National news briefs: 1/1/13

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Stranded rig being assessed

KODIAK, Alaska -- The U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell Plc were fighting 70 mile-per-hour winds and 40-foot swells Tuesday as they tried to assess damage to a floating oil drilling ship grounded on a remote Alaskan island.

The Shell rig Kulluk was stranded on the coast of Sitkalidak Island, about 60 miles southwest of the town of Kodiak, according to a Coast Guard statement issued Tuesday. The rig went ashore at 8:48 p.m. Alaska time Monday, about 38 minutes after the last towline to the rig was cut to ensure the safety of the nine-member crew of the tugboat Alert.

The Kulluk has approximately 139,000 gallons of ultralow-sulfur diesel and 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid on board. An initial Coast Guard helicopter flight over the grounded rig didn't detect any visible sign of a spill. More inspections were planned, while the approximately 250 people involved in response efforts were hampered by the winds and high seas, according to the statement.

The Kulluk was en route to Seattle for repairs after drilling off the Alaska coast. The rig had been adrift and then was temporarily brought back under control before it went aground. The Kulluk's crew were evacuated Saturday as a precaution, according to Curtis Smith, an Alaska-based Shell spokesman.

Shell has invested $4.5 billion in offshore leases and equipment and fought at least 50 lawsuits from environmental groups to begin drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas last year, the first wells in U.S. Arctic waters in about 20 years.

D.C. homicides drop

WASHINGTON -- The number of homicides dropped again last year in the Washington region, including in the District of Columbia, which grew in population and yet recorded the fewest killings in a half-century.

As of Monday night, the District had 88 killings, a milestone for D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier, whose long-standing goal has been fewer than 100 homicides. As recently as 2009, the District had 140 killings. In 2011, there were 108.

Police point to several reasons for the decrease, which has been part of a yearslong national trend in some major cities across the country. Authorities have broken up dozens of violent gangs, seized thousands of guns, used technology to monitor the streets and directed additional resources to high-crime areas.

Oscar voting extension

LOS ANGELES -- Growing concern that problems with the new electronic Oscar voting system could lead to record-low turnout has prompted the motion picture academy to extend the deadline for members to vote for Oscar nominations.

But with next week's highly anticipated announcements looming, the extension is only for a day, until Friday. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday any votes received after the new deadline will not be counted.

Airplane fender bender

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Authorities say no one was injured when two airplanes got into a sort of fender bender at a Florida airport.

Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue says a taxiing Spirit Airlines Airbus A-320 clipped a US Airways Airbus A-320. The US Airways jet was parked Monday night in a remote area away from the gate at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.



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