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By Dahr Jamail, Inter Press Service
NEW ORLEANS, Jul 7, 2010 (IPS) - Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard, working in concert with oil giant BP, instituted new restrictions across the U.S. Gulf Coast that prevent the media from coming within 20 metres of booms or response vessels on beaches or water. But the insidiousness of the restrictions runs even deeper.
"You can't come in here," Don, the security guard hired by BP, told IPS at the Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Fort Jackson, Louisiana.
Inside, the International Bird Rescue Research Center, one of the companies hired by BP to clean wildlife, works to wash oiled birds before returning them to the wild.
By James Ridgeway
The way the Washington Post reported the story, Congress has finally pushed through “tougher” off-shore drilling regulations for oil companies.
Two key Senate committees approved legislation before the July 4 holiday that purport to change the way the federal government regulates offshore oil drilling and that penalize companies for oil spills. Both measures passed on bipartisan voice votes. One approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee would raise the civil and criminal penalties for a spill, require more safety equipment redundancies, boost the number of federal safety inspectors and demand additional precautions for deep-water drilling. The other, passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee, would remove a $75 million limit on oil company liability and would retroactively remove the liability cap for BP and the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Judge refuses to jail activist who hung banner in Senate building, over objection of US Attorney
US Attorney wanted jail sentence of 40 days, three years suspended sentence
By Allen D. McDuffee | Raw Story
Environmentalist Ted Glick narrowly escaped a jail sentence today for misdemeanor convictions related to hanging banners in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.
"I'm overwhelmingly surprised," Glick told Raw Story. "I fully expected to go to jail." Read more.
Obama warns corruption erodes faith in government: Hillary Clinton Blasts Steel Vise of Government Crushing Dissent
By Dave Lindorff
Finally, a politician has stood up and boldly denounced the creeping fascism that is gradually crushing democracy and political activism.
Not mincing her words, or trying to justify the jackboot, Secretary of State and 2008 presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton roundly condemned government actions that she said are “closing in the walls” on unions, rights advocates and organizations that press for social change or that shine a light on government shortcomings.
“Democracies don’t fear their own people,” she declared in ringing tones. “They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate.”
Clinton even got the normally taciturn President Obama to join her, releasing a statement in which he said he was concerned about “the spread of restrictions on civil society, the growing use of law to curb rather than enhance freedom, and wide-spread corruption that is undermining the faith of citizens in their government.”
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal rejected a bill last Friday ( June 25), that would have required him to make public and preserve all his office’s documents involving the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
He wrote in his veto letter that, “This bill would allow BP and other parties with potential liability to the state to obtain information retained by any state agency responding to this tragic event.” He is concerned that the access could jeopardize the state’s position in seeking legal remedy for the spill’s damage....
Jindal has said he wants BP to open its claims database to the state to help with payments to those affected by the spill. It is amazing that Jindal is pushing BP to open some of its records when he refuses to open his. Read more.
It's not just BP's oil in the Gulf that threatens world's oceans
By Les Blumenthal | McClatchy Newspapers
A sobering new report warns that the oceans face a "fundamental and irreversible ecological transformation" not seen in millions of years as greenhouse gases and climate change already have affected temperature, acidity, sea and oxygen levels, the food chain and possibly major currents that could alter global weather.
The report, in Science magazine, brings together dozens of studies that collectively paint a dismal picture of deteriorating ocean health.
"This is further evidence we are well on our way to the next great extinction event," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia and a co-author of the report. Read more.
The other companies, however, do not necessarily see their responsibilities the same way BP does. Anadarko has suggested that BP engaged in “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” — terms that, if proved in arbitration or court, could allow it to slip the bonds of liability under its joint operating agreement with BP. A spokesman for Anadarko, John Christiansen, said he would not comment beyond the company’s previous statement, adding, “We are still assessing our contractual remedies.”
BP has said repeatedly that it will pay for the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But its actions show that it does not intend to go it alone.
Newly released documents show that on June 2, BP sent out demands for nearly $400 million to its partners in the well, the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and the Mitsui Oil Exploration Company of Japan, or roughly 40 percent of the $1 billion BP spent in May.
