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An Exclusive (Somewhat Apocryphal) Interview With Stephen Hawking on the British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Event - Deepwater Horizon
An Exclusive (Somewhat Apocryphal) Interview With Stephen Hawking on the British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Event - Deepwater Horizon
By Gary Corseri
All this nambypambyism about the Gulf Oil Spill has got me down, so I figured I’d go to the smartest guy on the planet to get his what’s what.
I met Stephen Hawking at his perch at the Mt. Palomar observatory. It took me a few moments to get used to his computer-generated voice, but once I did, it was the only voice I could imagine being attached to that kind of cerebrum.
“I like to look at the stars,” he told me. “It puts our little mortal lives into high relief.”
“I would have thought they would shrink our little lives.”
“That, too. … It’s all a matter of perspective.”
The Sovereign State of BP - Down for the Count?
By Michael Collins | Election Fraud News | June 16, 2010
British Petroleum has operated as though it were a sovereign state since its inception. When they blew the well at their Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it never occurred to them that they would have to take orders from anybody. But that may change largely due to their inability to stop the flow of oil after nearly sixty days of gushing.
President Obama was clear in his speech last night. If any entity is going down as a result of the catastrophe, it will be BP. Today, Obama meets with BP's Chairman of the Board, Carl-Henric Svanberg, and the man he told the chairman to fire, Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward.
Two sovereign states will collide. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.
BP's Global Reign
British Petroleum began under another name in the oil rich section of Iran. Britain's William Knox D'Arcy convinced Iran's leader to grant an exclusive concession for the tidy sum of £20,000 in 1901 ($16 million current). BP grew on Iran, infecting its politics and economy to assure that the flow of oil never stopped.
By 1953, Iran's new democracy had a movement and leader that lost tolerance for BP's strangle hold on Iranian oil. The government nationalized BP assets. Undeterred by the will of the Iranian people, the company was the beneficiary of the British secret service-CIA staged Operation Ajax; a not-so-covert plan that deposed Iran's duly elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, and installed a puppet regime.
Iran's emerging democracy was assassinated in the service of BP oil assets and income.
There was just one hitch in the post-coup arrangement with Iran. The Shah's government got 50% of the take and BP no longer had a monopoly. They had to share the concession with U.S. oil companies, thus ending their exclusive control of Iranian oil.
TomDispatch: Nick Turse: Kick Ass or Buy Gas?, How Taxpayers Are Subsidizing BP's Disaster Through the Pentagon
From TomDispatch today: a revelatory report on the staggering sums the Pentagon pays BP to buy the fuel it needs to conduct its wars -- and the unwillingness of either the Pentagon or the White House to make cutting off those contracts part of the response to the disaster in the Gulf -- Nick Turse, "Kick Ass or Buy Gas?, How Taxpayers Are Subsidizing BP's Disaster Through the Pentagon."
In a striking post this morning, Nick Turse offers a report on the extremely lucrative relationship BP has with the Pentagon. As he points out, America’s two spreading disasters -- in the Gulf of Mexico and Afghanistan -- are not only out of control and seemingly unstaunchable, but more intimately connected than we might imagine. The American disaster in Afghanistan runs, in significant part, on BP-produced fuel, and government payments for that fuel are bolstering BP while it lives through its purgatory in the Gulf.
Turse begins: "Residents of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are livid with BP in the wake of the massive, never-ending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- and Barack Obama says they ought to be. But there’s one aspect of the BP story that most of those angry residents of the Gulf states aren’t aware of. And the president hasn’t had a thing to say about it.
"Even as the tar balls hit Gulf beaches, their tax dollars are subsidizing BP and so far, President Obama has not shown the slightest indication that he plans to stop their flow into BP coffers, despite the recent call of Public Citizen, a watchdog group, to end the nation’s business dealings with company. In fact, the Department of Defense, which has a longstanding, multi-billion dollar business relationship with BP, tells TomDispatch that it has no plans to sever current business ties or curtail future contracts with the oil giant."
The rest of this startling report lays out just how much fuel the Pentagon, one of the great gas-guzzling institutions in history, needs and how much it relies on the giant oil companies, despite much publicity about its efforts to "green" the military. Between 2007 and 2010, "BP received around $5.7 billion in federal contracts, according to official government data. In fact, the $2.2 billion the Pentagon paid to the oil giant in 2009, accounted for almost 16% of the company’s nearly $14 billion in annual profits. This fiscal year, the U.S. military has already awarded the company more than $837 million, inking its latest deal with BP in March."
