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  Nation World  


 

NEW SPILL CLAIMS OUTPACING BP PROCESSING

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 Friday.
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.
(AFP)
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 efficient.
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 democracy.”
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 Kyrgyzstan

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 country. (AFP)

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 said.
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 government.

‘I will go where the majority goes’ - Imelda

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 afternoon.
Mrs. Marcos, who still faces several graft cases, admitted that she plans to use her priority development assistance fund.
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 Tuesday.
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,” King wrote.
“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 nightly suspenders.”
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 Remarkable Journey.”
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 Richard Nixon.
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 in.
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, Jr.
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 questions.”
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 kills 40

Police said they suspect Taliban were behind Thursday’s attack; no group immediately claimed responsibility.

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 95 people.
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 that incident.
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 the northwest.
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 provocations”.
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 brewing.
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 population.”
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 Hindu)

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 were killed.
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 huge deficit.
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.
(AFP)

 

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 accelerator accidents.
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. (BBC news)

 
Supermodel summoned in war crimes trial

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 the case”.
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 morning.
‘Blood diamonds’
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 500,000 victims.
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. (Al-jazeera)

 
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 Belgian cities.
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 Belgium.
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 official said.
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 powers.
“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 affairs.
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.
Ethnic split
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 better.
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)