Thursday, June 24, 2010




Georgia: Witnesses in Murder Case Recant
June 23, 2010

In an unusual hearing ordered by the Supreme Court that began in Savannah on Wednesday, several witnesses said they had concocted testimony that Troy Anthony Davis killed a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in 1989. Last August, the Supreme Court ordered a federal district court to determine if new evidence "clearly establishes" Mr. Davis's innocence, its first order in an "actual innocence" petition from a state prisoner in nearly 50 years, according to Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented. Seven of the witnesses who testified against Mr. Davis at his trial have recanted, and some have implicated the chief informer in the case. Mr. Davis's execution has been stayed three times.
Troy Davis Hearing Week of Action Schedule of Activities Hour of Prayer:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010 at 12 noon Call Number: (712) 432-1000 Access Code: 481005918# Join NAACP leaders for an hour of prayer. Community Mass Meeting - Tuesday, June 22 at 6:30pm New Life Apostolic Temple, 2120 West Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31415 Join National leaders of Amnesty International, Larry Cox, the NAACP, Benjamin Todd Jealous, Martina Correia (sister of Troy Davis), death row exonerees and other dynamic leaders. Wednesday & Thursday, June 23 & 24 Wright Square Vigil for Restorative Justice, 9am - 5pm Show your support by joining with others in Wright Square, across from the courthouse during the hearing. Drop by all day, or at the beginning, middle or end for prayer and meditation, opportunity for artistic expression, learning about restorative justice, stories from former death row prisoners who were innocent and exonerated, and more information about human rights. Evidentiary Hearing - Wednesday, June 23 at 10am Tomochichi Federal Courthouse (125 Bull St. in Savannah) Open to the public on a first come-first served basis. Please follow the courthouse rules and dress formally. Note: the hearing could last one or more days. During your weekly prayer and Bible study, please keep the Davis and MacPhail families in your prayers. JOIN US ON THE EVE OF HIS HISTORIC HEARING TO PRAY THAT JUSTICE IS FINALLY SERVED
For more info: | | Savannah Branch NAACP: 912-233-4161


Two Pensacola Beach Scenes: Dying Baby Dolphin and Ocean "Water Bubbling "...Like It's Got Acid In It. God Help Us All"
For OpEdNews: theWeb - Writer
Two scenes from Pensacola--one of a dying baby dolphin, the other of water bubbling like there's acid in it.
A dying, oil-covered baby dolphin is taken from Pensacola waters. It died shortly after being discovered.




ROV films oil leak coming from rock cracks on seafloor.


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




United National
Peace Conference
July 23 - 25, 2010, Albany, NY or UNAC at P.O. Box 21675, Cleveland, OH 44121

Call to Action!
United National Antiwar Conference (UNAC)
Join us in Albany, New York!
July 23-25, 2010

The National Conference to Bring the Troops Home Now will take place against the backdrop of major developments in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Our planet is aflame with unending wars, threats of new wars and horrendous sanctions against Iran, atrocious attacks on innocent Freedom Flotillas bringing humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza, and with an unprecedented corporate-driven environmental catastrophe.

With U.S. acquiescence, a humanitarian flotilla in international waters, carrying 10,000 tons of food, medical, construction and educational supplies and toys for children, has been brutally attacked by the Israeli military - nine killed and six others missing and/or presumed dead. The 750 peace activists aboard, including NGO members, pacifists, journalists, and members of the European Parliament, were kidnapped, then arrested - their cargo seized. As we write, Iranian and Turkish ships, also loaded with humanitarian supplies, have announced plans to head for beleaguered Gaza to challenge the illegal blockade and Israeli siege. Will the Israeli government once again attack with deadly force bringing the world closer to yet another war?

We are witness to seven years of war against Iraq, a war whose every pretext has been discredited and whose people demand U.S. withdrawal. War for oil, occupation and plunder does not sit well with Iraqis who have suffered 1.4 million dead. "Phased withdrawal" is designed to assuage the U.S. public, and Iraqi majority opposition notwithstanding, there is no end in sight.

Meanwhile, 60,000 barrels of oil daily for the past two months, barely impeded, pour into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking death, destruction and massive loss of income in adjacent states and north to the Atlantic and beyond. Corporate greed and the absence of a semblance of serious government regulation threaten long-term destruction of the ocean's ecosystem. British Petroleum, the Transocean corporation, and subcontractor Halliburton Industries demonstrate once again that oil profits, whether in the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Mexico, trump human life and indeed life on earth in all forms. The insatiable drive for "black gold," the very resource that with continued use threatens all life, has brought us to the brink of what Mother Earth and its inhabitants can endure.

At the same time, our movement has registered some impressive gains while the government is registering important setbacks.

