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April 21, 2010 at 8:09 AM   |   Comments

Obama, lawmakers meeting on court nominee

WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama is to meet with congressional lawmakers Wednesday to talk about filling the Supreme Court vacancy, the White House said.

The scheduled meeting comes after Obama spoke by phone this week with potential nominees to fill the high court vacancy left by retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, an administration source told CNN.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, federal appeals judges Diane Wood, Sidney Thomas and Merrick Garland, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano have been reported on a short list of 10 potential candidates. But it remained unclear who might be getting the most serious consideration.

The White House said it expected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, at the White House for the Wednesday morning meeting.

Administration officials say expect the president to pick a nominee by early May.

Meanwhile, a CNN poll found a majority of Americans said they expect Obama to appoint a liberal to the Supreme Court, but only one in four said they prefer that.


Workers injured in oil rig blast

VENICE, La., April 21 (UPI) -- Three people were critically injured and more than a dozen others are missing following an explosion and fire aboard an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

The blast occurred late Tuesday on the Deepwater Horizon, a mobile offshore drilling unit some 50 miles southwest of Venice, La., WWL-TV, New Orleans, reports.

Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters are searching for the missing workers.

President Billy Nungesser of Palquemines Parish said the rig is currently in danger of tipping over.

"The rig is leaning badly and the Coast Guard commander down here feels like it may go over sometime today," Nungesser said. "It is still on fire."

Senior Chief Petty Officer Mile O'Berry of the Coast Guard said at one point the fire on the rig was so intense it hampered rescue efforts.

Environmental impact crews are waiting until the fire is out to assess damage.

WWL-TV said the rig belongs to Transocean, which is operating it for BP.


Fishermen plucked from freezing Alaska sea

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, April 21 (UPI) -- Four fishermen were rescued from a freezing gale Tuesday night after their boat sank off Alaska, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A search helicopter dispatched from Kodiak found the crew of the Northern Belle, based in Seattle, about three hours after receiving a distress call that the vessel was sinking.

Three of the fishermen were suffering from hypothermia and a fourth required cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the Coast Guard said in a statement. His condition was unknown late Tuesday.

The 75-foot Northern Belle went down in bad weather about 50 miles south of Montague Island. The cause of the sinking and the whereabouts of the crew weren't immediately known.

The National Weather Service had gale warnings posted in the area around Montague Island. Rain, 9-foot seas and winds up to 35 knots were forecast.


Airline losses total $1.7 billion

LONDON, April 21 (UPI) -- As European flights resumed in skies clouded with volcanic ash Wednesday, an industry group put airlines' losses at more than $1.7 billion.

Airlines warned it would take weeks for operations to return to normal -- and to get some of the millions of stranded passengers home.

The International Air Transport Association said the $1.7 billion in lost revenue extended through Tuesday and that lost revenues had hit $400 million a day at the height of the crisis that began last Wednesday.

The disruption of flights "eclipsed Sept. 11 (2001) when U.S. airspace was closed for three days," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director general and chief executive officer.

"For an industry that lost $9.4 billion last year and was forecast to lose a further $2.8 billion in 2010, this crisis is devastating," Bisignani said.

Since shortly after the cloud following last week's volcanic eruption near southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull glacier blew in and then settled over Europe, airlines have campaigned hard to resume flights. Some of them have questioned the validity of government predictions and warnings.

More than 8 million passengers have been affected and more than 300 airports closed, Brussels-based Airports Council International Europe said.


One Thai policeman killed in explosion

BANGKOK, April 21 (UPI) -- A Thai policeman was killed and several more wounded in explosions Wednesday in the country's violence-hit southern region, authorities said.

The officers were getting ready for morning duties at their station in Pattani province when the place was hit by explosions from a grenade and a car bomb, CNN reported, quoting an officer at the station.

The attacks killed one officer and wounded at least 44 others.

Southern Thailand has long been the scene of violence blamed on Muslim separatists seeking to have their own state in the region made up of Pattani, Yala and Narthiwat provinces, the report said. People in these regions are largely Malay-speaking Muslims while Thailand is mostly Buddhist.

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