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Nine dead in beer distributor shooting

MANCHESTER, Conn., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- An employee's shooting rampage at a beer and wine distributorship in Manchester, Conn., Tuesday left nine people dead and others wounded, police said.

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Sources told the Hartford Courant the shooter was Omar S. Thornton, a 34-year-old driver who was among the dead. Fox News reported a Connecticut official said besides those killed, two were wounded but police said they were expected to survive.

The newspaper said a Teamsters Union official described Thornton as a recent hire and a "disciplinary problem."

"The union was bringing him in to meet with the company to remedy the problem," Teamsters official John Hollis said. "He started shooting."

Sources told the Courant Thornton shot several people and then himself with a .223 caliber semiautomatic rifle as police officers approached him.

It wasn't known if the disciplinary meeting with Thornton had taken place before the shooting occurred and the nature of the problem wasn't revealed.

Officials said Thornton began shooting inside a company building about 7:30 a.m., the newspaper said.

Police were alerted to the situation when someone called and said "somebody's been shot, there's a victim down," a Manchester police lieutenant said during a briefing.

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The lieutenant, a day shift commander, said it took police 1 1/2 to 2 hours to secure the scene.

About 35 or 40 people were in the office and warehouse when the shooting erupted, the distributor's director of marketing, Brett Hollander, whose family founded and owns the company, told newspaper. Steve Hollander, another family member, was wounded in the neck, the Courant said.

"Our shifts were just changing," Brett Hollander said. "There are definitely some people that are shot, some people that are dead."

The company has been in business for more than 60 years.

Hollander said employees were moved to a warehouse across the street when police entered the building where the shooter was located.

"They just went in there with guns blazing," he said.


'Static kill' to plug BP well could begin

VENICE, La., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Tuesday could be a milestone day in the monthslong effort to kill the damaged BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, company officials said.

The company said it could begin the "static kill," one of two efforts planned to plug the well that poured an estimated 206 million gallons of crude into the gulf between April 20 when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig ruptured the well, killing 11 workers, and July 15 when it was temporarily capped, CNN reported.

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The British oil company said on its Web site an injectivity test, postponed a day following the discovery of a small hydraulic leak in the capping stack hydraulic control system, began at 1:05 p.m. CDT in advance of the "static kill" operations.

"Based on the results of the injectivity test, pumping of drilling mud for the 'static kill' could commence later Tuesday, following which a decision on the best way to cement the well will be determined," the BP statement said.

Kent Wells, a BP senior vice president, said in the injectivity test, "base oil" is pumped into the ruptured well bore to determine whether it will go back into the reservoir, CNN reported. The test is meant to help officials determine whether adjustments are needed on "how and if" the "static kill" will proceed, Wells said.

The "static kill" involves pouring mud and possibly cement into the well from above, which would force the oil back into the reservoir, and seal the well.

The "static kill" may take up to 61 hours, officials said. It could be followed by a "bottom kill," after a relief well intercepts the crippled well, estimated to happen between five to seven days after the "static kill" is completed, CNN said.

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The spill ranks second on Wikipedia's list of largest known spills behind the Lakeview Gusher in California that spilled 378 million gallons between May 1910 and September 1911.

Meanwhile, Mexican media reported the Mexican government said it is planning to make BP and the United States pay for damages and costs associated with the ruptured well, CNN said.

So far, no oil has been found in Mexican waters, but Environment Minister Juan Elvira said Mexico spent $35 million monitoring the spill.


Kagan confirmation debate under way

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- At least five Republicans indicated they would support Elena Kagan's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court as floor debate on the nomination began Tuesday.

A vote on the nomination to replace John Paul Stevens, who retired at the end of the last session of the court, was expected Thursday before the Senate heads into its summer recess.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned Kagan would be an activist judge, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"This is not a judge committed to restraint," Sessions, R-Ala., said.

"She possesses a judicial philosophy that does not properly value discipline, restraint and rigorous intellectual honesty," Sessions said in announcing he would vote against confirmation.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., defended Kagan, who is currently U.S. solicitor general, as impartial, modest and committed to principle and the law.

"I believe the American people have a sense of her impressive knowledge of the law, her good humor and her judicial philosophy," Leahy said.

Kagan, 50, coasted through the nomination process, The Washington Post noted. Her confirmation would make her the fourth female Supreme Court justice and the third on the current court.

A CNN poll taken in July indicated 54 percent of those queried favored Kagan's confirmation.


More rain threatens Pakistan relief effort

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- New storm warnings in Pakistan could complicate rescue efforts in the country's worst flooding in 80 years and could increase flood levels, authorities say.

Estimates of the dead from the monsoon-caused flooding of last week have grown steadily, with UNICEF putting the toll at 1,400, The New York Times reported.

The floods had affected three million people, UNICEF said, including a million children needing emergency assistance.

Pakistan's government issued new flood warnings Tuesday as monsoon rains resumed and halted relief efforts in the northwest of the country.

There were fears the high water levels would threaten Pakistan's third-biggest dam, with reports villagers fled three towns near the dam.

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The new storms will be hard on survivors, who have been angry at the slow pace of relief efforts, the Times reported.

"This spell of rain will continue for the next two to three days," Muhammad Hanif, an official at the Meteorological Department, said, although the rains are forecast to be less intense than last week.


Oregon wildfire threatens homes

PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- An Oregon wildfire has burned more than 1,000 acres in the Deschutes National Forest and is threatening homes, authorities said.

Fire crews first responded to the fire about six miles south of Sisters, Ore., Monday morning, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.

Officials have asked the public to stay away from the area to keep the roads clear for firefighters, the newspaper said. With flames reaching 80 feet Tuesday, the fire is under investigation, authorities said.

The blaze, dubbed the "Rooster Rock" fire, burned through pine trees and sagebrush and was threatening several buildings on the forests' eastern edge.

Deschutes County sheriff's deputies went door-to-door Monday enforcing a precautionary evacuation.

Eight engines, one water tender, two bulldozers, three air tankers, one heavy helicopter and one light helicopter were supporting firefighters, the Oregonian reported.


Lower Manhattan mosque moves forward

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NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site got a boost Tuesday from the New York City Landmarks Commission.

The commission, in a 9-0 vote, refused a historic declaration for the building now on the site, the New York Daily News reported. The 152-year-old former warehouse most recently housed a Burlington Coat Factory store.

Commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon told the New York Post the decision was based entirely on the merits of the existing building and not on any future plans for the site.

A Muslim group plans to build an Islamic center to be known as Cordoba House, after the Spanish city where Christians, Jews and Muslims once lived together. The building would include a study center, restaurant and other facilities.

The project has become a lightning rod with opposition from former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for New York governor, accused the commission of being "stooges" of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, WNYC-AM, New York, reported.

"We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else," Bloomberg said at a news conference after the vote. "It is my hope that the mosque will bring our city even closer together and repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks on 9/11 were consistent with Islam."

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