NEW SPILL CLAIMS OUTPACING
It said BP added 441 new claims adjusters during the
period, for a total of 951 - an increase of 87 percent,
about half the percentage increase in new claims.
New claims against BP from the massive oil spill in the
Gulf of Mexico are pouring in more than twice as fast as the
British energy giant is paying them out, US officials said
Analysis by a consulting group hired by Louisiana to track
claims and BP payments amid the worst environmental disaster
in US history also showed that the claims have risen in
dollar amount, and that BP sped up its payouts specifically
when the state pressured the company to do so.
The group, Cannon Cochran Management Services Inc, said the
total number of claims reported by BP jumped by 170 percent
in June, from 30,000 to more than 85,000, and that by June
30 there were nearly 2.5 times as many new claims as there
were checks issued to claimants.
It said BP added 441 new claims adjusters during the period,
for a total of 951 - an increase of 87 percent, about half
the percentage increase in new claims.
“The state believes that claims processing will be
detrimentally impacted unless BP increases its number of
claims adjusters,” Department of Children and Family
Services Secretary Kristy Nichols said in a statement.
“BP must immediately address its apparent inability to keep
up with daily incoming claims and pay claimants in a timely
manner,” said Nichols, who is overseeing Louisiana’s
response to the BP claims process.
The Louisiana statement also said that BP cheque numbers and
total claim payouts spiked in the days immediately after
state officials leaned on BP to make the process more
Within a week of the extra pressure, BP issued the most
cheques of the month, 2,500 on June 21, but by June 26 the
number dropped to fewer than 500 cheques.
Average daily payouts were around two million dollars per
day from June 1 to June 15, then spiked to around 11 million
dollars on June 16 before falling back down to two million
per day in the last week in June.
“The head of BP Claims, Daryl Willis, has said several times
in the press that the transition of the BP claims process to
the independent commission set up by the federal government
wouldn’t affect the speed of payments, but we are seeing
just the opposite,” said Nichols.
“The state needs BP to stand up to its word and put these
claims payments into the hands of Louisianians who are
struggling because of the oil spill.”
The analysis showed that the average cost for loss of
income, property and commercial damage claims is “extremely
low and indicates that many claimants had not received any
payments by the end of June,” said Nichols.
“This is extremely distressing; families and businesses are
depending on those payments to keep roofs overhead and food
on tables,” Nichols said.
The average claim payout in Louisiana is 3,500 dollars.
BP’s total payouts in June rose significantly, from around
40 million dollars at the beginning of the month to more
than 130 million by the end.
At US President Barack Obama’s urging, BP set up a
20-billion-dollar claims fund with the aim of paying every
eligible claim brought by victims of the disaster. (AFP)
|New German President sworn in
Germany’s new president Christian Wulff was sworn into
office on Friday after an election earlier this week that
turned into a debacle for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Once again there was a real election for the post of
federal German president,” the conservative Wulff, 51, said
in parliament. “Every fair contest is good for our
On Wednesday rebels in Merkel’s coalition turned what should
have been a routine election by a special assembly of MPs
and public figures into what analysts and media commentators
called a humiliation.
Merkel’s candidate Wulff was eventually elected, but it took
three rounds of voting over a record-breaking nine hours
after rebels broke ranks and opted for the main opposition
candidate, Joachim Gauck, in the secret ballot.
The left-leaning Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said the vote
was the “writing on the wall” for Merkel’s coalition, while
Spiegel magazine said it was her “biggest failure.”
Merkel had been hoping that the presidential vote would get
her rocky second term back on track after seeing her
popularity ratings plummet since winning re-election last
September at the head of her preferred coalition.
The 55-year-old was hammered at home and abroad for her
handling of the eurozone crisis while the alliance of her
Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) with the Free Democrats (FDP)
has been plagued by squabbling.
