Exxon delay made oil spill worse, feds say
Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.'s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana's Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse, federal regulators said in a new report. The July 2011 rupture fouled 70 miles of riverbank, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup. The Department of Transportation report, provided to the Associated Press by the office of Montana Sen. Max Baucus, is the first time federal regulators highlighted specific actions by Exxon as contributing to the severity of the spill. An Exxon spokeswoman said Wednesday the company was reviewing the findings.
Immigration rule to reduce separations
Illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens will have an easier path to permanent residency under a new Obama administration rule that could affect as many as 1 million of the estimated 11 million people unlawfully in this country. The rule issued Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security aims to reduce the time illegal immigrants are separated from their U.S. families while seeking legal status. Beginning March 4, illegal immigrants who can show time apart from an American spouse, child or parent would create "extreme hardship" can apply for a visa without leaving the United States. Once approved, applicants would be required to leave briefly to return to their native country and pick up a visa.
Options given on Afghanistan troops
Gen. John Allen has submitted options to the Pentagon that would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014, the New York Times reported that defense officials said Wednesday. Allen offered three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, each with a varying risk factor, the Times reported. An official said that a more important factor in the success of any post-2014 U.S. mission is how much, or whether, an Afghan government known for corruption can deliver basic services to the people.
County refuses release of gun info
Less than two weeks after a White Plains, N.Y., newspaper published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, officials in Putnam County say they will block the release of their permit records requested by the Journal News. Officials were meeting Wednesday to discuss legal options for stopping the release. The newspaper, which drew nationwide anger after publishing the information, has armed security guards at two of its offices, the publisher said Wednesday.
Pursuit of Marcos wealth may ease
A commission that has been pursuing the wealth of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos should be abolished, even though much of his allegedly ill-gotten wealth has not been recovered, its chairman said Wednesday. Andres Bautista, head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, said he recommended to President Benigno S. Aquino III that the special commission be phased out. He said it is more efficient and less costly for the government if the Department of Justice handles the hunt for assets and any future cases against Marcos associates.