• Public opposition to the Afghanistan War is on the rise!
• The "victory" in Marja has proven ephemeral!
• The economic and political crises have awakened millions to the government's twisted priorities!
• Congressional debates reflect doubts about the war's objectives and costs!
• 24 Guantanamo torture protesters have been acquitted!

History demonstrates time and again that united, democratic and principled mass movements open the door to fundamental social change. That is the lesson of the fight against the Vietnam War, the broad civil rights movements, the struggles for equal rights for women and gays, and labor's struggle to unionize and advance the well-being of tens of millions.

And that's why the Albany conference is so timely. One hundred and twenty-five plenary and workshop speakers are scheduled! They include national and international leaders in the fight against war and for social justice. Twenty-nine national organizations are equal co-sponsors. (See For the first time in many years, a broad and diverse range of U.S. antiwar forces will be in the same room. Joined by social activists across the country and from around the world, they will lay plans to mobilize the American people to Bring the Troops and War Dollars Home Now! and to Fund Human Needs Not War!

The time to act is now! All antiwar and social justice activists welcome! One person one vote! See Draft Action Program online. Related amendments and resolutions are welcome.

The need now is to find common ground in the fight for life itself. The crisis-ridden system cries out for a challenge the world over. Let us be among the first to chart a winning course for the U.S. and for all humanity.

We say, "Massive funds for jobs, education, housing, pensions, the environment and health care! Bring the Troops, Mercenaries, War Profiteers and War Dollars Home Now! Close the 860 Military Bases! Bail Out the People, Not the Banks!"

United we can change the world!


For more information: or call 518-227-6947. A registration form is attached. Brochures announcing the conference can be ordered by writing


Education 4 the People!
October 7 Day of Action in Defense of Public Education - California

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference at SFSU on OCT 16th
Posted on May 24, 2010 by ooofireballooo
Organizing for the next Statewide Public Education Mobilization Conference
@ San Francisco State University on October 16th

MORE THAN 100 activists from across California gathered in Los Angeles April 24 to debate next steps for the fight against the devastating cutbacks facing public education.

The main achievements of the conference were to set a date and location for the next statewide mass action-October 7-and for the next anti-cuts conference, which will happen October 16 at San Francisco State University. The other key outcome was the first steps toward the formation of an ad hoc volunteer coordinating committee to plan for the fall conference.

These decisions were a crucial step toward deepening and broadening the movement. For example, the fall conference will be the key venue for uniting activists from all sectors of public education, and especially from those schools and campuses which saw action on March 4, but which have yet to plug into the broader movement.

This will be crucial for extending the scope and increasing the strength of our movement, as well as for helping us strategize and prepare for what is certain to be a tough year ahead. Similarly, the fall mass action will be crucial to re-igniting the movement following the summer months.

Proposal: Form a conference organizing listserve immediately!

Please join the google group today.

* Group home page:




Oil Spill Threatens Native American "Water" Village
The town of Grand Bayou, Louisiana, has no streets and no cars, just water and boats. And now the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens the very existence of the Atakapa-Ishak Indians who live there. "We're facing the potential for cultural genocide," says one tribe member.
(c) 2010 National Geographic; videographer and field producer: Fritz Faerber


Mumia Abu-Jamal - Legal Update
June 9, 2010
Robert R. Bryan, Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Dear All:

There are significant developments on various fronts in the coordinated legal campaign to save & free Mumia Abu-Jamal. The complex court proceedings are moving forward at a fast pace. Mumia's life is on the line.

Court Developments: We are engaged in pivotal litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia. At stake is whether Mumia will be executed or granted a new jury trial on the question of the death penalty. Two years ago we won on that issue, with the federal court finding that the trial judge misled the jury thereby rendering the proceedings constitutionally unfair. Then in January 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that ruling based upon its decision in another case, & ordered that the case be again reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

The prosecution continues its obsession to kill my client, regardless of the truth as to what happened at the time of the 1981 police shooting. Its opening brief was filed April 26. Our initial brief will be submitted on July 28. At issue is the death penalty.

In separate litigation, we are awaiting a decision in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on prosecutorial abuses, having completed all briefing in April. The focus is on ballistics.

Petition for President Barack Obama: It is crucial for people to sign the petition for President Barack Obama, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was initially in 10 languages (Swahili & Turkish have since been added). This is the only petition approved by Mumia & me, & is a vital part of the legal effort to save his life. Please sign the petition & circulate its link:

Nearly 22,000 people from around the globe have signed. These include: Bishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa (Nobel Peace Prize); Günter Grass, Germany (Nobel Prize in Literature); Danielle Mitterrand, Paris (former First Lady of France); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Colin Firth (Academy Award Best-Actor nominee), Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); & Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); Robert Meeropol (son of Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, executed in 1953); Fatima Bhutto, Pakistan (writer); Noam Chomsky, MIT (philosopher & author); Ed Asner (actor); Mike Farrell (actor); Michael Radford (director of the Oscar winning film Il Postino); members of the European Parliament; members of the German Bundestag; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; Reporters Without Borders, Paris.