Wulff was previously premier of the western state of Lower
Saxony. He succeeds as president Horst Koehler, who resigned
on May 31 after he appeared to suggest German troops abroad
were defending Berlin’s economic interests. (AFP)
|Otunbayeva inaugurated as President of
Roza Otunbayeva was on Saturday
inaugurated as president of conflict-wracked Kyrgyzstan,
making her the first female leader in the history of
ex-Soviet Central Asia.
Otunbayeva, a former ambassador to the United Kingdom who
took power on the wave of bloody street riots in April which
ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, took the oath of office
at a Soviet-era concert hall in the capital Bishkek.
The inauguration comes just days after the country
overwhelmingly approved a new constitution making Kyrgyzstan
the region’s first parliamentary democracy, a move
Otunbayeva hopes will help bring calm to the restive
|UN agency to promote women’s rights
The UN is to set up a single agency dedicated to promote the
rights of women and girls around the world.
The UN General Assembly voted in favour of the body after
four years of negotiations. The new UN Entity for Gender
Equality and the Empowerment of Women will be referred to as
UN Women, officials said.
It will start work at the beginning of next year and unify
four existing UN divisions dealing with women’s issues.
“UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote
gender equality, expand opportunity and tackle
discrimination around the globe,” UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon said. Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro
called the vote “historic”.
The new body would for the first time give the UN a “single
recognised driver” for the empowerment of women, Ms Migiro
A new post of under-secretary general will be created to
head the new body.
UN diplomats said negotiations over the establishment of UN
Women took four years because of disagreements between
Western countries and some developing countries. (BBC NEWS)
|Nepal’s political crisis sparks
concern over peace
(AFP) Nepal’s political
leaders were locked in talks Friday to try to form a new
government amid mounting international concern about the
country’s faltering peace process.
Major disagreements have emerged between the three biggest
political parties, over who should succeed outgoing prime
minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who stepped down on Wednesday,
under intense pressure from the opposition Maoists.
The former rebels, who fought a 10-year civil war with the
State, before entering mainstream politics and winning
elections in 2008, say that, as the largest party in
parliament, they should lead a power-sharing government.
But just six days before a deadline to form a national
consensus government expires, rival parties have ruled out
joining any administration led by the Maoists.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement urging
the parties to “intensify their efforts towards the
formation of a consensus government”, and implement
commitments made in the 2006 peace agreement.
Four years after the war ended, many parts of the peace deal
have still not been fulfilled, notably, the integration of
thousands of former Maoist fighters into the national army.
Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav has given political
leaders until July 7 to form a power-sharing government.
“We are trying to achieve consensus, but it will take time,”
said Rabindra Adhikari, a senior member of the Communist
Party of Nepal (CPN-UML), which leads the outgoing
|‘I will go where the majority goes’ -
Former first lady Imelda Marcos
yesterday vowed not to play partisan politics when she joins
the House of Representatives again after 12 years, as
representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte.
“I don’t want any fight anymore. I will go where the
majority goes. I’m no longer in a party now. I’m now with
the people’s party,” Mrs. Marcos told reporters.
Mrs. Marcos also vowed to support the administration of
president-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, son of their
former political rival.
“Anything good for the Filipino people, I am there –
committed, supportive,” she said.
Mrs. Marcos said she is happy to be back in national
politics, saying she will use her pork barrel for her
constituents, and will push for laws promoting the use with
her familiar battle cry of “serving the poor” and promoting
the “beautiful Philippines,” the widow of the late strongman
Ferdinand Marcos, took her oath of office together with her
son, senator-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., before
Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta yesterday
Mrs. Marcos, who still faces several graft cases, admitted
that she plans to use her priority development assistance
On the issue of proposed amendments to the Constitution, she
said, “I will see what kind of change. I don’t like change
just for the sake of change, but for the good and for the
better of the country, and for what is correct and right,
I’ll be there.”
