properties, mostly in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. A separate fund capped at $30 million will pay for other types of losses, including those by people who blame drywall for health problems.

Russ Herman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the settlement is worth between $800 million and $1 billion, although an attorney for the Chinese company disputed that estimate.

Knauf attorney Kerry Miller said the company “decided to step up and settle these claims and do the right thing.”

Mr. Herman said around 55 percent of the people who would benefit from the settlement live in Florida, while roughly 35 percent live in Louisiana. The deal would resolve cases filed in both state and federal court.

Chinese drywall was used in the construction of thousands of homes, mainly in the South, after a series of destructive hurricanes in 2005 and before the housing bubble burst. The problems caused by the drywall range from a foul odor to corrosion of pipes and wiring.


Flotsam from tsunami reaches West Coast

PORT ANGELES | Debris from the March tsunami in Japan has started reaching the West Coast.

A large black float about the size of a 55-gallon drum was found two weeks ago by a crew cleaning a beach a few miles east of Neah Bay at the northwest tip of Washington state.

Seattle oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham said it’s the first piece of debris that could be identified as washing up on the West Coast from the March 11 tsunami. The floats have since been found on Vancouver Island.

The two researchers displayed the float Tuesday night in Port Angeles at a presentation at Peninsula College.

The Peninsula Daily News reported that larger amounts of debris from Japan likely will begin washing ashore in about a year. The float traveled faster because it sits on top of the water and caught the wind.


7 miners rescued from underground mine

MULLAN | Seven miners were pulled from more than a mile below the surface after an accident at a northern Idaho silver mine where two workers died in separate mishaps this year.

One of the men was taken to a hospital with injuries, while the other six were treated at the scene, said Hecla Mining Co. spokeswoman Melanie Hennessey.

The miners were working approximately 5,900 feet underground when they were injured about 7:40 p.m. Wednesday by a rock burst, which is an explosion of rock caused by excessive pressure from the weight of the ground above. They were working in the Lucky Friday, one of the nation’s deepest underground mines.

Initial reports indicated that the miners could be trapped, but that wasn’t factual, Miss Hennessey said.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration will investigate the accident that happened months after two other Lucky Friday silver miners died.


Publisher recalls pink Bibles

NASHVILLE | The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing division is recalling pink Bibles it sold to support breast cancer research, after it says some money went to Planned Parenthood.

Lifeway Christian Resources no longer markets the pink-bound version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible and is recalling copies it sold, according to the Tennessean.

A portion of the purchase price went to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The Komen foundation issued a statement that all proceeds from the Bible sales were going to breast cancer screenings and expressed disappointment in Lifeway’s decision.

Lifeway’s move came after complaints that some local Komen affiliates were helping fund cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortions.

The pink Bibles had been in stores since October.


1st female drill sergeant leader suspended by Army

COLUMBIA | The Army has suspended the first woman to lead its drill sergeant school while it investigates an undisclosed personnel matter, the service said Thursday.

A spokesman for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command said Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King remains commandant of the school at Fort Jackson, near Columbia, but is suspended during an investigation.

Spokesman Harvey Perritt said he cannot disclose the reason for the suspension, which he described as a personnel matter.

Maj. King told the Associated Press on Thursday that she cannot talk about the matter. “I can’t speak about it,” the 50-year-old said. “I have to have you speak with the Army’s public affairs officers.”

Maj. King was named commandant at the school in 2009, which handles all training for the order-barking drill sergeants.


Governor: FAMU president should be suspended from job

TALLAHASSEE | Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday he wants the president of Florida A&M University suspended amid multiple investigations spurred by the death of a drum major in a suspected case of hazing.

Mr. Scott, who just returned from a seven-day trip to Israel, called the chairman of the FAMU board on Thursday and asked him to suspend James Ammons immediately.

The board last week discussed suspending Mr. Ammons, but instead voted to publicly reprimand him. The board meets again Monday.

It was Mr. Scott who ordered Florida’s law enforcement agency to join an investigation into the death of Marching 100 band member Robert Champion. He died after an FAMU football game last month and hazing is suspected in his death.

State law enforcement officials earlier this week announced they have opened a second investigation into possible criminal violations dealing with the band’s finances.

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