There is speculation about a last minute settlement. But if that doesn't happen, a federal judge in New Orleans will today begin hearing arguments about BP's liability for the 2010 oil rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 men and led to one of the biggest environmental disasters in the nation's history.
At stake: Billions of dollars in potential penalties.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
The worst environmental disaster in American history is the subject of a trial that is beginning today. It's a big and complicated civil lawsuit stemming from the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico - and, of course, the spill that followed that.
Let's talk next about a natural disaster. The many cities hit by hurricane Sandy included Hoboken, New Jersey. That city's mayor is ready to build walls to keep the water out next time, but that's a challenging proposition and the subject of today's business bottom line. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hoboken used to be an island, surrounded by the Hudson River on one side and tidal marshes on the other. By the 20th century, those wetlands were paved and developed. But after Hurricane Sandy, Hoboken was an island again.
Two months after the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut, letters, cards and gifts continue to arrive in Newtown each day, but the town is not sure what to do with it all.
The outpouring of grief started arriving just days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — poetry, stories, banners and posters. Soon the halls of Newtown's Municipal Center and buildings all over town were packed with messages from children and parents, from a soldier in Afghanistan and an inmate at a California prison.
Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 10:59 pm
A big first for Danica Patrick, but an even bigger second for Jimmie Johnson.
Patrick made history out front at the Daytona 500, only to see five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson reclaim his spot at the top in the end.
Johnson won his second Daytona 500 with a late push on Sunday, grabbing the spotlight from Patrick as she faded on the final lap. Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in "The Great American Race" and was running third on the last lap, but slipped to eighth in the late push for position.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 8:01 am
With less than a week before the across-the-board-spending cuts go into effect, Republicans and Democrats are sounding off about the sequestration.
"There's easy ways [sic] to cut this money that the American people will never feel," Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on Fox News Sunday. "What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending ... and it will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country."
John Kerry sets off Sunday on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, visiting Europe and the Middle East.
One dominant theme of the trip will be how to resolve the crisis in Syria, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years. Kerry is portraying his trip as a listening tour, and he expects to hear a lot about Syria.
He told reporters recently that he wants to talk with U.S. allies about how to persuade Bashar Assad to agree on peace talks that would end the Syrian leader's bloody rule in Syria.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 7:24 am
To those who closely follow the voter ID wars, Hans von Spakovsky is a household name, one of the nation's leading crusaders against voter fraud, and also one of its more controversial. Days before the 2012 election, The New Yorker profiled him as "the man who has stoked fear about imposters at the poll."
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 4:34 am
The Obama administration is following through on its relatively newfound support of gay marriage. On Friday, the administration filed a legal brief with the Justice Department that urges the Supreme Court to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
A new exhibit on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta is bringing civil rights leaders together.
Curators have worked for more than three years to catalog roughly 1,000 boxes of historic documents that tell the story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an early civil rights group first presided over by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
It seems Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has done his best in recent weeks to get as much ink as possible, talking about things that play well with the conservatives in his home state of South Carolina, like Benghazi and gun rights.
Graham also held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to get more answers about what happened in Benghazi, even as he admitted Hagel had nothing to do with it. But his opposition might have more to do with home state politics than the nomination itself.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments next week in a case that tests the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the law considered the most effective civil rights statute in American history. At issue is whether a key provision of the statute has outlived its usefulness.
U.S. counterterrorism efforts include choking off the flow of cash to extremists, and urging friendly countries to help. But in Nairobi, Kenya, suspicion of Somali money — and an increase in terrorist attacks — has prompted a country-wide crackdown, with Kenyan police accused of extortion and arbitrary arrests of thousands of Somali refugees.
But how do you tell the difference between tainted money and honest cash?
Take Eastleigh, a neighborhood in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
They've been everywhere this week: dire warnings about threats posed by across-the-board federal spending cuts.
Unless Congress acts, the cuts are due to take effect a week from Friday. The administration is trying to drive home the ways that could affect you.
For example, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday that air traffic controllers will have to take unpaid days off beginning in April. Fewer controllers on the job could mean airport delays, and some airlines may decide to cancel flights.
Last year, Seattle became one of the nation's first cities to buy unmanned drones for use by the police department. Public reaction was less "Gee-whiz" than "What the heck?"
The phrase "unmanned drones" typically conjures images of places like Afghanistan. But the Federal Aviation Administration says it wants to start testing the civilian use of aerial drones here in the U.S. and has already issued special permits to a few police departments interested in trying them out.
Since the drubbing that Superstorm Sandy gave the Northeast in November, there's a new sense of urgency in U.S. coastal cities. Even though scientists can't predict the next big hurricane, they're confident that a warmer climate is likely to make Atlantic storms bigger and cause more flooding.
In Sumter, S.C., home of Shaw Air Force Base and the 20th Fighter Wing, cars sport bumper stickers that say, "Jet noise is the sound of freedom."
Throughout the day, F-16s on training runs blast from a runway on base, disappearing into the foggy sky. But if automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts slated for March 1 go into effect, there will be a lot less of that sound.
"To cut to that level, we just could not pay for the amount of flying hours that we currently have," says Capt. Ann Blodzinski, the base's chief of public affairs.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The Japanese flag flew over Blair House in Washington today. That's where foreign leaders stay when they visit the White House. Japan's new prime minister is here for his first meeting with President Obama, and they've been discussing economic and security issues as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.
This year's flu vaccine looks like it's not doing much to protect older people. New numbers in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the vaccine has only been effective about a quarter of the time for people 65 and older. NPR's Rob Stein joins me to explain what that means. And Rob, tell us more about these numbers coming from the CDC.
There is some legal news in American sports as well today. The Justice Department announced it will join a whistleblower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. The suit was filed by one of Armstrong's former teammates on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. And for more, I'm joined by NPR's Mike Pesca. Hey, Mike.
Scientists searching for invasive species in Lake Tahoe scooped up a bright orange goldfish measuring nearly a foot and a half long and weighing more than 4 pounds, according to the website Live Science. (You can see it here.)
Environmental scientist Sudeep Chandra says a survey has uncovered a "nice corner" of the lake where about 15 other giant goldfish were living, apparently after being dumped there by aquarium owners.
In Fairbanks, Alaska, residents are using wood stoves to heat their homes during the frigid winter months. But, smoke created by these wood burners is contributing to some of the worst air pollution in the country. Cathy Cahill discusses air quality in the Last Frontier.