As for her legislative agenda, Mrs. Marcos said she would
push for legislation that would bring back the use of
natural energy sources all over the country, including
hydropower plants, windmills, air and solar power, and
fossil fuels that really last long.
“We Filipinos pay so much on power,” she said.
Mrs. Marcos held a tree-planting project in her district as
her first project and also celebrate her 81st birthday on
July 2. (The Philippine Star)
|Larry King calls it a day
Larry King, the iconic TV interviewer, will step aside from
hosting his prime time CNN show later this year, he said
King, 76, made the announcement with a short posting to his
Twitter account, citing his desire to spend more time with
his wife and young children.
“I want to share some personal news with you. 25 years ago,
I sat across this table from New York Governor Mario Cuomo
for the first broadcast of Larry King Live. Now, decades
later, I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I
would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this
fall, and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time
for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games,”
“I’m incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness
Book of World Records for having the longest running show
with the same host in the same time slot. With this chapter
closing, I’m looking forward to the future and what my next
chapter will bring, but for now, it’s time to hang up my
During his Tuesday night show, King told guest Bill Maher
“there’s a freedom” that came with his decision.
“I want to expand,” King told the comedian. “I want to do
other things that I haven’t been able to do.”
The idea to step aside came to him after he completed his
week-long 25th anniversary celebration, he said.
“I’m thinking to myself, I’ve done 50,000 interviews,” he
said. “I’m never going to top this.”
King said he would exit the host’s chair “maximum November.”
But, he told Maher, “Then I’ll be doing specials. You’ll see
me in other places.”
Asked whom he wants to replace him, King cited “American
Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. “He’s curious, he’s interesting,
he’s likable,” King said. “If he has a great interest in
politics, I would recommend him. But I’m sure there’s a ton
of people who could do it. Come on. It’s Q and A.”
“It’s not easy,” Maher responded. “That’s the trick.”
King said he had made no plans about his future, but added,
“I’m looking forward -- I feel open to so many things. Life
will be better.”
King’s decision followed months of media speculation about
his future, as his ratings declined.
King was hosting a nationally syndicated overnight radio
talk show, when CNN founder Ted Turner persuaded him in 1985
to try his interviewing skills on cable TV.
“All I had to do was everything I’d been doing since I was a
kid,” he wrote in his best-selling 2009 autobiography, “My
His gentle but persistent interview style drew big-name
guests, and “Larry King Live” became a place for major
personalities to break news.
King, who was initially based in Washington, became a
mandatory stop for politicians. Over his career, he
conducted sit-down interviews with every US president since
His programme was sometimes a place of real-time diplomacy.
In 1995, he hosted a programme on the Middle East Peace
process with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, King Hussein
of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
His suspenders, large glasses and vintage desk microphone
are as recognisable as the countless celebrities lined up to
have an intimate chat with King, while the world listened
And there have been many guests, including Marlon Brando,
Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Paul McCartney, Bob Hope,
Frank Sinatra, L. Ron Hubbard, Madonna and Martin Luther
King says that Nelson Mandela was the most extraordinary
person he has met.
In his autobiography, King confessed that he never plans a
question, that he likes to be surprised by the answers. He
says, he asks his interview subjects to explain things.
“All I do is ask questions,” he wrote. “Short, simple
Born in Brooklyn, Larry Zeiger moved to Miami, Florida, in
1957. He began his radio career that year with a new name,
Larry King. His first television job was hosting a local
interview show in Miami in 1960. (CNN)
|Triple suicide bombing in Pakistan
Police said they suspect Taliban
were behind Thursday’s attack; no group immediately claimed
Three suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a popular
Sufi shrine in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore on
Thursday, killing at least 40 people, a brutal continuation
of attacks by extremists targeting followers of one of
Pakistan’s popular and more moderate versions of Islam.
Thousands of devotees were inside the Data Gunj Bakhsh
complex, a turquoise-domed shrine to an 11th-century Persian
Sufi saint, when two bombers detonated themselves inside the
marbled hall. A third attack took place outside the gate,
police and witness said.
