National Digest: Chiquita, Colombians to face off in Florida court; 2 bicyclists killed in N.H.

September 21, 2013
FLORIDA
Chiquita, Colombians to face off in court

Faced with potentially billions of dollars in legal liability, Chiquita Brands International is asking a federal appeals court to block lawsuits filed against it in the United States by thousands of Colombians whose relatives were killed in that country’s bloody, decades-long civil war.

The produce giant, which long had huge banana plantations in Colombia, has admitted paying a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group $1.7 million over a seven-year period. The Charlotte-based company insists it was blackmailed into paying or risking violence against its own operations and employees, although in 2007, Chiquita pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges that it had supported terrorists. It paid a $25 million fine.

The Colombian lawsuits, consolidated for pretrial action before a federal judge in West Palm Beach, want Chiquita held liable for thousands of deaths at the hands of the AUC, the Spanish acronym for the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. The Colombian relatives have won several key pretrial rulings, but now Chiquita is taking its fight for dismissal to a new level.

In essence, Chiquita wants the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to dismiss the lawsuits because, the company claims, each murder cannot be tied specifically to the company. It’s not enough, Chiquita’s lawyers say in court papers, to assume the company’s payments to the AUC meant Chiquita knew about and supported those individual killings.

— Associated Press

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Car crash at bike ride along the coast kills 2

Police say a car crashed into a group of bicyclists during an annual ride in New Hampshire, killing two riders and injuring two others.

The crash happened on a bridge in Hampton at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, just after the start of the 40th annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century ride.

Hampton police say Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass., died from their injuries. Two other riders were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

The event’s Web site says the route typically follows the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coastlines. The ride lasts through the weekend.

The 20-year-old motorist involved in the crash was treated for minor injuries. No charges have been filed.

— Associated Press

Harvard begins $6.5 billion fundraising drive: Harvard University launched a $6.5 billion capital campaign Saturday that, if successful, would be the largest fundraising effort in the history of higher education. The school said the campaign had broad goals spanning all its schools and would fund research into neuroscience, stem cell science and low-cost energy for the developing world. The campaign would target major renovations of the university’s undergraduate housing and increase its study of new learning and teaching strategies. It also aims to expand the school’s global presence

Northern Colorado highways reopen: More highways in northern Colorado that were cut off because of destructive flooding last week are being reopened, helping reduce the number of people in need of emergency shelters and, transportation officials hope, reducing traffic congestion in heavily populated areas along the Front Range. The American Red Cross said fewer people are using their shelters now that they have access to their homes with some of the roads reopened. At the height of the disaster, more than 1,000 people were in shelters, compared with the 250 people in shelters Saturday, said Carmela Burke, a Red Cross volunteer.

— From news services

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