European Parliament; Rosa Luxemburg Conference; World Congress Against the Death Penalty; Geneva Human Rights Film Festival: We began the year with a major address to the annual Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin, Germany, sponsored by the newspaper junge Welt. The large auditorium was filled with a standing-room audience. Mumia joined me by telephone. We announced the launching of the online petition, Mumia Abu-Jamal & the Global Abolition of the Death Penalty.

A large audience on the concluding night of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva, Switzerland, February 25, heard Mumia by telephone. He spoke as a symbolic representative of the over 20,000 men, women & children on death rows around the world. The call came as a surprise, since we thought it had been canceled. Mumia's comments from inside his death-row cell brought to reality the horror of daily life in which death is a common denominator. During an earlier panel discussion I spoke of racism in capital cases around the globe with the case of Mumia as a prime example. A day before the Congress on February 23, I talked at the Geneva Human Rights Film Festival on the power of films in fighting the death penalty & saving Mumia.

On March 2 in the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, members Søren Søndergaard (Denmark) & Sabine Lösing (Germany) announced the beginning of a campaign to save Mumia & end executions. They were joined by Sabine Kebir, the noted German author & PEN member, Nicole Bryan, & me. We discussed the online petition which helps not only Mumia, but all the condemned around the globe.

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense & Online Petition: The complex litigation & investigation that is being pursued on behalf of Mumia is enormously expensive. We are in both the federal & state courts on the issue of the death penalty, prosecutorial wrongdoing, etc. Mumia's life is on the line.

How to Help: For information on how to help, both through donations & signing the Obama petition, please go to Mumia's legal defense website: .

Conclusion: Mumia remains on death row under a death judgment. He is in greater danger than at any time since his arrest 28 years ago. The prosecution is pursuing his execution. I win cases, & will not let them kill my client. He must be free.

Yours very truly,

Robert R. Bryan
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117

Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Please forward widely

Dear Friends of Lynne Stewart,

Forgive this hasty note updating Lynne's situation. I am off to Brazil shortly and must catch a plane soon.

I just spoke with Lynne's husband Ralph Poynter last night and learned the following.

A regularly scheduled follow up test to check on whether Lynne's breast cancel had reappeared revealed that Lynne now had a spot on her liver. Lynne struggled with prison authorities to have a required biopsy and related tests conducted at her regular, that is, non-prison, Roosevelt Hospital. Her requests were denied and she was compelled to have the biopsy done in a notoriously inferior facility where the results could not be determined for a week as compared to the almost immediate lab tests available at Roosevelt.

During Lynne's prison hospital stay she was shackled and handcuffed making rest and sleep virtually impossible. A horrified doctor ordered the shackles removed but immediately following his departure they were fastened on Lynne's feet and hands once again.

She is now back in her New York City prison cell. Her attorneys have filed for a postponement of her scheduled July 15 court appearance where Federal District Court sentencing Judge John Koeltl is to review the original 28-month jail sentence that he imposed last year.

This sentence was appealed by government prosecutors, who sought to order Koelt to impose a 30-year sentence. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, was sympathetic to the government's position and essentially stated that Koeltl's 28-month sentence exceeded the bounds of "reasonableness." Koeltl was ordered to reconsider. A relatively recent Supreme Court decision granted federal district court judges wide discretion in determining the length of internment. Koeltl's decision took into consideration many factors that the court system allows in determining Lynne's sentence. These included Lynne's character, her service to the community, her health and financial history and more. He ruled, among other things that Lynne's service to the community was indeed a "credit to her profession and to the nation."

Contrariwise, the government and prison authorities see Lynne as a convicted terrorist. Lynne was the victim of a frame-up trial held in the post-911 context. She was convicted on four counts of "aiding and abetting terrorism" stemming from a single act, Lynne's issuance of a press release on behalf of her client, the "blind" Egyptian Shreik Omar Abdel Rachman. The press release, that the government claimed violated a Special Administrative Order (SAM), was originally ignored as essentially trivial by the Clinton administration and then Attorney General Janet Reno. But the Bush administration's Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to go after Lynne with a sledge hammer.

A monstrous trial saw government attorney's pulling out all the stops to convince an intimidated jury that Lynne was associated in some way with terrorist acts across the globe, not to mention with Osama bin Laden. Both the judge and government were compelled to admit in court that there were no such "associations," but press clippings found in Lynne's office were nevertheless admitted as "hearsay" evidence even though they were given to Lynne by the government under the rules of discovery.