The amounts demanded by BP — $272 million from Anadarko and $111 million from Mitsui — reflect the provisions of each company’s joint operating agreement with BP, which gives a share of liability equal to each company’s share of ownership. Read more.
BP admits failing to use industry risk test at any of its deepwater wells in the US
BP was facing fresh criticism over its approach to safety on Saturday night after critics said it did not use an industry standard process to asses risk ahead of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
By Rowena Mason | Telegraph.co.UK
The procedure, known as a safety case, was developed in Britain after the catastrophic Piper Alpha oil rig explosion of 1988 in which 167 people lost their lives.
Royal Dutch Shell confirmed that it always develops safety cases – a lengthy written document – on each of its thousands of wells in the world, even though they are only mandatory in some countries.
However, BP admitted to The Sunday Telegraph that it does not use safety cases on any of its US wells, including the high-pressure deep water Macondo well from which up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day are still leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.
It is now 75 days since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank, killing 11 men and triggering the catastrophic spill.
The US Government wants to make the safety case process a legal requirement for floating offshore drilling – one of five recommendations to change processes in the Gulf. Read more.
His face wracked by age and his voice rasping after decades of chain-smoking coarse tobacco, the former longtime Russian minister of nuclear energy and veteran Soviet physicist Viktor Mikhailov knows just how to fix BP's oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
"A nuclear explosion over the leak," he says, nonchalantly puffing a cigarette as he sits in a conference room at the Institute of Strategic Stability, where he is a director. "I don't know what BP is waiting for, they are wasting their time. Only about 10 kilotons of nuclear explosion capacity and the problem is solved."
A nuclear fix to the leaking well has been touted online and in the occasional newspaper op-ed for weeks now. Washington has repeatedly dismissed the idea, and BP executives say they are not considering an explosion--nuclear or otherwise. But as a series of efforts to plug the 60,000 barrels of oil a day gushing from the sea floor have failed, talk of an extreme solution refuses to die.
For some, blasting the problem seems the most logical answer in the world. Mikhailov has had a distinguished career in the nuclear field, helping to close a Soviet Union program that used nuclear explosions to seal gas leaks. Ordinarily he's an opponent of nuclear blasts, but he says an underwater explosion in the Gulf of Mexico would not be harmful and could cost no more than $10 million. That compares with the $2.35 billion BP has paid out in cleanup and compensation costs so far. "This option is worth the money," he says. Read more.
This is devastating. The working poor of New Orleans must feel like they have a target on their backs. Katrina, the Gulf disaster... now this? Apparently Habitat for Humanity is so worried about legal exposure, they've been stonewalling the residents:
NEW ORLEANS — For more than a year, the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has insisted there were no defects in the Chinese drywall it used to build nearly 200 houses for victims of Hurricane Katrina, including many in its heavily publicized “Musicians’ Village’’ development in the Upper Ninth Ward.
But a house-by-house canvas of Musicians’ Village by reporters from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and ProPublica found several homeowners who reported serious problems and one who said she had complained to Habitat for more than a year about corrosion and electronics failures believed to be related to her drywall.
The reporters’ interviews with dozens of residents also turned up a second potentially significant problem: Some of the homes that Habitat officials believed had been built with American-made drywall actually contain a Chinese product instead. Read more.
Florida Oil Spill Law points us to a press release issued by Representative Markey questioning BP on the integrity of the BP Gulf Oil Spill well bore and the leaks in the the surrounding sea floor.
The Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee Rep. Ed Markey is now questioning not only if oil and gas are seeping out of the damaged casing into the seabed and surrounding rock, but whether oil and gas may be rushing IN to the casing after BP drilled into oil formations above the target reservoir.
WASHINGTON (June 23, 2010) – In an extensive inquiry letter sent to BP today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) asked the company about the progress and design of the relief wells, which are now being drilled to shut down the still-spewing BP Macondo well. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s briefing by Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, where he said alternatives to the relief wells are being considered.
“The relief wells are still our best chance to end this spill,” said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We need to know that these efforts are being conducted with the utmost of caution and competence, so that this gushing geyser of oil is safely shut off.” Read more.
