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GULF COAST: Rough seas hamper oil cleanup

Cleanup crews across the Gulf of Mexico surveyed damage done by last week's hurricane while contending Sunday with choppy seas that idled many of the boats dedicated to keeping oil from hitting vulnerable beaches and marshes. Offshore skimming vessels were able to operate in Louisiana waters, but not off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, officials said. "We've got our guys out there and they're docked and ready, but safety is a huge concern for us, especially with the smaller vessels," said Courtnee Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Joint Information Command in Mobile, Ala. The offshore skimming has essentially been curtailed for nearly a week, thanks to weather generated earlier by Hurricane Alex, even though it was never closer than 500 miles or so to the spill. So far, weather has not slowed BP's drilling on two relief wells that could be the best hope of finally plugging what has become the worst oil leak in Gulf history.


WASHINGTON: GOP senators castigate Steele

Three top GOP senators sharply criticized the chairman of the Republican National Committee on Sunday, increasing the pressure on him to step down for his remarks that the war in Afghanistan, begun under President George W. Bush, was "a lost cause" and one of President Barack Obama's "choosing." The senators, led by John McCain of Arizona, stopped short of calling for his resignation. But collectively their comments on the Sunday-morning TV talk shows signal a unified agreement that many in the GOP leadership no longer support the embattled chairman. Michael Steele, who spoke Thursday at a Connecticut fundraiser, has since sought to clarify his remarks but has not apologized. "I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there's no excuse for them," McCain said on ABC's "This Week." The other critics were Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, both from South Carolina.


IOWA: Horses trample crowd, injuring 24

Two horses running out of control trampled children collecting candy and other onlookers Sunday along a Fourth of July parade route in Bellevue, a small Mississippi River town in eastern Iowa. Twenty-four people were injured, including at least two children who were in critical condition, police and hospital officials said. The horses took off after one rubbed its head against the other, removing that horse's bridle, police said. The horses, with a wagon in tow, galloped for several blocks, running over children and adults who sat and stood along the streets watching the parade. Five people were critically injured, five severely injured and 14 suffered minor injuries, officials said. The victims were as young as 2 years old, they said.

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