In brief: Oil spill victims have payout options

WASHINGTON – Kenneth Feinberg, the head of the Gulf oil spill fund, said Monday that victims of the BP oil spill will have three options for final compensation from the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and two of them require claimants to forgo legal challenges.

The three options would apply to the next phase of the compensation program, now that the emergency phase – which distributed $2.5 billion to more than 160,000 businesses and individuals in Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas – is complete.

Under option one, the fund would make a final lump-sum payment based on documented damage, but claimants give up the right to sue. Under option two, claimants would get interim quarterly payments but reserve their legal recourse. Under option three, applicants who already have received emergency funds would get a quick payout of $5,000 for individuals and $25,000 for businesses without having to provide additional documentation, but they would have to give up the right to sue.

Gay veterans sue for reinstatement

LOS ANGELES – Three decorated military veterans discharged because they are gay filed suit Monday in San Francisco seeking reinstatement and another federal court judgment that the Pentagon’s ban on openly gay personnel in the military is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit should serve as “a shot across the bow” to put Congress on notice that if lawmakers fail to repeal the law, those who oppose it will turn to the courts for relief, said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Riverside, Calif., declared the law unconstitutional in September and ordered an end to military discharges based on service members’ sexual orientation. But the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended her ruling until appeals by supporters of the gay service ban have been considered. The stay has left in place the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has forced more than 14,000 discharges since it was enacted 17 years ago.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged Congress to repeal the rule, saying his “greatest worry will be that we are at the mercy of the courts, and all of the lack of predictability that that entails.” But legislation to repeal it was blocked by Senate Republicans on Thursday.

Reagan postage stamp unveiled

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – An image of President Ronald Reagan graces the U.S. Postal Service’s newest 44-cent stamp.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan helped unveil the design of the Ronald Reagan Centennial postage stamp during a ceremony Monday at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif.

The stamp features a close-up of the 40th president’s face with his Santa Barbara ranch in the background.

The Ventura County Star reports the stamp will go on sale Feb. 10, four days after what would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.

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