It is likely that Lynne's request for a postponement will be granted, assuming the government holds to the law that a prisoner has the right to partake in her/his own defense. Lynne's illness has certainly prevented her from doing so.

In the meantime, Lynne would like nothing more than to hear from her friends and associates. Down the road her defense team will also be looking for appropriate letters to the judge on Lynne's behalf. More later on the suggested content of these letters.

Please write Lynne to express your love and solidarity:

Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, New York 10007

In Solidarity,

Jeff Mackler, West Coast Coordinator
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee


Lynne Stewart and the Guantanamo Lawyers: Same Fact Patterns, Same Opponent, Different Endings?
Lynne Stewart will be re-sentenced sometime in July, in NYC.
By Ralph Poynter
(Ralph Poynter is the Life partner of Lynne Stewart. He is presently dedicated 24/7 to her defense, as well as other causes.)

In the Spring of 2002, Lynne Stewart was arrested by the FBI, at her home in Brooklyn, for materially aiding terrorism by virtue of making a public press release to Reuters on behalf of her client, Sheik Abdel Omar Rahman of Egypt. This was done after she had signed a Special Administrative Measure issued by the Bureau of Prisons not permitting her to communicate with the media, on his behalf.

In 2006, a number of attorneys appointed and working pro bono for detainees at Guantanamo were discovered to be acting in a manner that disobeyed a Federal Judge's protective court order. The adversary in both cases was the United States Department of Justice. The results in each case were very different.

In March of 2010, a right wing group "Keep America Safe" led by Lynne Cheney, hoping to dilute Guantanamo representation and impugn the reputations and careers of the volunteer lawyers, launched a campaign. Initially they attacked the right of the detainees to be represented at all. This was met with a massive denouncement by Press, other media, Civil rights organizations ,and rightly so, as being a threat to the Constitution and particularly the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

A second attack on the Gitmo lawyers was made in the Wall Street Journal of March 16. This has been totally ignored in the media and by civil and human rights groups. This latter revelation about the violations, by these lawyers, of the Judge's protective orders and was revealed via litigation and the Freedom of Information Act. These pro bono lawyers serving clients assigned to them at Gitmo used privileged attorney client mail to send banned materials. They carried in news report of US failures in Afghanistan and Iraq . One lawyer drew a map of the prison. Another delivered lists to his client of all the suspects held there. They placed on the internet a facsimile of the badges worn by the Guards. Some lawyers "provided news outlets with 'interviews' of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organizations." When a partner at one of the large Wall Street law firms sent in multiple copies of an Amnesty International brochure, which her client was to distribute to other prisoners, she was relieved from her representation and barred by the Military Commander from visiting her client.

This case is significant to interpret not because of the right wing line to punish these lawyers and manipulate their corporate clients to stop patronizing such "wayward" firms. Instead it is significant because, Lynne Stewart, a left wing progressive lawyer who had dedicated her thirty year career to defending the poor, the despised, the political prisoner and those ensnared by reason of race, gender, ethnicity, religion , who was dealt with by the same Department of Justice, in such a draconian fashion, confirms our deepest suspicions that she was targeted for prosecution and punishment because of who she is and who she represented so ably and not because of any misdeed.

Let me be very clear, I am not saying that the Gitmo lawyers acted in any "criminal" manner. The great tradition of the defense bar is to be able to make crucial decisions for and with the client without interference by the adversary Government.

I believe that they were acting as zealous attorneys trying to establish rapport and trust with their clients. That said, the moment the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice tried to remove Julia Tarver Mason from her client, the playing field tilted. Ms Tarver Mason was not led out of her home in handcuffs to the full glare of publicity. There was no press conference. The Attorney General did not go on the David Letterman show to gloat about the latest strike in the War on Terror, the purge of the Gitmo lawyer...NO.

Instead an "armada" of corporate lawyers went to Court against the Government. They, in the terms of the litigation trade, papered the US District Courthouse in Washington D.C. They brought to bear the full force of their Money and Power-- derived from the corporate world--and in 2006 "settled" the case with the government, restoring their clients to Guantanamo without any punishment at all, not to say any Indictment. Lynne Stewart, without corporate connections and coming from a working class background, was tried and convicted for issuing, on behalf of her client, a public press release to Reuters. There was no injury, no harm, no attacks, no deaths.

Yet that same Department of Justice that dealt so favorably and capitulated to the Gitmo corporate lawyers, wants to sentence Lynne Stewart to thirty (30) YEARS in prison. It is the equivalent of asking for a death sentence since she is 70 years old.

