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Feb. 25, 2013 at 10:10 PM
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Settlement may forming in BP trial

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- A settlement is beginning to form as the trial against BP gets under way in New Orleans, a source told The New York Times.

The trial resulting from the 2010 explosion of a Gulf of Mexico drilling rig began Monday morning.

The possible $16 billion settlement would limit Clean Water Act fines paid by BP to $6 billion, a source briefed on the deal told the Times.

In addition, BP would pay $9 billion to cover damages to natural resources and restoration, and another $1 billion would be put in a fund to offset unanticipated environmental damages related to the spill developed.

The Times said officials at BP, the Justice Department or the states commented on any settlement, but several lawyers briefed on the negotiations said a $16 billion settlement proposal had been offered.

States that would be affected by any settlement are Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, though only Alabama and Louisiana are participating in the trial, the Times said.

Meanwhile, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said in his opening statement BP's actions concerning the gulf spill were driven by greed.

"At BP, money mattered most," Strange said.

Saying the spill was predictable and preventable, Strange said the oil giant's "culture of callousness" caused it to happen.

"Money mattered more to BP than the gulf. A lot more," Strange said. "Your honor, the evidence will be clear and unmistakable: Greed devastated the gulf."

N.Y. lawmaker under fire for blackface

NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Jewish New York state lawmaker Dov Hikind, criticized for his blackface basketball player costume for a Purim party, said Monday he's not prejudiced.

Politicker.com reported the 62-year-old Democrat, who represents the New York City borough of Brooklyn, said he had a professional makeup artist apply brown face paint to go with his Afro wig, sunglasses and orange jersey and brown face paint. The costume was for a party at his home Sunday marking the Jewish holiday of Purim.

"I was just, I think, I was trying to emulate, you know, maybe some of these basketball players," Hikind told the webblog Politicker.com. "I can't imagine anyone getting offended.

"No one is laughing, no one is mocking."

Word of his costume didn't sit well with some, however. Assemblyman Karim Camara, another Brooklyn Democrat who is chairman of the state Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, said Hikind just doesn't get it.

"I am deeply shocked and outraged by the insensitive actions of Assemblyman Hikind," Camara said.

"The history of the blackface minstrel show is something deeply painful in the African-American community. The stereotypes embodied in blackface minstrels have played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images."

Hikind called such criticism "political correctness to the absurd."

"There is not a prejudiced bone in my body," he said.

CPAC snubs Christie

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Conservative Political Action Conference leaders have not invited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to speak at next month's gathering, Politico reported Monday.

The Washington publication cited a source it described as familiar with the decision in reporting one of the Republican Party's top prospects for the 2016 presidential race was not asked to address the March event. The CPAC's list of speakers includes Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Christie has found himself on the wrong side of some Republicans for his expressions of appreciation for President Barack Obama's efforts to get aid to New Jersey and other states hit by Hurricane Sand, Politico noted. Christie also rankled Republicans with his criticism of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for tabling a storm aid bill.

Explosives found in pickup in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Eight suspicious devices found in an abandoned pickup truck in New Orleans Monday contained a chemical compound that could have exploded, city police said.

Police officer Frank Robertson III told The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune an officer sent to check out the Ford F-150, which had been sitting in a Whitney Bank parking lot all weekend, spotted what appeared to be incendiary devices sizzling and smoking in the truck.

Police robots detected three devices in the truck and the city bomb squad ultimately located five more, the newspaper said. One device had a timer and fuse.

The bank, other businesses and homes within a 2-block radius were evacuated, and streets in the vicinity were closed.

Robertson said the devices were taken to a laboratory for analysis and the investigation was being headed up by the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the newspaper said.

Robertson said police tried to reach the truck's owner.

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