WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama says "dreary and familiar" politics is blocking progress on key issues and "gridlock as a political strategy is destructive."
In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama criticized congressional Republicans for blocking legislative action on measures he said would boost the economic recovery, help more Americans buy homes, extend benefits for the long-term unemployed and provide financial help to states planning to lay off teachers and firefighters so they can balance their budgets.
"What we need is a willingness in Washington to put the public's interests first -- a willingness to score fewer political points so that we can start solving more problems," he said. "That's why I was disappointed this week to see dreary and familiar politics get in the way of our ability to move forward on a series of critical issues that have a direct impact on people's lives."
Obama said GOP leaders are preventing a vote in the Senate on removing a $75 million cap on the amount oil companies are obligated to pay to people and small businesses who sustain economic losses from oil spills. He also criticized Republicans for holding up votes on 136 of his nominees to positions in the federal government.
"I know the political season is upon us in Washington," he said. "But gridlock as a political strategy is destructive to the country."
Partner says BP may have been negligent
WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) -- The blowout in the Gulf of Mexico may have been caused by BP's "gross negligence," the chief executive officer of its partner in the well said Friday.
Anadarko Petroleum head Jim Hackett made his first statement on the disaster, The Washington Post reported. Anadarko holds a 25 percent stake in the well, which has been spewing thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf every day for almost two months.
Hackett said information that has become available since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon platform suggests "BP operated unsafely and failed to monitor and react to several critical warning signs during the drilling of the Macondo well."
"BP's behavior and actions likely represent gross negligence or willful misconduct and thus affect the obligations of the parties under the operating agreement," he said.
Anadarko has a financial incentive to find BP responsible for the blowout, which could relieve the company of paying 25 percent of the cost of containing the spill and cleaning up from it. Hackett said any money Anadarko makes from the sale of oil collected from the Macondo well will be donated to non-profit groups.
Kyrgyz leader plans to remove barricades
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 19 (UPI) -- Kyrgyz interim President Roza Otunbayeva said she has told police to start taking down barriers ethnic Uzbeks built to protect themselves from Kyrgyz mobs.
Otunbayeva confirmed her plans to remove the barricades in an interview with The Washington Post, which said the move could cause more violence in a country where ethnic clashes that began last week have killed killing 223 people,.
In her first trip to the region since the fighting began, Otunbayeva said she told authorities to show restraint when removing the trucks, trees and concrete Uzbeks used to create the barriers. But she warned police would use force if necessary.
Removing the barriers will allow relief aid to get to hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks driven out of their homes, enable Kyrgyz families to search for missing relatives in ethnic Uzbek districts, help restore order and encourage refugees to return home, Otunbayeva said.
"There are worries, certainly," she said. "How can I not be worried? But we can't just leave it like that. This will continue and continue, and there will be closed sectors, and how can you deliver humanitarian assistance? We must move. We must do something."
Otunbayeva, who took power in a violent revolt in April, has faced criticism for not restoring access to the Uzbek districts. Some nationalist groups have gone as far as threatening to form militias to remove the barricades themselves if the government does not.
Ole Solvang, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in the region, stressed the need for restraint among police removing the barricades.
"I think they should be very careful and negotiate and build trust. Trying to tear down these barricades forcefully will not be received well," Solvang said.
Fierce storms batter Chicago area
CHICAGO, June 19 (UPI) -- Chicago-area storms blew out windows at the tallest U.S. building, disrupted power to at least 300,000, downed trees and ripped off a bowling alley roof.
The Friday storms, packing heavy rains and winds up to 77 mph, caused several injuries, the Chicago Tribune reported.
A mother and her two young children were hospitalized after a falling tree hit them in Chicago, and another falling tree injured someone else on the city's west side, while flying debris injured a woman at the Daley Center downtown, authorities said.
The National Weather Service had said flash floods were possible until the rain ended early Saturday.
At the 110-story Willis Tower, windows blew out on the 25th, 28th and 29th floors, sending glass raining on the pavement and street, and cracked a pane on the 12th floor, Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Gubricky said. Windows also blew out of a nearby building.
The first of two storms -- one in the afternoon, one in the evening -- produced higher winds and appeared to cause the most damage.
The storms damaged or toppled 1,080 trees, downed 311 utility wires and flooded dozens of basements.
In a suburb north of Chicago, winds ripped off parts of the Antioch Bowling Lanes on Illinois Route 173. Storm-related roof damage also led to the closing of Johnny's IceHouse West, where the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks practice.