This vast disparity in treatment between Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers reveals the deep contradictions of the system ---those who derive power from rich and potent corporations, those whose day to day work maintains and increases that power--are treated differently. Is it because the Corporate Power is intertwined with Government Power???

Lynne Stewart deserves Justice... equal justice under law. Her present sentence of 28 months incarceration (she is in Federal Prison) should at least be maintained, if not made equal to the punishment that was meted out to the Gitmo lawyers. The thirty year sentence, assiduously pursued by DOJ under both Bush and Obama, is an obscenity and an affront to fundamental fairness. They wanted to make her career and dedication to individual clients, a warning, to the defense bar that the Government can arrest any lawyer on any pretext. The sharp contrasts between the cases of Lynne and the Gitmo lawyers just confirm that she is getting a raw deal--one that should be protested actively, visibly and with the full force of our righteous resistance.


Roger Waters - "We Shall Overcome" for Gaza


Bernadette McAliskey Quote on Zionists:

"The root cause of conflict in the Middle East is the very nature of the state of Israel. It is a facist state. It is a international bully, which exists not to protect the rights of the Jewish people but to perpetuate a belief of Zionist supremacy. It debases the victims of the holocaust by its own strategy for extermination of Palestine and Palestinians and has become the image and likeness of its own worst enemy, the Third Reich.

"Anyone challenging their position, their crazed self-image is entitled, in the fascist construction of their thinking, to be wiped out. Every humanitarian becomes a terrorist? How long is the reality of the danger Israel poses to world peace going to be denied by the Western powers who created this monster?"


Rachel Maddow: Disgraceful response to the oil itself


It Ain't My Fault by Mos Def & Lenny Kravitz |


Gulf Oil Spill?

Dear Readers,

If you are wondering why an antiwar newsletter is giving full coverage to the oil spill, it's because:

(1) "Supplying the US army with oil is one of BP's biggest markets, and further exploration in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico is part of its long-term strategy."*
(2) "The Senate on Thursday, [May 27, 2010] approved a nearly $60 billion measure to pay for continuing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq..."**

The two are inextricably entwined and interdependent.

--Bonnie Weinstein

*The black hole at the bottom of the Gulf
No one seems to know the extent of the BP disaster
By David Randall and Margareta Pagano
Sunday, 23 May 2010

**Senate Approves Nearly $60 Billion for Wars
May 27, 2010

Watch BP Live Video Webcam Camera Feed of Gulf Oil Spill Here! (Update 7)

What BP does not want you to see:
ABC News went underwater in the Gulf with Philippe Cousteau Jr., grandson of famous explorer Jacques Cousteau, and he described what he saw as "one of the most horrible things I've ever seen underwater."

Check out what BP does not want you to see. And please share this widely -- every American should see what's happening under the surface in the Gulf.

Live BP Gulf Oil Spill Webcam Video Reveals 5 Leaks

Stop Shell Oil's Offshore Drilling Plans in the Arctic

Sign the Petition to Ban Offshore Drilling Now!



[ The poem does not mention that the popular herb cardamom is banned from importation into Gaza. Israel probably fears that cardamom can be used as a biological weapon. Rockets with cardamom filled projectiles landing in Israel could cause Israeli soldiers 'guarding' the border to succumb to pangs of hunger, leave their posts to go get something eat, and leave Israel defenseless. - Howard Keylor]

Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ), as well as several works of non-fiction


No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.
Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator's visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.

But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.
Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
against us.

Pumpkins and carrots you may have, but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
no chocolate.

We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.

Our motto:
'No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.'
You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.

Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.
As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.

And if your children can't sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs -
that's the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.

God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.
Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75


This is just inspiring! You have to watch it!
Don't Get Caught in a Bad Hotel



[While this is a good beginning to a fight to put safety first--for workers and the planet--we must recognize that the whole thrust of capitalism is to get the job done quicker and cheaper, workers and the world be damned!

It is workers who are intimately aware of the dangers of production and the ways those dangers could be eliminated. And, if, say, a particular mine, factory, industry can't be made to be safe, then it should be abandoned. Those workers effected should simply be "retired" with full pay and benefits. They have already been subjected to the toxins, dangers, etc., on the job.

Basically, safety must be under worker's control. Workers must have first dibs on profits to insure safety first.

It not only means nationalizing industry--but internationalizing industry--and placing it under the control and operation of the workers themselves. Governmental controls of safety regulations are notoriously ineffectual because the politicians themselves are the corporation's paid defenders. It only makes sense that corporate profits should be utilized--under the worker's control--to put safety first or stop production altogether. Safety first has to be interpreted as "safety before profits and profits for safety first!" We can only hope it is not too late!]