The attackers threw grenades on the crowd as it concluded
late-night prayers, and then detonated themselves. Pakistani
television showed images of blood smeared on the shrine’s
marble floor. “There was a huge blast and there was complete
pandemonium,” a witness told private GEO TV news.
In addition to the 40 dead, some 175 were injured, a city
official said. Rescue workers said the toll could rise given
the number of the wounded who were critically injured.
The shrine, of the Persian Sufi saint Syed Ali Hajwairi, is
known for colourful festivals in which dervishes dance, a
practice deemed un-Islamic by hard-line Sunni militants.
Members of the militant Islamist Taliban consider Sufis, who
constitute the majority of Pakistan’s population, as
heretics and have regularly attacked Sufi shrines.
Police said they suspect Taliban were behind Thursday’s
attack; no group immediately claimed responsibility.
The attack was the second on a religious site in Pakistan’s
second-largest city within a month. In late May, militants
with assault rifles and grenades attacked a pair of Lahore
mosques belonging to the tiny Ahmadi sect, killing more than
Al Qaeda-linked extremists, who follow an austere, Saudi
Arabian-inspired version of the faith, have stepped up
attacks against adherents of several strains of Islam.
Among them is the more moderate Sufi strain, which is
widespread in Pakistan and can be either Sunni or Shia, and
puts emphasis on the mystical nature of the faith. The
Taliban was suspected of blowing up the shrine of a
17th-century Sufi poet in March last year. No one died in
Sectarian groups have also for years singled out members of
Pakistan’s minority Shia community. In February, militants
hit a Shia religious procession in Karachi, the financial
capital, killing more than 20 people.
The Pakistan Taliban have also stepped up suicide bomb
attacks on shops, police stations and government buildings
in Lahore and other cities in the past year, in retaliation
for a Pakistan army offensive against their strongholds in
Other groups, including Punjabi-based militants financed and
trained by Pakistan military intelligence in the 1990s to
fight against India in Kashmir, have also stepped up attacks
on targets inside the country.
Government and security officials say that as ordinary
Pakistanis become increasingly weary of regular attacks,
militants could become subject to backlash from the
country’s more moderate majority. (Wall Street Journal)
|60 injured in clashes in Srinagar
With no let-up in tension, authorities on Friday clamped
curfew in Srinagar and other major towns of the Kashmir
Valley to foil the “Eidgah march” called by separatist
Hurriyat Conference. At least 60 people were injured in
clashes as people tried to defy curfew at several places.
Apprehending more trouble, the authorities, for the first
time in a week, imposed curfew on Srinagar and asked people
to remain indoors.
Additional police and CRPF personnel were deployed. Prayers
in central Jamia Masjid and other major mosques could not be
offered on Friday due to restrictions enforced by the
government. Kashmir’s head priest Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and
other separatist leaders were put under house arrest. Police
sealed all roads leading to the Eidgah as Hurriyat
Conference (Geelani) asked people to reach there to register
their protest against alleged human rights violations.
Processions taken out
Despite curfew slogan-shouting people took out processions
in several places in Srinagar, Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara
and Kupwara and clashed with police. At least 60 people,
including several policemen, were injured in the clashes.
Two of them are stated to be critical in hospital. Abdur
Rashid Paul, Additional Superintendent of Police, Kupwara,
and guard of another police official of Handwara were among
those injured. An attempt by a mob to attack the house of
Lok Sabha MP Shariefuddin Shariq in Handwara was foiled by
the police guards.
A senior police officer told The Hindu that the situation
was under control though tension prevailed in most parts.
“Our effort is to avoid civilian casualties despite
People are facing difficulties on account of shortage of
food and other essential items. “We are not able to go out.
