Tales from the Trail

At town hall, Ken Feinberg listens to leak victims

From Ernest Scheyder in LAROSE, La.:

At a civic center here, newly appointed oil fund administrator Ken Feinberg tried to put to rest concerns that the claims process is inefficient and learn more about the region’s unique economy.

USA-RIG/FISHINGA program like this cannot be designed and administered from Washington,” he said. “You have to come down here and take time to listen.”

The claims process will transition from BP’s control to become the new “Gulf Coast-Feinberg” program within 20 days, and soon applicants will be able to file claims online after complaints by many affected by the leak that the process is often cumbersome, requiring stacks of paperwork and several visits to claims centers.

While Feinberg promised to make the process more efficient, he also implored victims to not give up.

“I can’t help you if you don’t file a claim,” he said.  The first step, already underway, would provide victims with cash for urgent expenses, such as food, rent and utilities. Most boat deckhands, for instance, have been receiving $2,500 a month. Accepting this first phase of money does not prevent someone from suing BP, Feinberg said.

What’s a friendly wager between friends, or senators?

trophyWhile Washington deals with freezing temperatures this Sunday, Super Bowl XLIV will kick off in sunny Miami Gardens, Florida, as the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts. But the snow has not dampened football fans’ spirits, and even a few senators are betting on the outcome.

Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Evan Bayh of Indiana announced a friendly wager on Friday, each betting that their team will bring home that coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What’s at stake?

Well, a win for the Saints in their first ever Super Bowl appearance means Bayh will be bringing Landrieu and her constituents Indiana popcorn, a local favorite.

Women US senators ready to break another glass ceiling



WASHINGTON – Women are set to make history next month in the 220-year-old U.S. Senate.

For the first time since the Senate opened its doors in 1789, a pair of female lawmakers are in line to lead one of the chamber’s full committees.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is set to chair the Small Business Committee and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine is positioned to serve as the panel’s top Republican.

Bush gives Republicans a little pep talk ahead of election

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush dropped by the Republican National Committee headquarters unannounced to give the staff a little pep talk Tuesday amid polls showing Republicans trailing in the presidential contest and scores of key congressional races one week out from the general election.

Bush, with record low popularity ratings, has largely been unseen on the campaign trail this year, relegated to participating in private fundraisers for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and congressional candidates.

“He encouraged them to work hard for John McCain and keep turning out the vote until the final ballot is cast next week,” White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said after the 20-minute visit.  “He also took the opportunity to thank the staff for all of their efforts during this election cycle and for their support of him over the last eight years.”