BP and Government Misleading Public About Safety Of Florida Beaches
By Alexander Higgins | Alexander Higgins' Blog
As a tide of tarballs from the BP Gulf Oil Spill assaults the Florida coast line local Florida residents, businesses and county officials are demanding action from BP, State, and Federal Government officials in charge of monitoring and responding to the spill.
Local residents in Walton County, Florida demanded a Town Hall meeting to discuss the lack of response to the oil assaulting the coast line.
They are also demanding answers to other questions like why local beaches have been declared safe and remain open even though tarballs have been washing ashore for weeks in Florida and the DEP hasn’t tested the waters for hydrocarbons since May 1st.
Ed Berry, a local businessmen, urged the commissioners to make sure the appropriate parties are being held accountable.
In his testimony he said “The children were in the water swimming. They were coming out of the water with tarballs on their face; they were wiping their face and having tar in their eyes and on their mouth.” Read more, watch startling videos.
US House Approves Bill Increasing Compensation for Oil Spill Victims
By Sarah Miley | Jurist via Truthout
The US House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would increase compensation for injured workers and victims' families that have filed claims against BP as a result of the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill [JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill marks the first piece of legislation passed by the House in response to the oil spill. The Securing Protections for the Injured from Limitations on Liability (SPILL) Act would change several laws applying to legal liability on the high seas. The jurisdiction of the 1920 Death on the High Seas Act, which allows families of decedents to bring a civil action in federal court, would be extended from three to 12 miles from the US coastline. The amendment would also allow the families of workers who died in the BP oil rig explosion to file a claim for both compensatory and punitive damages, including pain and suffering and loss of companionship. SPILL also amends the 1920 Jones Act to allow recovery for loss of care, comfort and companionship by a individual injured in the course of employment at sea. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) sponsored the bill, calling the previous legislation "ancient" and "outdated." Some Republicans argued that the bill was too broad because it covers all companies operating on the high seas but did not act to block its passage. Representatives from both parties did agree on at least one issue—that companies directly responsible for the Gulf oil spill should not be allowed to limit damages under outdated laws. The House passed the bill on a voice vote, and was therefore not recorded. The bill will now go before the US Senate. Read more.
It's the largest environmental disaster in U.S. - and possibly world history.
But do you know exactly where it is? Could you point to a map and show where the oil rig sank?
Do you know what the topography of the surrounding area is?
Hint: If you think it's flat seafloor - as implied by BPs drawings - you'd be wrong (the spill site is actually located within a giant canyon system, rather than on flat ground).
This essay will provide some basic orientation as to ground zero for the oil spill. Read more.
The BP Environmental Catastrophe: Living on a Dying Delta
By Dahr Jamail | Global Research
Our first full day in Louisiana finds us venturing south from New Orleans to Houma, a town about an hours drive to the southwest. It is from here we are to take a flight over the marsh to inspect the damage, thus far, caused by the ongoing BP oil catastrophe.
Walking into the office of Butler Aviation Services at the airport, the downtrodden mood, and accompanying anger, are palpable. Of course this is not assisted by the fact that Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Louisiana today.
“What would you tell Joe if he walked into your office,” Robbie Butler, with the flight service of his name, asks me. He then adds, “Hey Joe, lead, follow, or get out of the way. That’s what I’d tell him.”
At approximately the same time Butler is telling me of these three excellent suggestions, Biden is in downtown New Orleans inside the “command center” meeting with more than 100 BP, government and military officials inside a cavernous office dubbed “the bullpen.” In case anyone wasn’t clear about the priorities of the US government, included in Biden’s entourage are BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. It was Jindal who, on June 2nd, sent an urgent letter to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar regarding his grave concerns at the time of the administration’s decision to place a moratorium on deepwater drilling.
The lead paragraph in that letter made it very clear how Jindal’s concern is not with the ongoing catastrophic loss of ecosystems, or even the fisherpersons of his state, but with placating big oil. His letter begins: Read more.
By Missy Comley Beattie
My mother has an opera-quality voice. No training. Two of my siblings can sing. I can’t. At all.
I positioned the karaoke machine near the television set and plugged the auxiliary cables into the back of the TV for a wider word screen. I rarely watch television, except when “researching” the inadequacies of “mainstream” mediocrity for an article. Every now and then, when I read something important on the Internet, I turn on the tube to see if anyone is addressing the issue. Usually, the answer is either an “Update” sentence beneath the blathering blahblah blahers or a no.
