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Gulf spill suit lawyers want claims czar reined in

NEW ORLEANS

attorneys criticize oil spill czar

Lead attorneys for people and businesses suing over the gulf oil spill want a federal judge overseeing their cases to rein in the administrator of the $20 billion victims compensation fund that BP set up.

Describing fund administrator Ken Feinberg as a pawn in a BP shell game designed to settle as many claims as possible to avoid lawsuits, the lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in a lengthy and scathing court filing Tuesday to order changes to the release form people must sign if they accept a final payment from Feinberg.

The lawyers say people should have to give up the right to sue BP only for compensatory damages if they accept a final payment from the fund, but they should still be allowed to go after BP in court for punitive damages. And, the lawyers say, people who accept final payments from the fund should be allowed to sue other responsible parties for both compensatory and punitive damages.

The more people who accept final payments from the fund and agree not to sue BP or any other responsible party, the fewer potential clients for attorneys who have filed more than 300 suits over the spill. The fund is separate from the oil spill litigation.

Afghanistan

NATO investigates 5 civilian deaths

NATO said Tuesday that it was investigating the deaths of five civilians who were killed when coalition forces returned fire against insurgents shooting from a compound in the Sangin district of Helmand province.

The civilians were found after the exchange of fire, a NATO announcement said. It did not say when the battle took place. NATO said the insurgents were using a civilian home to attack coalition forces.

TWO Troops killed: Two NATO service members were killed by bombs in southern Afghanistan, the coalition announced. It said the attacks occurred Tuesday but provided no further details.

SAN FRANCISCO

$2.5M payment set in wiretapping case

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the U.S. government to pay more than $2.5 million in attorney fees and damages after he concluded investigators wiretapped the phones of a suspected terrorist organization without a warrant.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the attorneys for the Ashland, Ore., chapter of the now-defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation should receive the money for waging its nearly five-year legal challenge to the Bush administration's Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Walker also awarded $20,400 each to two of the foundation's Washington lawyers whose phone calls were monitored.

South Korea

Military begins naval drills amid tension

South Korea today began annual naval exercises off its east coast as tensions with North Korea remain high. The drills are on the opposite coast from the disputed sea border where North Korea shelled a front-line island a month ago.

The North has made conciliatory gestures in recent days.

HOUSTON

Millions enter U.S. without proper ID

A year-and-a-half after the federal government strengthened rules on the documents needed to enter the country, millions of people are still being allowed through without passports or other hard-to-forge identification cards, a government audit has found.

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security estimated this week that about 3.6 million people a year were still passing through, about half of them at border crossings in Texas.

Elsewhere

CHICAGO: A federal judge upheld former Illinois Gov. George Ryan's convictions on Tuesday and denied his request to be released from prison on bail, ending his bid to be at his cancer-stricken wife's side for her final days.

NEW YORK: A right-wing blogger was sentenced to 33 months in prison Tuesday for making death threats against three federal judges in Illinois. Hal Turner had said his tirades were protected by free speech.

Times wires

Gulf spill suit lawyers want claims czar reined in 12/21/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:43pm]

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