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Air India Express crash kills at least 157

MANGALORE, India, May 22 (UPI) -- An Air India Express jet crashed into a valley after overshooting a runway at Mangalore in southern India Saturday, killing at least 157 people, officials said.


The plane arriving at Bajpe airport on a flight from Dubai apparently touched down late and skidded off the runway into the valley, where it burned, The Hindu reported. Mangalore's airport is described as a "tabletop," set on a hill with steep cliffs not far from the runway.

Air India Express Flight IX-812 was carrying 160 passengers, two pilots and four crew members when it crashed into the valley about 6:30 a.m. local time, The Times of London reported. Most of the passengers were Indian nationals, the newspaper said.

At least six survivors pulled from the wreckage by local villagers were hospitalized, The Hindu said. Three of the survivors were in serious condition.


Authorities believe cloudy conditions and reduced visibility may have contributed to India's worst air disaster in 14 years, the Times said.

Mohammad Umer Farooqi, a young Mangalore man returning from a job-hunting trip in Dubai, said from a hospital that he jumped from the plane when he saw a hole in the fuselage, landing on the hillside.

"Then the plane veered off toward some trees on the side and then the cabin filled with smoke," he said. "I got caught in some cables but managed to scramble out."

He covered his face with his hands while he plunged through the hole to avoid the flames.

Police said the bodies of 120 passengers have been recovered.

Obama establishes commission on BP spill

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday establishing a bipartisan commission on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and offshore drilling.

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling will be chaired by Bob Graham, a former two-term Florida governor and U.S. senator, and William K. Reilly, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.


The seven-member commission, which will not include any current government employees or elected officials, will offer recommendations on how to prevent and mitigate the effects of spills due to offshore drilling.

"We are drawing on America's best minds and using the world's best technology to stop the leak" that began when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20, Obama said.

"We've deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we're doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them. …

"If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn't enforce those laws -- I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn't work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. …

"On Friday, I signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this Commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. …


"I've asked Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Bill Reilly to co-chair this Commission. … In the days to come, I'll appoint five other distinguished Americans -- including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates -- to join them on the commission. And I'm directing them to report back in six months with recommendations on how we can prevent -- and mitigate the impact of -- any future spills that result from offshore drilling," Obama said.

Gulf oil spill closes Louisiana beach

GRAND ISLE, La., May 22 (UPI) -- The mayor of Grand Isle, the only inhabited island on Louisiana's Gulf Coast, closed the beach to the public Friday after oil from the BP spill washed ashore.

Mayor David Camardelle closed the 8-mile-long island's beach to its 1,500 residents and the thousands more tourists who normally flock to the vacation spot to fish and swim, The Miami Herald reported Friday.

Lisa Rhobus, who runs the Cajun Holiday Motel, told the Herald all her rooms were booked before the disaster, but now every reservation has been canceled.

"The only paying people I have at Cajun Holiday are workers helping with the cleanup. This could just about kill Grand Isle," Rhobus said.

A giant oil slick 7 miles from Grand Isle was spotted from helicopters Friday.


"It's coming our way. All that oil you're seeing on Grand Isle beach now -- that's nothing compared to what's coming," one deputy sheriff told the Herald.

Texas history standards get final approval

AUSTIN, Texas, May 22 (UPI) -- The Texas State Board of Education has given final approval to standards for history textbooks designed to correct a perceived leftist slant, officials said.

The 9-5 vote late Friday followed party lines, The Dallas Morning News reported. Mavis Knight, a Democratic board member from Dallas, said the vote was a "travesty" with the majority creating a set of political standards.

"I think we've corrected the imbalance we've had in the past and now have our curriculum headed straight down the middle," said Don McLeroy, a Republican board member. "I'm very pleased with what we've accomplished."

Texas is one of the largest purchasers of school textbooks in the country, so the standards could affect the books used in other states. Some observers have suggested the effect will be limited because the standards are so extreme.

Among the changes now required for Texas public school textbooks are information on leading conservative groups and figures of recent decades and the suggestion that the Constitution does not mandate the separation of church and state.


The board rejected a Democratic move to postpone the final vote.

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