This is one of the hidden BP stories that should truly see the light of day. Don't miss it. Read it now.
Why did the Obama administration just approve more than 400 new leases for oil companies to operate in the Gulf of Mexico?
At his long-awaited press conference on the Gulf oil disaster last month, President Obama announced a moratorium on new oil drilling and exploration for six months. "We can't do this stuff if we don't have confidence that we can prevent crises like this from happening again," he declared. But while existing rigs may be out of commission for the near future, the administration hasn't exactly put the brakes on new oil and gas drilling ventures. In recent weeks, the government has quietly approved the sale of more than 400 new leases for vast swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. And these contracts—which mark the first step in the drilling process—were subjected to the same slapdash environmental oversight that failed to prevent the BP catastrophe.
The region was included in a plan created by the Bush administration's Department of the Interior to lease new areas of the Gulf to the oil and gas industries. But it was Obama's Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who gave the go-ahead for the sale of Lease 213—6,800 tracts covering 36 million acres off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in November 2009. The sale—which was held on March 17 this year in the New Orleans Superdome—attracted $1.3 billion in bids. Since then, the Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has approved the sale of 448 of those tracts, 198 of them in deepwater, which is defined as more than 656 feet below the sea. BP is the proud new leaser of 13 of those tracts.
The lease sale is the first step in the oil drilling process. Companies must first obtain the right to drill the tracts before they can devise exploration plans, which must be approved by MMS.
And that's where the problem lies. MMS has been notorious for rubber-stamping the oil industry's plans. The lease for the well that's spewing oil into the Gulf, the Macondo, was sold in March 2008. The exploration plan for that well was granted a "categorical exclusion" from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in April 2009, paving the way for drilling to begin. Read more.
Distraught Shrimper Disrupts BP CEO Tony Hayward Testimony | Press Release
Demanding Hayward’s Arrest and Permanent Moratorium on Offshore Drilling
Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper from Texas, confronted BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony this morning, to advocate for his arrest as well as a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling. She stood up and shouted “Arrest this man, he is a criminal, his company is stealing the livelihoods of thousands of us in the Gulf and killing our coasts. Tony Hayward should be arrested.” Instead, Wilson was arrested and it is unclear when she will be released. Wilson was also arrested in Congress on June 9 for dousing herself with oil to protest BP's dumping on the shrimpers.
Before the hearing Diane made this statement: I came to DC to confront Tony Hayward for the devastation his company has brought to the fishing communities along the gulf. BP is a criminal company that has ignored safety regulations at the health of our oceans and even its own workers. Tony Hayward and BP need to be held accountable for their criminal activities as well as paying every last cent they may have to the families in the Gulf affected by their willful, criminal neglect. Our message to Obama, and Congress: BP must pay to clean up this mess and our government must move to end offshore drilling and move us into a new century of clean energy.” She added, “Pouring a jar of fake oil on myself I can get a year in jail. Tony Hayward’s company is pouring millions of gallons of oil into the gulf every day. He should be the one going to jail.”
Wilson is also a co-founder of the organization CODEPINK Women for Peace. She was in front of BP HQ in Houston, Texas two weeks ago to protest the oilspill and draw attention to BP’s legacy of negligence. Read her most recent article, “The BP oil gusher is just the latest in a long line of assaults on the Gulf of Mexico” published on Grist.com.
Barton Well-Funded By Big Oil, Including BP; Barton Apologizes to BP: "Sorry...Shakedown...Slushfund"
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, set off a mini-storm with his apology to BP for its dealings with the Obama administration.
Federal Election Commission records show that during the current 2009-10 campaign cycle, the oil and gas industry has been the second-biggest contributor to Barton, at $100,470, behind only the electric utility industry ($162,800).
FEC records show that BP has given Barton an average of $1,350 a year since 1990.
Public Campaign, which calls itself a nonpartisan advocate for reducing campaign costs, said its analysis shows that he has received $27,000 in contributions from BP since taking office in 1985.
Corporate Apocalypse vs. Solartopian Survival
By Harvey Wasserman
BP’s apocalyptic Gulf gusher has put our ability to survive in serious doubt.
We have no reason to believe the end is near---or even in sight. Nor can we begin to calculate the damage to our Mother Earth…to her oceans, to the core of her being…and to each of us as individual organisms.
Only one thing IS clear: we cannot ultimately survive without a rapid conversion to a Solartopian economy that is totally green-powered. That transformation will be forced by biological imperatives, not money or markets.