The government of the United States must seize BP and freeze its assets, and place those funds in trust to begin providing immediate relief to the working people throughout the Gulf states whose jobs, communities, homes and businesses are being harmed or destroyed by the criminally negligent actions of the CEO, Board of Directors and senior management of BP.

Take action now! Sign the Seize BP petition to demand the seizure of BP!

200,000 gallons of oil a day, or more, are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico with the flow of oil growing. The poisonous devastation to human beings, wildlife, natural habitat and fragile ecosystems will go on for decades. It constitutes an act of environmental violence, the consequences of which will be catastrophic.

BP's Unmitigated Greed

This was a manufactured disaster. It was neither an "Act of God" nor Nature that caused this devastation, but rather the unmitigated greed of Big Oil's most powerful executives in their reckless search for ever-greater profits.

Under BP's CEO Tony Hayward's aggressive leadership, BP made a record $5.6 billion in pure profits just in the first three months of 2010. BP made $163 billion in profits from 2001-09. It has a long history of safety violations and slap-on-the-wrist fines.

BP's Materially False and Misleading Statements

BP filed a 52-page exploration plan and environmental impact analysis with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Minerals Management Service for the Deepwater Horizon well, dated February 2009, which repeatedly assured the government that it was "unlikely that an accidental surface or subsurface oil spill would occur from the proposed activities." In the filing, BP stated over and over that it was unlikely for an accident to occur that would lead to a giant crude oil spill causing serious damage to beaches, mammals and fisheries and that as such it did not require a response plan for such an event.

BP's executives are thus either guilty of making materially false statements to the government to obtain the license, of consciously misleading a government that was all too ready to be misled, and/or they are guilty of criminal negligence. At a bare minimum, their representations constitute gross negligence. Whichever the case, BP must be held accountable for its criminal actions that have harmed so many.

Protecting BP's Super-Profits

BP executives are banking that they can ride out the storm of bad publicity and still come out far ahead in terms of the billions in profit that BP will pocket. In 1990, in response to the Exxon Valdez disaster, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Oil Pollution Act, which immunizes oil companies for the damages they cause beyond immediate cleanup costs.

Under the Oil Pollution Act, oil companies are responsible for oil removal and cleanup costs for massive spills, and their liability for all other forms of damages is capped at $75 million-a pittance for a company that made $5.6 billion in profits in just the last three months, and is expected to make $23 billion in pure profit this year. Some in Congress suggest the cap should be set at $10 billion, still less than the potential cost of this devastation-but why should the oil companies have any immunity from responsibility for the damage they cause?

The Oil Pollution Act is an outrage, and it will be used by BP to keep on doing business as usual.

People are up in arms because thousands of workers who have lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of BP's actions have to wait in line to compete for lower wage and hazardous clean-up jobs from BP. BP's multi-millionaire executives are not asked to sacrifice one penny while working people have to plead for clean-up jobs.

Take Action Now

It is imperative that the government seize BP's assets now for their criminal negligence and begin providing immediate relief for the immense suffering and harm they have caused.

Seize BP Petition button*:


Rachel Carson's Warnings in "The Sea Around Us":
"It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself. . ."


Operation Small Axe - Trailer


Please sign the petition to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and
and forward it to all your lists.

"Mumia Abu-Jamal and The Global Abolition of the Death Penalty"

(A Life In the Balance - The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, at 34, Amnesty Int'l, 2000; www.

[Note: This petition is approved by Mumia Abu-Jamal and his lead attorney, Robert R. Bryan, San Francisco (E-mail:; Website:]

Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012


Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501c)3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal



Lynne Stewart in Jail!

Mail tax free contributions payable to National Lawyers Guild Foundation. Write in memo box: "Lynne Stewart Defense." Mail to: Lynne Stewart Defense, P.O. Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.



U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General Public Comment Line - 202-353-1555

To send Lynne a letter, write:
Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

Lynne Stewart speaks in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal


On June 30, an innocent man will be given a second chance.

In 1991, Troy Davis was sentenced to death for allegedly killing a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. There was no physical evidence tying him to the crime, and seven out of nine witnesses recanted or contradicted their testimony.

He was sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. But it's not too late to change Troy's fate.

We just learned today that Troy has been granted an evidentiary hearing -- an opportunity to right this wrong. Help give him a second chance by telling your friends to pledge their support for Troy:

Troy Davis may just be one man, but his situation represents an injustice experienced by thousands. And suffering this kind of injustice, by even one man, is one person too many.

Thanks to you and 35,000 other NAACP members and supporters who spoke out last August, the U.S. Supreme Court is granting Troy Davis his day in court--and a chance to make his case after 19 years on death row.

This hearing is the first step.

