DETROIT -- A judge told a courtroom packed with lawyers Tuesday that deals between Detroit and its creditors would be better than years of "horrendous" litigation in the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Eastern Michigan's chief federal judge, Gerald Rosen, opened the first formal round of mediation by giving a pep talk and introducing other experts who will work with the city and its creditors to try to reach settlements while the bankruptcy case moves separately through court.
"I take this assignment with buoyancy and hope," Rosen told attorneys as he stood in the well of the courtroom, down from his usual seat on the bench.
Detroit insists it can't afford its long-term debt of about $18 billion while the city's population and tax base shrink.
Rosen said instant agreements would be unrealistic, but he urged all sides to talk frequently about how to strike a deal. He said "years of litigation, disputing issues in the courts, is horrendous."
Reporters were allowed inside the courtroom for Rosen's remarks and the introduction of other mediators but were told to leave before Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr addressed the group.
Kerry briefs committee: Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Tuesday that the United States will closely monitor every step of the plan for eliminating Syria's chemical weapons while maintaining a credible military threat against Bashar Assad's government. Meeting behind closed doors, Kerry briefed members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the chemical weapons strategy he negotiated with Russia last week in Geneva. One of Kerry's deputies, Wendy Sherman, spoke by telephone with House Foreign Affairs Committee members.
Budget cuts hurt tax collections: Collections from delinquent taxpayers dropped for the second straight year in 2012, due in part to budget cuts at the Internal Revenue Service, J. Russell George, the agency's inspector general said. In 2011, enforcement revenue dropped by more than $2 billion. Last year, it dropped by $5 billion more, to a little more than $50 billion. At the same time, the IRS is opening more delinquent taxpayer accounts than it is closing, the inspector general said in a report Tuesday. The IRS has shed about 8,000 jobs since 2010, the report said.
Find 5 bodies in 2 cars in lake: Authorities in Oklahoma on Tuesday recovered two vehicles from a lake that contain the bodies of five people who may have been missing for decades. The cars recovered from Foss Lake in western Oklahoma may solve cold cases from the late 1950s and 1970. The Daily Elk Citian reported that the vehicles appear to match a Camaro missing with three Sayre teenagers since 1970 and an older Chevrolet with two Canute residents missing since the late 1950s or early 1960s. Authorities have not identified who the remains belong to. "It's just been under water for 40 years. It's a mucky mess," Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples told KWEY radio.
Mom asks for death: Marilyn Edge, charged with killing her 13-year-old autistic son and 9-year-old daughter in the midst of a custody dispute, asked a judge in Santa Ana, Calif., for the death penalty Tuesday during her first court appearance since her arrest. Looking disheveled, her head down and hands behind her back, 42-year-old Edge appeared by video link for an arraignment on two counts of murder with special circumstances. When Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison asked if she wanted her arraignment postponed to Oct. 25, Edge twice said, "Only if you promise me the death penalty." Edge could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The judge postponed her arraignment.
Energy Department to sell Fisker loan: The Energy Department says it is selling a $192 million loan made to struggling electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. The sale, to be held next month, is the latest setback for a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee offered to the California car maker in 2009 as part of the Obama administration's program to promote green energy. The administration suspended the loan in 2011, after Fisker failed to meet a series of Energy Department benchmarks. Fisker has not produced a vehicle in more than a year and has laid off three-fourths of its workers.
Afghan election official killed: A gunman killed the head of the election commission in a northern Afghan province today, a local official said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The shooting came just days after the start of the campaign season ahead of presidential and provincial elections next spring. Amanullah Aman was collecting rents from shop owners in a Kunduz city bazaar where he owns property when a gunman riding by on a motorbike shot him three times in the chest.
Cheer up, Grumpy Cat: It probably won't affect her famous mood, but Grumpy Cat now has an endorsement deal. The frown-faced Internet sensation, real name Tardar Sauce, is now the "spokescat" for a Friskies brand of cat food, Nestle Purina PetCare announced Tuesday. The St. Louis-based company didn't release terms of the deal. Photos of Grumpy Cat, her brown and white face in a constant scowl, have become a constant presence on Facebook and other social media, often accompanied by crabby messages such as "I don't like days that end in Y" or "I'm listening, I just don't care. She also is among the biggest stars of the peculiar trend of cat dominance on Web videos and postings.