The powers that be studiously avoid the core reality that this disaster stems from the ability of large corporations to make all of us pay for their irresponsible greed.
The black poisons killing our global body are gushing from a system that grants corporations human rights but does not demand human responsibility.
BP: Eco-Terrorism Inc. They Should be Prosecuted, Tried and Convicted Under Eco-Terrorism Laws Passed by the Right Wing
For many years, as part of the right wing thuggish putsch in America -- and their great skills at "framing" public policy issues -- environmentalists trying to aggressively save our natural heritage and keep our lives free of industrial toxins have been increasingly classified -- with legal punishments -- as "environmental terrorists." This has included every one from people who sit in trees to try and prevent excessive and ruinous logging to Greenpeace activists merely painting messages against deep sea oil drilling or trying to prevent the killing of whales.
In fact, BuzzFlash just a short time ago awarded our coveted "Wings of Justice Award" to 7 Greenpeace Activists who -- during the height of the BP oil Gulf catastrophe -- were arrested and threatened with being charged as eco-terrorists for painting an anti-deep sea drilling message on the side of an oil company ship docked in a Louisiana port. As we noted on May 25 of this year:
7 Greenpeace protestors were arrested in Louisiana for an act of civil disobedience: painting an offshore drilling message on the side of a ship that will assist Shell Oil in drilling in the Arctic. They should have been given a parade and welcomed as heroes instead of being charged with "crimes" that could net them up to 7 years in prison. Read more.
"Halliburton & BP, You Suck!"
Ho Hum. Yet another problem we're handling brilliantly with the very top experts, so you riff raff can calm down.
It's perfectly safe to breathe the chemicals.
The national guard is busy elsewhere but we'll let the Navy run the crowd control, I mean cleanup.
BP will pay everybody, unless they refuse to. But no prosecutions while we're looking forward.
Except for in the deepest water for 6 months, it's drill baby drill.
Oil is going to kill us all. Anybody have any ideas?
Missing the Real Drama of the Deepwater Horizon Blowout
By Bill McKibben | Huffington Post
All of these, it seems to me, could be considered parts of the Deepwater Horizon story because they demonstrate that fossil fuel is everywhere dirty. They change the political question from "is Obama angry enough" to "can Obama lead a credible fight for real energy and climate legislation?" More to the point, they connect with the mood of existential despair and anger that the oil spill has set off across the country. People are sad and bitter only in part because they see those pelicans oiled; mostly, they sense correctly that our leaders have yet to deal with what is clearly the biggest problem we face: the transition off of fossil fuels.
When a well started spewing oil off Santa Barbara in 1969, it spurred the first Earth Day, which in turn launched the environmental movement and a fundamental questioning of the balance between humans and the rest of nature. It turned out, in other words, to be a real Moment.
It makes one wonder if there really shouldn't be a little more depth to the endless coverage of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf. (Which, just to be semantic for a moment, isn't really a "spill," or a "leak," unless you'd also call a knife wound a "bloodspill," or a gunshot to the carotid a "bloodleak." BP has punched a hole in the bottom of the sea.) Read more.
The Spill, The Scandal and the President
The inside story of how Obama failed to crack down on the corruption of the Bush years – and let the world's most dangerous oil company get away with murder
By Tim Dickinson | Rolling Stone | June 24, 2010
On May 27th, more than a month into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Barack Obama strode to the podium in the East Room of the White House. For weeks, the administration had been insisting that BP alone was to blame for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf – and the ongoing failure to stop the massive leak. "They have the technical expertise to plug the hole," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had said only six days earlier. "It is their responsibility." The president, Gibbs added, lacked the authority to play anything more than a supervisory role – a curious line of argument from an administration that has reserved the right to assassinate American citizens abroad and has nationalized much of the auto industry. "If BP is not accomplishing the task, can you just federalize it?" a reporter asked. "No," Gibbs replied.
Now, however, the president was suddenly standing up to take command of the cleanup effort. "In case you were wondering who's responsible," Obama told the nation, "I take responsibility." Sounding chastened, he acknowledged that his administration had failed to adequately reform the Minerals Management Service, the scandal-ridden federal agency that for years had essentially allowed the oil industry to self-regulate. "There wasn't sufficient urgency," the president said. "Absolutely I take responsibility for that." He also admitted that he had been too credulous of the oil giants: "I was wrong in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios." He unveiled a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, discussed the resignation of the head of MMS, and extended a moratorium on new deepwater drilling. "The buck," he reiterated the next day on the sullied Louisiana coastline, "stops with me." Read more.
