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WASHINGTON (AP) - As congressional leaders raced to seal a deal that would reopen the government, lawmakers from both parties jabbed at one another Wednesday over who was to blame for the most high-profile casualties of the 16-day shutdown: the national parks.
At a House hearing, members of Congress focused on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, where veterans were initially denied access after the government closed on Oct. 1. A crowd that included Republican lawmakers converged on the memorial Sunday, pushing past barriers to protest the site's closure.
The memorial and other national park units have become a political symbol as lawmakers bicker over blame for the park closings.
Republicans say many parks and open-air monuments did not need to be closed, but Democrats said the GOP had only itself to blame for the shutdown, after Republicans demanded that measures to defund the new health care law be included in bills to keep the government open.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., held up a mirror at the hearing and invited Republicans to look at it to find the cause of the shutdown.
Governors in at least five states have reopened national parks such as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty in recent days, but Republicans say the measures were too little, too late.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said the National Park Service appears to have intentionally made the shutdown "as painful and visible as possible."
Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis denied that, saying that turning away visitors "is not in our DNA."
Jarvis called the agreements with governors that have allowed some parks to reopen "a practical and temporary solution that will lessen the pain for some businesses and communities - a Band-Aid until Congress passes an appropriations bill."
Jarvis, who appeared at the hearing only after being issued a subpoena, urged Congress to reopen the government so his agency can reopen all 401 national park units.
Republicans, including Hastings and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the Park Service acted in a political and provocative manner when it set up barricades at open-air monuments such as the World War II Memorial and placed traffic cones along highway viewing areas outside Mount Rushmore and other parks.
Hastings heads the House Natural Resources Committee, while Issa leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The committees held the joint hearing.
Jarvis defended placement of barricades at the World War II Memorial and other sites, saying that all but a dozen park service employees who work at the National Mall have been furloughed. Given the limited staff resources during the shutdown, "prudent and practical steps were taken to secure life and property at these national icons where security has become increasingly complex in a post-9/11 world," he said.
Contrary to the assertion of several Republican lawmakers, Jarvis said the Park Service allowed veterans and their families to visit the World War II Memorial.
"We know that visits of America's World War II veterans to the memorial are pilgrimages that many of them will only make once," he said. "Throughout the shutdown, we have worked diligently to try and ensure that no Honor Flight group, veteran, or their family has been turned away from visiting the veterans' memorials."
An organization called the Honor Flight Network brings World War II veterans to Washington.
Other visitors also are allowed at the memorial under an exception that allows First Amendment activities, Jarvis said.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., was not impressed. He said Jarvis's decision to set up barricades at the Lincoln and World War II memorials was "wrong" and mean-spirited.
"You besmirched (the Park Service's) reputation and soured relations with Congress," Lamborn told Jarvis. "In my opinion you have failed."
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., denounced Lamborn's comment and called Jarvis an "exemplary" public servant. Connolly called the hearing a "theater of the absurd" and "an audacious attempt by the majority to deflect responsibility and blame for the real-world consequences of a government shutdown."
GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among those at the World War II Memorial on Sunday. Cruz, Lee and other tea party-backed lawmakers refused to keep the government operating unless President Barack Obama agreed to defund the nation's health care overhaul.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A cargo ship hit a seawall off South Korea's southeastern coast and partly sank in an accident that killed nine crew members and left two missing, coast guard officers said Wednesday. Eight crew members were rescued.
The ship is owned by a Chinese firm and flagged in Panama, and its crew is nearly all Chinese with one Vietnamese.
The 8,461-ton ship had anchored off the port city of Pohang but high waves forced it against the seawall Tuesday afternoon, a coast guard statement said.
All 19 people on board were listed as missing about 14 hours after the accident as winds and waves hampered rescue efforts.
Early Wednesday, coast guard rescuers found eight sailors either floating in the sea or waiting for help on the front of the ship. Most of the vessel has sunk, coast guard officers said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak to the media on this matter. The rescued sailors were wearing life jackets, the officers said.
The coast guard also collected the dead bodies of nine crew members but two are still missing, the officers said.
China's official Xinhua News Agency said the ship, the CHENGLU15, belonged to China's Lishen International Shipping Group Corp. in Zhejiang province.
The ship had unloaded its freight and was set to leave for Japan. The coast guard officers said the ship was carrying about 130 tons of bunker oil and diesel fuel.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A baggage handler was arrested Tuesday in connection with dry ice explosions at Los Angeles International Airport after police stepped up patrols and increased its checks on employees.
Dicarlo Bennett, a 28-year-old employee for the ground handling company Servisair, was booked for possession of a destructive device near an aircraft. He is being held on $1 million bail.
Bennett took the dry ice from a plane and placed it in an employee restroom Sunday night and another device that was found on a tarmac outside the international terminal, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation who wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Police had previously said they didn't believe the explosions were an act of terror because of the locations of the devices and because people weren't targeted.
No one was injured in either incident, although some flights were delayed Sunday.
The incidents could be the work of a disgruntled employee due to an internal labor dispute, said Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who heads the department's counter-terrorism and special operations bureau.
Swissport recently agreed to acquire Servisair and the transaction is expected to close by the end of the year. An after-hours message seeking comment from Servisair was not immediately returned.
It wasn't immediately known what Bennett's motives were, but he was riding in a van with several others, including a supervisor, when he decided to plant one of the dry ice bombs, the official told The Associated Press. Those in the van were aware of the dry ice, the official said, but no other arrests have been made.
The bombs were made by putting dry ice in 20-ounce plastic bottles and could have caused serious injury to anyone in close proximity, Downing said.
One device exploded in an employee men's room Sunday night in Terminal 2. Remnants of an exploded bottle also were found that night on the tarmac area near the Tom Bradley International Terminal, but an employee threw it away. The same employee found an unexploded bottle Monday evening and then reported what he found the previous day.
While there are cameras in some of these restricted-access areas, Downing said there isn't as much camera coverage as in the public-access areas and investigators had been reviewing available video.
Dry ice is widely used by vendors to keep food fresh.