We appreciate your continued support of Troy. If you have not yet done so, please visit our website, sign the petition, then tell your friends to do the same.

I will be in touch soon to let you know how else you can help.


Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) High Rate for Deaths of Pregnant Women in New York State
June 18, 2010

2) Thousands Protest Electricity Shortage in Iraq
June 19, 2010

3) BP Chief Draws Outrage for Attending Yacht Race
[Tony Hayward's "getting back to his life" while the Gulf dies.]
June 19, 2010

4) Fishing Tournament Cancellations Spread With Oil Spill
June 19, 2010

5)Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident - it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. In this special report from the Gulf coast, a leading author and activist shows how it lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism
Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film. [This is an important film to view. Scroll to the bottom of the page in the Guardian to view it or look it up on YouTube. Everywhere there is a refinery or drill site, poisons are being released into our environment.]
BY Naomi Klein
The Guardian
Saturday 19 June 2010

6) Tuberculosis: Mining Plays Bigger Role in TB in Africa Than Had Been Realized, Study Finds
By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
June 21, 2010

7) Regulators Failed to Address Risks in Oil Rig Fail-Safe Device
"In Senate testimony on June 9, Mr. Salazar made clear that Mr. Obama had no intention of pulling back permanently from deepwater drilling off the United States coast.
"'It was the president's directive that we press the pause button,' Mr. Salazar said. 'It's important for all of you on this committee to know that word - it's the pause button. It's not the stop button.'"
This article is by David Barstow, Laura Dodd, James Glanz, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina.
June 20, 2010
[Video and graphics accompany this article on]

8) For the Crew of a Drill Ship, a Routine Task, a Far-From-Routine Goal
June 20, 2010

9) Panel Is Unlikely to End Deepwater Drilling Ban Early
"But Mr. Reilly said that ending the moratorium would require that the industry adopt safer drilling techniques and that the government regulatory agencies, particularly the Minerals Management Service, a part of the Interior Department, be markedly strengthened. 'Those things would have to happen faster than past history would suggest is possible,' he said. He also noted that a Congressional hearing last week revealed that the five major domestic oil companies relied on a common and clearly inadequate plan for responding to a major offshore spill."
June 21, 2010

10) Monitoring the Manatee for Oil Ills
June 20, 2010

11) Poll Finds Deep Concern About Energy and Economy
June 21, 2010

12) Notes From Wake of Blowout Outline Obstacles and Frustration
June 21, 2010

13) The Era of the Oil Gusher
June 21, 2010, 4:09 pm

14) ANSWER Coalition Interview on
Breaking News on Afghanistan
[Includes video interview with Brian Becker:]
June 22, 2010

15) US Fifth CIrcuit Court rules against Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3
June 22, 2010
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3
No Justice, No Peace!

16) BP Is Pursuing Alaska Drilling Some Call Risky
"But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.... But BP's project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an 'onshore' project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island - a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water - built by BP."
June 23, 2010

17) BP Removes Containment Cap At Gulf Spill Site
by The Associated Press
June 23, 2010

18) Judge Won't Stay Drilling Decision
June 24, 2010

19) June 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
Order and Chaos in a Bustling Cleanup

20) Tuna's End
June 21, 2010

21) In India, BP Response Feeds Outrage Over Bhopal
"'The victims will get hardly 10 percent of the money and rest will go to the pockets of ministers and bureaucrats,' said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action an advocacy group. 'Indian people have to pay for the crimes committed by the U.S. corporations.'"
June 24, 2010

22) Pfc Bradley Manning arrested for leaking "Collateral Murder" video
By Courage to Resist
"From what I've heard so far of (Wikileaks co-founder Julian) Assange and (Army Pfc Bradley) Manning,... they are two new heroes of mine," Daniel Ellsberg, famous whistle-blower of the Pentagon Papers
June 23, 2010

23) Venezuela Seizes Oil Rigs Owned by US Company
June 24, 2010

24) Extension of Jobless Aid Still Stalled
June 24, 2010


1) High Rate for Deaths of Pregnant Women in New York State
June 18, 2010

More mothers die during pregnancy or soon after in New York than in almost every other state, and according to reports released on Friday by the New York Academy of Medicine and the city's health department, social factors like poverty, obesity and lack of insurance may be responsible.

While the total number of maternal deaths are small - an average of about 40 a year across the state - city health officials said their analysis showed that maternal mortality was being driven by environmental factors like poor nutrition that could be changed through public policy.

New York City's analysis, billed as one of the most sophisticated looks at maternal mortality in the country, studied 161 women who died of pregnancy-related causes in the city from 2001 to 2005.