This added Corporate Incompetence is going to take much more than resilience as to the Gulf Waters, the Gulf Coast and the Gulf People, directly affected! This will affect the whole country, especially the Eastern States, as the other Industries and Corporations already have, and this will be felt in many ways as well! Seafood stocks as well as other food sources, weather and the moisture of that comes out of the Gulf and covers Florida as well as the Eastern States, and many other issues way to many to list.
At 2:40 in the video clip, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida says there are now reports of oil coming through the sea floor.
B.P, Halliburton and Transocean have unleashed Armageddon and now there is no stopping it. Senator Bill Nelson has told us how bad it is.
This is our worst nightmare. The oil industry has killed the Gulf of Mexico.
My worst fears have been realized. If this link is true and the oil is coming through the sea floor, they have either blown out the formation or blown out the cement (which we know they did anyway to get the blowout to occur). I am beginning to realize why they have not wanted to close the valves on the cap. The more they close it, the more oil is going to come up through the sea floor, next to the well casing. I listed 12 points in my attached article. The really big concern here is that their directional wells are now pointless. They are GUARANTEED to fail because you can not pump mud or cement into a blown out well. It just does not set with oil and gas roaring past.
The next biggest concern is that they have to get 8 new wells in immediately to relieve the background oil and gas pressure. The oil is going to start coming up at an ever increasing rate along the casing and the blowout preventer.The oil and gas is going to act as a high pressure washer and erode away all the sandstone and mudstone. There is nothing they can do about it.
This is also the end of B.P. The claims will go on forever.
What these guys do not understand is that it is much worse than they think. Here is the reason why. Read more.
They showed this last night, you might want to watch the video report. This is one issue nobody has really been touching on, while as much as can be should be burned off so it doesn't reach the shore line, these 'burn offs' are creating possible other unknown problems for much of the country. They're creating huge plumes of toxic substances being spread in the air. Many of the moisture laden storms hitting FL as well as the East Coast come out of the Gulf, some even traveling the whole Eastern U.S.. The contaminants are within these storms and dropping with the rains wherever they hit, i.e. acid rain!!
Study: Well most likely spewing more than 1M gallons of oil a day
By Joel Achenbach, Juliet Eilperin and David Fahrenthold | Washington Post
The Deepwater Horizon well has most likely spewed 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day, more than previously estimated, according to one of several teams of scientists appointed by the federal government to study the flow from the dark geyser at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
If the team's estimate is correct, and the flow has been more or less consistent, approximately 1.3 million to 1.5 million barrels, or 53.6 million to 64.3 million gallons, of oil have emerged from the well since the April 20 blowout. That is roughly five to six times the amount spilled in Alaskan waters in 1989 by the Exxon Valdez.
These new numbers hardly close the books on the size of the spill. The "plume team," which has examined video of the leaking well, is just one of four teams studying the flow rate. Another team, which analyzed satellite images and tried to correct for oil skimmed, burned and dispersed, has also refined its earlier estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day. The team has now concluded that the flow is about 12,600 to 21,500 barrels a day.
Much of the oil flowing into the gulf has been skimmed, burned, or dispersed with chemicals, and the well is now capped and partially contained, with 15,800 barrels siphoned to a ship at the surface on Wednesday. But the new figures, obtained Thursday by The Washington Post and soon to be made public in a progress report from national incident commander Adm. Thad Allen, indicate that early estimates of the flow rate by the federal government and oil giant BP were not even close to the mark. Read more.
The government and university researchers confirmed Tuesday that plumes of dispersed oil were spreading far below the ocean surface from the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, raising fresh concern about the potential impact of the spill on sea life.
The tests, the first detailed chemical analyses of water from the deep sea, show that some of the most toxic components of the oil are not necessarily rising to the surface where they can evaporate, as would be expected in a shallow oil leak. Instead, they are drifting through deep water in plumes or layers that stretch as far as 50 miles from the leaking well.
As a rule, the toxic compounds are present at exceedingly low concentrations, the tests found, as would be expected given that they are being diluted in an immense volume of seawater.
“It’s pretty clear that the oil that has been released is becoming more and more dilute,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an interview. “That does not mean it’s unimportant — far from it. The total amount of oil out there is likely very large, and we have yet to understand the full impact of all that hydrocarbon on the gulf ecosystem.” Read more.
Fifty-one days after oil began gushing out of the ocean floor and into the Gulf of Mexico, Congress has extended a request that, in political parlance, is more of a demand: that Tony Hayward, the much maligned CEO of British Petroleum (BP), play question-and-answer before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee June 17 on Capitol Hill.