We do not have even milk for babies,” said a resident from
Nowhatta in Srinagar downtown. Reports from Baramulla and
Sopore also suggest that a crisis on this account was
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, head of a faction of the Hurriyat
Conference, expressed strong resentment over the continuing
curfew and prevention of people going for Friday
congregations in the major mosques of the valley.
‘Whenever Kashmiri people bring momentum in the peaceful
struggle for their right to ‘self-determination,’ the
Government of India blames Pakistan and tries to misguide
everyone, both at the national and international level,’ the
Mirwaiz said in a statement here.
The Mirwaiz also condemned the imposition of curfew for the
past five days and the “continuous siege of the local
He demanded the release of innocent teenagers, political
prisoners and release of leaders from house arrest.
A Hurriyat spokesman criticised a Delhi-based news channel
for its “deceptive and biased reporting regarding the
Amarnath Yatra. Such media outlets in India are trying to
give a communal bend to the ongoing peaceful protests.” (The
News in brief
Taliban attack on US aid group kills 5
A team of suicide bombers attacked the offices of a
contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development
in northern Afghanistan Friday, killing five people and
sparking a six-hour gunfight before the attackers themselves
The attack was the latest on what is a key tool in the U.S.
counterinsurgency strategy— U.S.-sponsored groups hired to
help bolster growth and development in the country. It
coincided with the arrival of Gen. David Petraeus, the new
commander of coalition forces and author of that strategy.
(Wall Street Journal)
New Philippines leader to get stuck in traffic
New Philippine President Benigno Aquino may already be
rueing his inaugural pledge to suffer Manila’s congested
roads alongside his compatriots, after his limousine got
stuck in traffic on Friday.
On his second day in office Aquino ordered his driver to
stop for red lights and declined to use lanes set aside for
public buses and as a result arrived 40 minutes late for a
military parade. “He refused to go into the yellow (bus)
lane. We got stuck in traffic,” a journalist who was part of
the official convoy from Aquino’s northern Manila home, five
kilometres (three miles) away, told AFP.
Greek unions call sixth general strike
Greece’s two main unions on Thursday called a new general
strike for July 8 to protest pension reforms that are set to
be approved by parliament that day, union sources said.
The general strike would be the sixth this year against a
string of austerity measures aimed at reducing the country’s
The GSEE union, which represents over one million private
sector workers, called in a statement for a cancellation of
the reform, which would reduce pensions and increase the
retirement age to 65.
Toyota recalls cars over
faulty engine fear
Toyota has announced it will recall 270,000 cars
worldwide because of an engine fault.
Toyota said the recall included seven luxury Lexus models -
some of them in the UK - and the popular Toyota Crown.
The latest quality problem follows the recall of more than
8m vehicles which had problems with sticking accelerator
pedals earlier this year.
The company was fined $16m (£10.6m) in the United States for
its slow response to the accelerator fault.
The company is still facing more than 200 lawsuits tied to
A spokeswoman for the firm said some vehicles might have a
problem with the valve spring in their engines, which could
cause the car to stall while being driven.
The defective 4.6-litre V8 and 3.5-litre V6 engines had been
installed in eight top-line models including some hybrids -
the Lexus GS350, GS450h, GS460, IS350, LS460, LS600h and
LS600hL as well as the Crown sedan.
No accidents had been reported, the spokeswoman said.
Some 3,200 Lexus vehicles in the UK were involved, a
spokesperson said, but no Toyotas.
“Lexus will do whatever it can to ensure that our customers’
inconvenience is minimised as much as possible, decide on
the details of any action, and inform our customers
promptly,” a company statement said.
Owners with concerns should contact their local dealer.
Car recalls are not uncommon, with 227 in the UK alone last
year, according to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency.
|Supermodel summoned in war crimes
Naomi Campbell is being compelled to
testify about how she obtained a “blood diamond”
Naomi Campbell, the British supermodel, has been ordered
appear at the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, the former
Liberian president, to testify about a diamond he is alleged
to have given her.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in The Hague,
issued the subpoena on Thursday forcing Campbell to testify
after she avoided prosecutors for a year.
