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June 18, 2010 at 7:58 AM
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Oil rig moratorium's effect still unknown

VENICE, La., June 18 (UPI) -- Economic fallout from U.S. President Obama's moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is unknown because layoffs are just starting, analysts say.

The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association warned that many of the rigs affected by the six-month moratorium could go elsewhere to drill for oil, endangering the 800 to 1,400 jobs per rig, including third-party associated service jobs, The New York Times reported Friday.

President Barack Obama imposed the moratorium on drilling in waters deeper than 500 feet after the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers, and then sank. Oil has been spewing into the gulf since in what has become the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Obama, addressing the nation Tuesday, apologized for the effect the moratorium is having on oil workers and the region, but he said investigators need to "know the facts" before allowing deep-water drilling to continue.

Securities firm Raymond James & Associates forecast the moratorium could last into 2011, devastating entire communities that rely on deep-water drilling, similar to shutdowns of auto plants and steel mills, the Times reported.

Lawrence Dickerson, chief executive officer of Diamond Offshore Drilling, owner of six deep-water rigs in the gulf, told the Times that 15,000 to 20,000 rig and associated jobs were in peril. He said he expected some deep-water rigs would remain in the area waiting to resume drilling, but all operations would be forced to cut staff as the moratorium continues.

Utah inmate executed by firing squad

DRAPER, Utah, June 18 (UPI) -- Convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad early Friday at the Utah State Prison in Draper, officials said.

Gardner, 49, became the third inmate in Utah and the United States to be executed by a firing squad since the nationwide death penalty ban was lifted in 1976.

Just after midnight, five anonymous executioners raised their rifles and fired at Gardner, separated by curtains and a brick wall. Four rifles contained .30-caliber bullets and one held a blank round, the Salt Lake City Deseret News reported.

Gardner was sentenced to death in 1985 for fatally shooting attorney Michael Burdell during an escape attempt from a Salt Lake City courthouse, the newspaper said. An accomplice smuggled a gun to Gardner while he was in the courthouse on charges of killing Melvyn John Otterstrom during a 1984 robbery.

Before the execution, Gardner's family and friends hugged and wept, the Deseret News said.

"It's hard to say goodbye to somebody you love," said Brandie Gardner, who grew up while her father was in prison.

Donna Taylor, Burdell's niece, said she and her husband contacted Gardner's family to let them know people cared about them.

"We put it behind us 25 years ago when it happened," she said. "We didn't like that they kept saying he's being killed because he killed Mike. … This is the last thing (Burdell) would have wanted. I just hate that his (Gardner's) family has to go through this now."

Kyrgyzstan violence concerns U.S.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 18 (UPI) -- The United States is closely watching the crisis in Kyrgyzstan as it has an important military base in the Central Asian nation, The New York Times reported.

The weeklong ethnic clashes between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks, which the United Nations says have left more than 180 people dead and created some 400,000 refugees, threaten to fragment the country, although the level of violence is easing, the Times said.

The U.S. military base, located outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, is vital as it provides supplies to the U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. However, there has been no clear signal from the current provisional government in Bishkek whether the base's lease would be renewed, the Times reported.

Russia, which also has military facilities in Kyrgyzstan, is competing with the United States for favors in that country.

The provisional government came to power after the April rioting that ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The new government of President Roza Otunbayeva failed to quell the ethnic rioting losing control in those regions.

The Uzbeks, who comprise 15 percent of the population, are unwilling to accept the authority in Bishkek, saying they have suffered much in the hands of the security forces.

Although the deposed Bakiyev, who is in exile in Belarus, has been accused of inciting the violence to keep his office, the report said it is not clear how he accomplished that and whether the military officers remain loyal to him.

The Kyrgyz government had planned a referendum this month on a new constitution but the ethnic clashes may have upset those plans, the Times said. The Uzbeks say they will not take part unless international peacekeepers are brought in, which it not likely, the report said.

Uzbek refugees tell of plight

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, June 18 (UPI) -- Many of the 6,000 Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan who fled the ethnic rioting there to a village on the border with Uzbekistan said no aid had yet reached them.

The refugees in Bekobat are among about 100,000 people seeking shelter in Uzbekistan after being forced to leave their homes in southern Kyrgyzstan, where ethnic violence the past week claimed more than 180 lives.

Speaking to Britain's Guardian newspaper, Bekobat refugees who arrived Sunday from the Kyrgyzstan towns of Osh and Jalalabad expressed shock at what they said was the international community's failure to notice their plight.

"We have absolutely nothing … The only thing we have to eat is what the locals give us," a woman told the Guardian. She showed a plastic bag of about a pound of potatoes and a small cabbage, saying, "How am I supposed to feed 15 people with that?"

Others said they had no medicine, running water or diapers for children, the report said.

Bekobat elders complained of a poor response from the West.

"The United States has a military base in Kyrgyzstan. But it seems this is all America cares about," said Farkat Matsakov, a village relief committee spokesman.

The U.N. agency for refugees said the ethnic clashes had driven about 400,000 people from their homes, 100,000 of them toward Uzbekistan.

The clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups began June 11 in Osh and spread to Jalalabad. The violence has been easing, allowing some aid to flow in.

Matsakov told the Guardian that without active world community involvement Kyrgyzstan could become a failed state. The Uzbeks constitute about 15 percent of the population.

Arrests, vandalism in LA after Lakers win

LOS ANGELES, June 18 (UPI) -- Celebrations in Los Angeles after the Lakers won the NBA title Thursday resulted in some vandalism and a handful of arrests, Los Angeles police said.

The Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 83-79 at Staples Center in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to capture their second straight league championship. The Los Angeles Police Department was on heightened alert in anticipation that fans might get out of control following the deciding game in the championship series.

During the first hours after the Lakers captured the title, police said they had arrested at least nine people, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Incidents of vandalism included smashed windows in buildings and damage to vehicles. The Times said police responded to a report of gunfire near Staples Center.

There was a report of a standoff between fans and a group of police officers in riot gear following an incident in which a crowd pulled down a traffic sign and two newspaper stands and then set fire to newspapers.

Some unruly fans were posing for pictures using a police line as background, the Times said.

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