The request is a terse, three-paragraph letter addressed to Hayward and signed by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-California) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), who chair the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The invitation is relatively opaque, providing the time and location of the hearing and advising Hayward that the committee may have some questions of a technical nature.
This seemingly rote invitation dovetails with a similar request from the chairmen - also dated June 8 - to John Bresland, chairman of the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the group that investigated two previous BP incidents: a 2006 leak in a BP pipeline which poured about 200,000 gallons of oil into Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, and an explosion at the Texas City Oil Refinery in 2005, also owned by BP, in which 15 workers were killed.
Unlike the letter to Hayward, the note to the CSB's Bresland gets down to brass tacks. Among Waxman and Stupak's questions: Did BP put money before safety? Was the company invested in its safety culture? Did BP provided adequate contractor oversight? Read more.
Protesting Senator Murkowski's Refusal to Make BP Pay
Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf, poured oil on herself at today’s Senate Energy Committee hearing to protest Senator Lisa Murkowski's refusal to make BP pay for the disaster that has devastating Wilson's shrimping community. Republican Lisa Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, blocked the bill that would have lifted the oil companies' liability cap (the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act). Wilson was removed from the hearing and arrested.
In the wake of yet another possible oil spill in the Gulf region, the United States Coast Guard has decided to launch an investigation into the dark waters surrounding Taylor Energy Corporation's Ocean Saratoga rig, resting only 40 miles away from the Deepwater Horizon rig.
Though the rig has been leaking since at least April 30, the rig's owner, Taylor Energy Corporation, and operator, Diamond Offshore Drilling, are both declining to comment. Taylor's spokesperson Denise Fields told Huffington Post that the company would be issuing a press release this afternoon.
Mobile, Alabama's Press Register reported that a 10-mile long slick emanating from the rig is visible from space.
Earlier today, Mother Jones's Kate Sheppard reported that John Amos of West Virginia-based nonprofit SkyTruth, was the first to notice the spill, observing an oil slick eleven miles off the coast of Louisiana. After viewing satellite images of the reported second spill, Amos concluded that the Deep Water Horizon and the Saratoga spills are independent of one another, meaning the Gulf cleanup situation may be getting worse before it gets better. Read more.
The BP oil spill is still dominating headlines, 50 days after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. But how much oil leaks into the Gulf on any other day of the year? Satillite images and photographs from the region indicate that there may be two other offshore drilling units leaking oil into the ocean. Read more.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on June 6, meeting with President Ilham Aliyev on that day and on the following with Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiyev.
Gates was the first cabinet-level American official to visit the strategically positioned nation - located in the South Caucasus with Russia to its north, Iran to its south and the Caspian Sea to its east - in five years and the first U.S. defense chief to visit since Donald Rumsfeld did in 2005.
When Gates' predecessor was last in Azerbaijan his mission centered on "the transportation of Caspian oil and the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline" as the chief element of U.S. trans-Eurasian oil and natural gas plans "which [are] directly connected with Mr Rumsfeld's department"  to bring Caspian Sea hydrocarbons into Europe while bypassing Russia and Iran, both of which adjoin Azerbaijan.
Rumsfeld's visit of five years ago also focused on a related initiative, the Caspian Guard project the Pentagon launched in 2003. "Guaranteeing security to the pipeline...will be the prime goal of the Caspian Guard. The Caspian Guard will represent a network of police detachments and special military units in the Caspian region." 
At the time Rumsfeld's Defense Department planned to allot over $100 million for the Caspian Guard to operate at both ends of the inland sea - Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan - and to be based in Stuttgart, Germany where the Pentagon's new Africa Command is now based. In fact U.S. European Command was simultaneously elaborating plans for the Caspian Guard and a complementary Gulf of Guinea Guard in oil-rich western Africa to secure control over the 21st century's main new sources of energy supplies. 
Gates arrived in Azerbaijan the day after the ninth annual Asian security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore and before his attendance at the NATO defense chiefs meeting in Brussels on the 9th.
He had intended to visit Beijing following the conference in Singapore, but his overtures in that direction were rebuffed by the Chinese government, presumably because of Washington's confirmation this January of plans to complete a $6.5 billion arms transaction with Taiwan, one whose latest installment includes 200 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missiles.
That Baku replaced Beijing on the Pentagon chief's way to the NATO meeting indicates the importance that the comparatively small nation - with a population of under nine million while China's is over 1.3 billion - has in American global geostrategic plans.