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Diplomat Stripped Of Immunity After Fatal Car Crash

In a rare move, the Republic of Georgia lifted immunity for the second-ranking diplomat in its Washington embassy, clearing the way for his arrest in a fatal car crash, the State Department said Saturday.

George Makharadze could be charged with crimes reportedly as serious as involuntary manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Joviane Waltrick. Police said Makharadze, 35, had been drinking and appeared to have been speeding.

“This is an unusual case,” State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said. “There are very few instances in diplomatic history where a government has lifted diplomatic immunity in a case like this, where the charges are so serious.

“We’re very gratified. … We think this is the best step forward, and we’re very, very appreciative to the government of Georgia,” Burns said.

At the crash site Saturday, Viviane Wagner, the girl’s mother said, “Immunity is not impunity. … Was it necessary for my daughter to have left for people to understand?”

Wagner, a Brazilian immigrant, has campaigned since the accident to force a decision in the immunity case.

She has held nightly vigils at the flower-strewn site of the collision on downtown Dupont Circle and has passed out leaflets urging people to bring flowers or to write to authorities and demand justice.

Wagner called Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze “a man of courage” for waiving Makharadze’s diplomatic immunity, and the United States “a country of justice.”

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Sen. Maria Cantwell says governments should not be on the hook for coal mine cleanups

UPDATED: 12:25 p.m.

updated  WASHINGTON – Congress should end a practice that puts the federal government and states at risk of paying for expensive coal mine cleanups when mining companies go bankrupt, according to a new finding by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The GAO, an investigative arm of Congress, is recommending that lawmakers eliminate the ability of coal mine owners to self-certify their financial wealth, known as “self-bonding.” The controversial process lets owners avoid putting up collateral or getting third-party surety bonds – a requirement of companies in every other energy sector.