JACKSON, Miss. — The Coast Guard reopened the swollen Mississippi River north of New Orleans on Tuesday, allowing cargo vessels on the nation’s busiest waterway to pass one-by-one in the latest effort to reduce pressure from rising floodwaters.
A 15-mile stretch at Natchez, Miss., was closed entirely earlier in the day, blocking vessels heading toward the Gulf of Mexico and others trying to return north after dropping off their freight. Had the channel remained closed, it could’ve brought traffic to a standstill up and down the river, which moves about 500 million tons of cargo each year.
That sort of interruption could’ve cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars for every day of idled barges carrying coal, timber, iron, steel and more than half of America’s grain exports.
It’s not clear how long barges would only be able to move one at a time through the section. The river is expected to stay high in some places for weeks.
Senate blocks bill repealing $2B in oil tax breaks
WASHINGTON — The Senate blocked a bill Tuesday that would repeal about $2 billion a year in tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies, a Democratic response to $4-a-gallon gasoline that might fare better when Congress and the White House negotiate a deal later this year to increase the government’s ability to borrow.
The bill was defeated on a procedural vote. But Democrats hope to build their case to include the measure in a deficit-reduction package being negotiated by key lawmakers and the Obama administration.
Republicans and some Democrats opposed the tax increase, saying it would hurt domestic drilling while doing nothing to reduce gas prices. The vote was 52-48 in favor of the measure, short of the 60 votes needed to advance it. Three Democrats — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Begich of Alaska — joined with nearly all Republicans in opposing the measure. Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted for it.
Man eats 25,000th Big Mac, 39 years after his first
FOND DU LAC, Wis. — A retired prison guard ate his 25,000th Big Mac on Tuesday, 39 years to the day after eating his first nine.
Don Gorske was honored after reaching the meaty milestone during a ceremony at a McDonald’s in his hometown of Fond du Lac. Guinness World Records recognized Gorske’s feat three years and 2,000 Big Macs ago, and the 59-year-old says he has no desire to stop.
“I plan on eating Big Macs until I die,” he said. “I look forward to it every day.”
Grizzly bear mauls hunter in Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A grizzly bear mauled the former fire chief for the city of Nome, Alaska, during a weekend hunting trip, leaving the 54-year-old in critical condition Monday in a Seattle hospital.
Wes Perkins, a lifelong Nome resident, had been tracking the bear with friends on snow machines Sunday east of the Seward Peninsula city when the big grizzly charged, according to Alaska State Troopers. Perkins’ companions shot and killed the animal during the attack.
The hunters called for help on a hand-held radio at about 2 p.m., said Bering Air helicopter pilot Ben Rowe. Rowe landed a Robinson R44 at a snowy creek about two-thirds of the way between Nome and Council.
Perkins was badly hurt, including severe injuries to his face. Medics held his shoulders as he walked to the helicopter and Rowe could hear the doctors talking to Perkins as he flew across the snowy tundra and rolling hills back to Nome.
Rescuers shuttled Perkins to a hospital in Nome. Soon he was flying by King Air to Anchorage and then on a Lear jet to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Rowe said. He underwent emergency surgery Monday morning as his siblings, children and wife gathered in Seattle.