So, largely, the TV monitor will be an accessory for the karaoke machine that is my scream therapy. “Sing, sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong.”
Move over Hawaii -- there's a new vacation destination forming in the Pacific, and its name is "Recycled Island."
A Netherlands-based architecture company, WHIM, plans to contstruct the island from 97 million pounds of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, turning it into a fully sustainable island with enough space for half a million inhabitants, according to WHIM's Ramon Knoester.
Although plastic, the island will be green in both appearance and environmental impact. Knoester said he plans to recycle the plastic and construct the island on site, sparing the environment of long shipments across the ocean. The island will also be powered by wave and solar energy, and residents will be able to use seaweed as bio fuel and fertilizer. Read more.
BP Oil Spill: World's Largest Oil Skimmer Arrives in Gulf of Mexico
ABC News Goes on Board Taiwanese Billionaire's 'Whale' of a Ship
By Jeffrey Kofman and Bradley Blackburn | ABC News
Of the thousands of people who've come forward with big ideas for cleaning up BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one company has come forward with a giant idea it claims could collect hundreds of thousands of barrels of oily water per day and make a whale of a difference.
The company's massive skimming ship currently floating off the Louisiana shoreline is called, literally, "A Whale," and with good reason. The 1,100-foot long tanker is 10 stories tall, stamped with a blue whale on the side of its bridge, and has been specially retrofitted by its owner, TMT Shipping of Taiwan, to collect oil from the Gulf.
Upon hearing about the oil spill, now the largest ever in the Gulf of Mexico, the owner of the ship, mysterious Taiwanese billionaire Nobu Su, ordered his engineers to cut vents in the bow and redesign the tanks inside, creating the largest skimming vessel in the world. Read more.
As the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew out ever more toxic oil and methane into the sea, and as floating toxic sludge, by the millions of gallons, starts destroying the wetlands across the American Southeast, the dead hand of President Ronald Reagan is at work, making sure nothing is done to prevent yet another such disaster from occurring.
The name of that dead hand is Martin Leach-Cross Feldman, a federal judge in Louisiana, a part of the notoriously right-wing Fifth Circuit.
Feldman, appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan and approved by the Republican-led Senate in 1983, has been a craven supporter of corporations over the public interest for years. In the wake of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, for example, the judge ruled against homeowners who tried to bring a racketeering case against Clipper Estates, the corporate owner of their housing development, claiming that the company had stolen money it collected from them allegedly for repairs, for the owner’s personal use. Feldman ruled that homeowners had no standing to sue.
Now, using classic Reaganesque logic (remember our senile ex-president’s mocking argument to environmentalist that because trees release carbon dioxide at night, they must be “polluters”?), Judge Feldman has issued a temporary restraining order against the White House’s six-month freeze on offshore drilling. His rationale for overturning the moratorium on drilling: The government hadn’t provided an adequate justification for it. Read more.
NOAA has used modeling of historical wind and ocean currents to project the likelihood that surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill will impact additional U.S. coastline. This modeling, part of NOAA’s comprehensive response to the unprecedented Gulf oil disaster, can help guide the ongoing preparedness, response and cleanup efforts.
The latest chapter in the media's ongoing struggle to cover the Gulf Oil Spill comes courtesy of PBS Newshour's Bridget Desimone, who has been working with her colleague, Betty Ann Bowser, in "reporting the health impact of the oil spill in Plaquemines Parish." Desimone reports that on the ground, officials are generally doing a better job answering inquiries and granting access to the clean-up efforts.
But Desimone and Bowser have encountered one "roadblock" that they've struggled to overcome: access to a "federal mobile medical unit" in Venice, Louisiana: "The glorified double-wide trailer sits on a spit of newly graveled land known to some as the "BP compound." Ringed with barbed wire-topped chain link fencing, it's tightly restricted by police and private security guards."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set up the facility on May 31. According to a press release, the medical unit is staffed by "a medical team from the HHS National Disaster Medical System -- a doctor, two nurses, two emergency medical technician paramedics (EMT-P) and a pharmacist."
