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Feb. 14, 2013 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

White House blasts GOP on Hagel filibuster

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Republicans "put political posturing" over national security in blocking President Obama's nominee for defense secretary, the White House said.

Four Republicans voted with Democrats when the Senate voted 58-40 Thursday to move the nomination of Republican former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to a vote, but 60 votes were required to break the Republican filibuster.

"Today, Senate Republicans put political posturing ahead of our nation's security," the White House said in a statement. "For the first time in American history, Senate Republicans filibustered a nominee for secretary of defense -- a member of their own party, a decorated combat veteran, and the right leader for our troops."

The White House said a "clear majority" in the Senate support the nomination and the GOP filibuster "runs against both the majority will of the Senate and our nation's interest."

"This waste of time is not without consequence," the statement said. "We have 66,000 men and women deployed in Afghanistan, and we need our new Secretary of Defense to be a part of significant decisions about how we bring that war to a responsible end. Next week in Brussels, the United States will meet with our allies to talk about the transition in Afghanistan at the NATO Defense Ministerial, and our next secretary of defense should be there. With questions about the sequester looming over the Pentagon, our secretary of defense should be in place."

The White House called on Senate Republicans to "stop playing politics with our Department of Defense, and to move beyond the distractions and delay."

Republicans indicated they would allow the nomination to proceed after next week's recess, CNN reported.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement released by his office the Senate will vote Feb. 26 on moving the nomination forward.


Christopher Dorner's body identified

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner's charred remains have been identified by dental records Thursday, authorities said.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said he was "relieved but sad because of the tragic loss of life, traumatic injuries and mental anguish he caused," the Los Angeles Times reported.

"We are grateful that it this reign of terror is over," the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in a statement. "Christopher Dorner intended to wreak havoc and terrorize Los Angeles and all of law enforcement who protect our communities."

Hours before he was killed, Dorner told a couple he tied up he just wanted to clear his name, the couple said.

"He tried to calm us down, saying very frequently he would not kill us," Jim Reynolds, 66, told reporters.

"He huddled down beside me and said: 'You're going to be quiet, right? Not make a fuss and let me get away?'" said Reynolds, who has owned a mountain condominium in Big Bear Lake with his wife for 12 years.

Karen Reynolds, 56, said: "He told us, 'I know you know who I am. I know you've been seeing the news.'"

The couple said Dorner, 33, who they believe had been at their condo as early as Feb. 8, told them Tuesday, a few hours before died in a burned cabin: "I don't have a problem with you. I just want to clear my name."

The couple said Dorner bound their arms and legs tightly with plastic zip locks, stuffed small towels in their mouths to keep them from screaming and covered their heads with pillowcases.

He tied an extension cord around each pillowcase to keep the gags in place, they said.

"I really thought it could be the end," Karen Reynolds said at the news conference.

About 2 minutes after Dorner fled the condo in their purple Nissan, Karen Reynolds managed to roll onto her knees and then get onto her feet, she said.

She made her way to a cellphone on the coffee table and, with her hands still bound behind her back, called 911.

"Dorner tied us up, and he's in Big Bear," she said she told the operator.

That 12:20 p.m. call alerted authorities and set in motion a chain of events that led to shootouts and a standoff at a cabin where Dorner was killed in flames that destroyed the wooden structure.


Judge approves $400M Transocean plea deal

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A federal judge approved Transocean's plea agreement on criminal charges in the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Transocean Deepwater Inc. pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, Attorney General Eric Holder announced.

A separate proposed civil consent decree, which imposes a $1 billion civil penalty, is pending, the Justice Department said.

Transocean is the owner of the Deepwater Horizon, which caught fire and sank in 2010 over BP's Macondo oil well, killing 11 men and triggering a massive disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Justice Department said the amount of fines and other criminal penalties imposed on Transocean is second only to the $4 billion criminal sentence imposed on BP in connection with the same disaster

"Transocean's guilty plea and sentencing are the latest steps in the department's ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster," Holder said in a statement.

Holder said most of the money will go toward "protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gulf Coast region."

Transocean's guilty plea was accepted Thursday by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

During the guilty plea proceeding, Transocean admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP's well site leaders, were negligent in failing to investigate fully clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well, the Justice Department said.


LaPierre: Armed guards in every school

NASHVILLE, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- National Rifle Association Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre Thursday renewed his call for armed personnel in every school in America.

Speaking at the annual convention of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Nashville, LaPierre scolded President Obama for not mentioning school safety in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

LaPierre asserted while Obama said in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre "nothing matters more than the safety of our schoolchildren," the president failed to mention keeping schools safe in the first State of the Union address of his second term.

In the U.S. Capitol audience Tuesday were relatives of those killed in Newtown as well as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is recuperating from a bullet wound to the head from a shooting spree in 2011.

Obama said legislation that would prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals, banning military-style weapons and large capacity magazines "deserve a vote."

"If you want to vote no, that's your choice," Obama said. "But these proposals deserve a vote."

LaPierre accused Obama of a "level of public deception that simply cannot be ignored" and alleged the president plans to institute "bans on millions of standard shotguns and standard magazines" and transfers of weapons "even between family members." He said Obama's plans would culminate in the "national registration of every single gun owner in this country."

He reiterated the NRA's call for a "School Shield Safety Program" that would put "armed police and security officers in every single school in America."

Obama and his Democratic allies "only care about their decades-long" crusade to "destroy the Second Amendment" and to "ban every gun they can, tax every gun sold and register every American gun owner," LaPierre said.

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