National news briefs: 7/5/12
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MIAMI -- The Pentagon has decided to lay an estimated $40 million underwater fiber-optic cable from Guantanamo Bay to South Florida, The Miami Herald has learned, in the latest sign that the military is preparing for detentions and other operations at the Navy base for the long term.
"It only makes sense to do if we're going to be here for any period of time," said Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert, disclosing the project in an interview last week before ending a two-year tour as the Navy base commander.
Construction won't start for more than a year. And communications won't come online for probably two more years.
But the American military has already notified the Cuban military to expect a surveyor ship, the USNS Zeus, off the base's coastline this summer -- a first step toward getting the program funded and then out to bid.
The fiber-optics plan is the largest known infrastructure improvement for the base by the Pentagon, which has undertaken expansion and building projects in a mostly piecemeal and sometimes secretive fashion in the decade of housing war on terror captives there.
BLUEMONT, Va. -- The death toll blamed on storms and the ensuing blackout across the eastern U.S. is now at 26 after two accidents in Virginia.
The sheriff's office in Loudoun County, on the Maryland border, said Wednesday a utility worker from Florida crashed after her truck had brake problems. The bucket truck's driver, Jacqueline Green, 57, died after going downhill into an intersection and hitting a semi-trailer Tuesday.
Authorities also said there was a death in Richmond caused by a falling tree. But Laura Southard of the state Department of Emergency Management said no other details were immediately available.
More than 900,000 homes and businesses remained without power early Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest.
LIMA, Ohio -- Rows of sand-colored armored vehicles ready for deployment are parked outside the nation's only tank manufacturing plant.
It's where welders and machinists for more than three decades have built the Abrams tank, which former President George W. Bush once called "the most effective armored vehicle in the history of warfare."
But the Pentagon says it will soon have enough tanks and wants to halt production for several years as it wrestles with deep cuts in military spending over the next decade.
Some members of Congress are attempting to restore funding for the tanks and other military weapons in a defense spending bill working its way through Capitol Hill, a move the White House is threatening to veto. The White House says adding more money to the budget will trigger deeper cuts because of an agreement made during a failed congressional attempt last year to reduce the deficit.
Caught in the middle are hundreds of workers at the northern Ohio tank plant who are worried about losing high-paying manufacturing jobs at a time when those positions are scarce.
Now there are about 800 workers who refurbish the Abrams tanks with new weapons and sophisticated navigation and communications systems, churning out one tank about every two days. The plant also makes the Stryker light-armored vehicle.
It's the second straight year the military has sought to end funding for the tank.
NEW YORK -- It was a grim reminder of a frightening pattern: An overnight tour bus returning to New York City from a nearby casino slammed into the median on Interstate 95 early Wednesday morning. It swerved to the left and struck the center median, then careened to the right and slid along a wall beyond the shoulder for about 500 feet.
But this time, the people on board were lucky.
There were 23 passengers on the Star Tag tour bus heading to Queens from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, when, about 6:20 a.m., the driver lost control of the vehicle as they passed through New Rochelle, according to the New York State police.
No other vehicle was involved.
The driver and all of the passengers were able to walk. They were taken to area hospitals, and their injuries were minor, police said.
NEW YORK -- Dialysis service provider DaVita Inc. will pay $55 million to settle a lawsuit related to overuse of an anemia medication.
The lawsuit was filed in 2002 and is based on a whistleblower's claim that DaVita overused Epogen, an anemia drug made by Amgen, over a 10-year period.
DaVita says its physicians did nothing wrong and stand by their anemia management practices, but the company says the agreement is in the best interest of its shareholders. In addition to $55 million, the company will pay attorney fees.
Epogen boosts oxygen-carrying red blood cells, reducing the need for painful blood transfusions. However a study in 2009 suggested Epogen and other drugs like it can double the risk of a stroke.
Denver-based DaVita runs about 1,800 outpatient dialysis centers nationwide.
First Published July 5, 2012 12:00 am