For over two weeks, my NewsHour colleagues and I reached out to media contacts at HHS, the U.S. Coast Guard and everyone listed as a possible media contact for BP, in an attempt to visit the unit and get a general sense of how many people were being treated there , who they were and what illnesses they had. We got nowhere. It was either "access denied," or no response at all. It was something that none of us had ever encountered while covering a disaster. We're usually at some point provided access to the health services being offered by the federal government. Read more.
July 1, 2010
In this video, made from from Alabama resident John Wathen, a private pilot volunteer who flew over the area where the oil rig sank, shot this incredible video footage, bringing home the fact that this disaster is unstoppable, and BP is trivializing it. Officials have stopped guessing at the amount of oil leaking although some speculate it may be closer to 1 million gallons per day.
Some say it may be up to 5 million gallons a day.
Whistle Blower To Testify On Oil Spill Worst Fear: BP Deliberately Sinks Oil With Corexit As Cover Up
Testimony before a Senate investigative panel this week is expected to reveal what many have suspected about BP all along; they don’t care about the environment, the animals that are dying, and the lives that are being destroyed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
In a shocking interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on June 29th, Allegiance Capitol Corporation V.P. Fred McCallister said that BP is deliberately sinking oil with the toxic chemical disbursant Corexit, to hide the size of the oil spill. By sinking the oil before it can be collected, BP won’t have to pay fines on it.
McCallister said, “Everybody in Europe, where the standard practice is to raise the oil and collect it, is scratching their heads, and quite honestly laughing at what’s happening in the Gulf.” He added, “Everyone is looking at us and wondering why we’re allowing this to happen.” Read more.
TomDispatch: Stephen Kinzer: BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf, How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran
From TomDispatch today: From a well-known author, a powerful reminder of just what a reckless company BP has been, the almost forgotten story of how BP's great political "spill" of 1953 helped slime our world -- Stephen Kinzer, "BP in the Gulf -- The Persian Gulf, How an Oil Company Helped Destroy Democracy in Iran."
"To frustrated Americans who have begun boycotting BP," writes Stephen Kinzer, author of Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, "Welcome to the club. It's great not to be the only member any more!"
In a bracing reminder of the historical recklessness of BP that no one has yet explored, even as the Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed for generations, Kinzer, well known for his work on the CIA in Guatemala (Bitter Fruit) and the U.S. record of "regime change" (Overthrow), points out that he's been driving past BP stations long before this year's oil spill. "My decision not to give this company my business," he writes, "came after I learned about its role in another kind of 'spill' entirely -- the destruction of Iran's democracy more than half a century ago."
Here he tells just how, in 1953, BP, then known as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and in possession of all Iran's oil, in conjunction with the CIA overthrew a democratic Iranian government eager to nationalize its own oil supplies. It was the first government the CIA ever toppled and the reckless decision of the company and the Agency would change our world in devastating ways which, like the present spill in the Gulf of Mexico, reverberated for generations.
This is an event that should have, but hasn't, come to mind in the midst of BP's latest disaster. Kinzer brings it back powerfully. He concludes:
"The oil company re-branded itself as British Petroleum, BP Amoco, and then, in 2000, BP. During its decades in Iran, it had operated as it pleased, with little regard for the interests of local people. This corporate tradition has evidently remained strong. Many Americans are outraged by the relentless images of oil gushing into Gulf waters from the Deepwater Horizon well, and by the corporate recklessness that allowed this spill to happen. Those who know Iranian history have been less surprised." Read it now.
As recently as 30 minutes ago, Facebook has removed the main "Boycott BP" from it's page. With it, it leave almost 800,000 fans hanging.
This group was created with the intent of sending a clear and strong message to BP and to Washington that what has happened in the Gulf has to stop everywhere.
People from all over the world shared video clips, pictures, and frustration over what has been seen incredibly slow process to an ever growing economic and environmental disaster.
Boycott BP and it's creator, Lee Perkins, have been focused in several interviews recently, one of which was done with Diane Sawyer. To say he has made a large impact in a short amount of time is an understatement.
The question is: Why did Facebook suddenly take down the site? Read more.