In brief: Army engineers prepare to open Louisiana spillway
LAKE PROVIDENCE, La. – Army engineers said they will open a key spillway along the bulging Mississippi River as early as today and inundate thousands of homes and farms in parts of Louisiana’s Cajun country to avert a potentially bigger disaster in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
About 25,000 people and 11,000 structures could be in harm’s way when the gates on the Morganza spillway are unlocked for the first time in 38 years.
“Protecting lives is the No. 1 priority,” Army Corps of Engineers Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh said aboard a boat from the river at Vicksburg, Miss., hours before the decision was made.
The opening could submerge about 3,000 square miles under as much as 25 feet of water in some areas but take the pressure off the levees protecting New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the numerous oil refineries and chemical plants along the lower reaches of the Mississippi.
Sen. Kohl announces he won’t seek re-election
MADISON, Wis. – Sen. Herb Kohl’s announcement Friday that he won’t seek a fifth term put Democrats on the defensive in Wisconsin, a state that swung heavily Republican in 2010 and will be an important part of President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.
Kohl’s decision came as a surprise to both parties. Just last week, top Democrats in Washington talked about his re-election as if it were a matter of fact. Now, the 76-year-old department store founder joins four other Democrats who have decided to retire rather than fight to keep their seat.
Kohl’s decision to not to run in 2012 further complicates the already tricky task Democrats are facing in their attempt to stay in control of the Senate. Republicans need to pick up just four new seats to swipe the Senate majority away from Democrats.
‘Birther’ Army doctor who defied order released
HAGERSTOWN, Md. – An Army doctor who disobeyed deployment orders because he doubted President Barack Obama’s birth records has been freed from a military prison in Kansas.
A Fort Leavenworth spokesman says Terry Lakin was released Friday after serving five months of a six-month sentence for refusing to go to Afghanistan. Lakin, of Greeley, Colo., pleaded guilty in December to disobeying orders and was convicted of missing a flight that would have gotten him to his eventual deployment.