From NPR News in Washington, I’m Barbara Klein.
President Obama is due to address the Congressional Black Caucus annual awards dinner this hour. NPR’s Allison Keyes reports the president is working to energize African-American voters for the upcoming midterm elections.
The president’s relationship with the Black Caucus seems somewhat tense lately. Though caucus members have supported him publicly, there have also been complaints from caucus members such as House Judiciary Chair John Conyers, who has said White House officials aren’t listening to black lawmakers. Some black voters in Washington DC, who said they voted against the District’s outgoing Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, say neither Fenty nor Mr. Obama were doing enough to solve issues including high unemployment in African-American communities. The NAACP has spearheaded a call for a march on Washington next month to push for more jobs. This week, President Obama hosted a reception for black college officials and also appeared on a syndicated black radio talk show, telling the host he knows unemployment has been “brutal”, especially for blacks, but the economy is recovering. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.
BP’s broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will undergo a major pressure test in a few hours to determine whether the well is finally dead. The cement pumped into the bottom of the well yesterday to plug it has dried. And as NPR’s John Burnett reports, engineers want to be sure it holds.
Offshore crews have pumped 74 barrels of cement into the bottom of the “nightmare oil well” off the coast of Louisiana, the final procedure to kill the well. Tonight, engineers will exert 15,000 pounds of pressure against the cement plug to make sure it will hold. If it does, it will be the first time BP can tell beleaguered Gulf Coast residents once and for all, the well will not leak any more oil. Crews lost control of the wild well five months ago and it gushed nearly five million barrels of crude into the Gulf, creating the worst offshore oil spill in US history. A relief well, 2.5 miles beneath the ocean floor, punctured the well on Thursday, allowing crews to pump in cement. An offshore official told the Associated Press once the well is officially killed, they’re going out for prime rib. John Burnett, NPR News.
Pope Benedict today met privately in London with victims of sexual abuse by priests. And at a Mass afterward, he issued one of his strongest apologies.”
“I also acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins."
Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of London, protesting the Pope’s handling of sex abuse allegations as well as his views on homosexuality and the ordination of women.
Taliban forces killed at least 14 people, mostly civilians, in election-related violence today. Insurgents launched several rocket attacks at polling stations and security forces as voters cast ballots for parliament. Turnout was relatively low. Meanwhile, accusations of vote rigging are reported across the country.
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Hurricane Igor’s on a course toward Bermuda. Ed Thompson reports the Category-2 storm is about 400 miles south of the island and could reach it as soon as tomorrow.
Igor is a very large hurricane with tropical storm-force winds extending 345 miles from its center. That means Bermuda will start feeling the early effects of the hurricane later today. Many buildings in Bermuda are constructed to withstand a hurricane such as Igor, but the island is taking no chances. Most stores and restaurants in the capital, Hamilton, are boarded up and residents are hurriedly stocking up on supplies. Bermuda’s International Airport and the causeway leading to the airport are shutting down. The private weather service, AccuWeather, is predicting the island could be in for a “several-day siege of damaging winds and waves”. The storm surge and large and destructive waves could produce flooding along Bermuda’s southern coast and increasing swells from Igor are already causing dangerous rip currents and waves of seven to nine feet off the Carolina coast. For NPR News, I’m Ed Thompson.
Hurricane Karl, meanwhile, has weakened to a tropical depression over southern Mexico, but it’s still wreaking havoc, triggering floods and landslides. At least two people are dead. The Mexican military is using helicopters to try to rescue people stranded and to look for others who may have been washed away.
Mexican police say they found the bodies of two officers who were among nine state police kidnapped by an armed gang in southern Mexico. The others are still missing. The group of policemen had gone to identify a body in the area when they were ambushed in an area that’s at the center of a turf war between rival drug gangs. Drug traffickers have killed more than 1,000 police officers over the past three years of Mexico’s escalating drug war.
I’m Barbara Klein, NPR News in Washington.