The court has warned she could be jailed for up to seven
years and be fined $510 if she does not appear on July 29,
or fails to “show good cause” for not appearing.
Prosecutors in the trial want her to say whether Taylor gave
her a rough, or uncut, diamond as a gift during a
celebrity-packed 1997 reception in South Africa hosted by
Nelson Mandela, the then South African president. They have
said the model can provide material evidence to support
their contention that Taylor lied when he testified that he
never possessed rough diamonds.
Prosecutors have complained to the judges that they had
tried unsuccessfully to contact Campbell several times since
June 2009, when they received information that Taylor had
given her the diamond. “The prosecution has shown that there
is at least a good chance that the information to be
provided by Ms Campbell would be of material assistance to
its case,” the court said in a ruling. It cited Campbell’s
public statements that she “does not want to be involved in
US actress Mia Farrow and Carole White, Campbell’s former
agent, have agreed to testify in the same trial. Prosecutors
say White heard Taylor say he was going to give Campbell
some diamonds and was there when Campbell received them,
while Farrow attended the reception where Campbell met
Taylor and was told by Campbell about the gift the next
Prosecutors accuse Taylor of dealing in so-called “blood
diamonds”, gem stones mined in a war or conflict zone, the
proceeds of which are used to finance an insurgency.
Taylor denies 11 charges of instigating murder, rape,
mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child
soldiers during the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He is accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone’s
1991-2002 civil war, which claimed the lives of an estimated
In return for helping the rebels, prosecutors say Taylor
plundered Sierra Leone of its timber and mineral wealth,
including gems that became known as “blood diamonds”.
The trial is being held in The Hague for fear of renewed
violence if the hearings were conducted in Sierra Leone.
After several false starts, the trial began in earnest in
January 2008. Taylor’s own testimony took seven months.
|Belgium dances into top EU role
The EU knows it takes a lot more than two to tango, so
Belgium is staging a big dance event to mark the start of
its six-month EU presidency.
The “I love EU” show gets top billing on the new Belgian
presidency website, www.eutrio.be.
Brussels-born British rocker Brian Molko and his band
Placebo will be star attractions at Saturday’s gig in
Brussels. Smaller parties will take place in 11 other
Belgium hosts the top EU institutions.
The EU’s 27 member states take it in turns to run EU affairs
for six months, and Spain is now handing on the baton to
But the Lisbon Treaty has downgraded the importance of the
six-month rotating presidency, because major EU initiatives
are now handled by the European Council President, Herman
Van Rompuy, and foreign policy is in the hands of the High
Representative, Baroness Ashton from the UK.
Lisbon Treaty impact
As a former Belgian prime minister, Van Rompuy “will help to
make Belgium visible” on the EU stage, a top Belgian
Bernard Bulcke, spokesman for Belgium’s mission to the EU,
said EU institutions were “still looking for the borders”
because the Lisbon Treaty had modified their roles and
“The European Parliament is really becoming an important
player now,” he told the news channel EUX.TV.
Belgium does not yet have a new government and coalition
negotiations are expected to continue for months, but
Belgian officials have played down the impact of that on EU
The current caretaker government will carry on, and Finance
Minister Didier Reynders said he would prefer it to stay in
charge throughout Belgium’s presidency.
Belgium is the seat of the European Commission, the Council
- the grouping of EU governments - and the Parliament.
But the country itself is deeply divided between the mainly
Dutch-speaking Flanders region and Francophone Wallonia.
Bulcke said Belgian politicians were past masters at
brokering compromises, and “that is one of the most
important things to do on the European level”.
A heated debate about EU “economic government” is raging as
member states strive to co-ordinate their budgetary policies
Alarmed by Greece’s massive debts, Germany is spearheading a
drive to tighten the fiscal rules to prevent countries
indulging in reckless spending sprees. (AFP)