It found that 49 percent of the women who died were obese. Black women, who were more likely to be obese, were seven times as likely to die in pregnancy as white women. Hispanic and Asian women were twice as likely to die as white women.

The death rate was highest in the Bronx and Brooklyn, which have large poor and minority populations. The neighborhoods with the highest death rates were Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens. Those with the lowest death rates - actually zero - were Chelsea and Greenwich Village in Manhattan, Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and Flushing in Queens.

Women without health insurance - who may receive less preventive care - were four times as likely to die as women with such coverage, but women covered by Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor, fared as well as women with private insurance, the city found.

"Black women are more likely to be obese, and they are more likely to be uninsured, and they are more likely to live in communities where the environment does not promote healthy decisions," Deborah Kaplan, the assistant commissioner of the city's bureau of maternal health, said as the city's data was presented at the Academy of Medicine headquarters in Manhattan.

The city's report acknowledged, however, that while factors like obesity, poverty and race were strongly correlated with maternal mortality, it was not possible to say that those factors actually caused the deaths.

The study did not look beyond the statistics to the particular circumstances of each death, which might reveal whether the hospitals that treated the women or decisions made by doctors had contributed to their deaths. "I think we can see this as an issue that needs more clarity," the academy's president, Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, said.

Of the women who died during childbirth, 79 percent were delivered by Caesarean section, which carries all the risks of any other surgery, like hemorrhaging and infection. The top four causes of death were blood clots, hemorrhage, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and infection, which together accounted for 63 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths, according to the city's report. Half of the pregnancy-related deaths occurred within a week of delivery.

Prenatal care, or the lack of it, however, did not seem to play a strong role in the deaths. The study found that half the women who died received care that was considered adequate or better in their first trimester.

Women 40 or older were 2.6 times as likely to die as those under 40.

In 2007, the most recent year cited in the academy's report, New York State's rate was about 16 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. It ranks as the fourth worst rate in the country, followed by Maryland, New Mexico, Georgia and the District of Columbia, according to a multiyear analysis by the National Women's Law Center.

The national rate in 2006 was 13.3 maternal deaths per 100,000, three times as high as the federal government's target for 2010 of 4.3 deaths, and ranking the United States below more than 30 other nations.

New York City has fared even worse. The average maternal mortality rate from 2001 to 2005 in New York City was 23.1, nearly twice the national average of 11.8 during that period, according to the city's report.

In addition to the 161 women whose deaths were directly related to pregnancy, the city looked at another 105 women whose deaths were indirectly related to their pregnancies. Homicide accounted for more than a fifth of these deaths, suggesting that the stress of pregnancy may be related to domestic violence. Black women were five times as likely to be murdered as white women, and Hispanic women were more than twice as likely to be killed as white women.


2) Thousands Protest Electricity Shortage in Iraq
June 19, 2010

BAGHDAD - Thousands of demonstrators surged through the sweltering streets of Iraq's second-largest city to protest persistent shortages of electricity on Saturday, clashing with the police in a disturbance that underlined the growing popular anger here over the Iraqi government's inability to provide the basic necessities of life.

One person was killed when the police opened fire on the demonstrators, who were throwing rocks at the provincial headquarters in Basra. But the symbolism of the event may prove greater than the death toll: Diplomats, officials and politicians have warned that popular frustration over basic services is escalating significantly as summer temperatures climb past 110 degrees and more months pass without a new government.

Voters went to the polls on March 7 after a campaign dominated by promises of more jobs, electricity, housing and better drinking water. None of those pledges has been fulfilled as deadlocked negotiations over a governing coalition threaten to drag into the fall.

"The government should know that the people have been waiting for a long time now," said Samir Kadhum, a 34-year-old protester. "We're no longer patient." Another, 29-year-old Qaisar Banwan, promised "a revolution of electricity."

From the very first days of the American occupation, until now, electricity has proven a constant in the suffering of Iraq's people. The lack of it helped shape sentiments in the summer of 2003 toward the American military, which inherited utilities already crumbling from decades of wars and sanctions. Many are dumbfounded that, seven years later, it remains so scarce, despite billions of dollars in American aid.

Wealthier neighborhoods of Basra have as many as eight hours of city electricity a day; during blackouts, they can also afford the $50 or more a month for power from a generator shared by several blocks. The city's poorer neighborhoods, by far the majority, often have just one hour of electricity a day, a situation not uncommon in Baghdad and other regions. The temperature in Basra on Saturday was 113 degrees.

Sewage still gathers in the streets; the city, about 340 miles southeast of Baghdad and humid because of its proximity to the Persian Gulf, is one of Iraq's most decrepit.

The protest was organized by followers of Moktada al-Sadr, a populist cleric whose movement has long managed to straddle the divide between high politics in the capital and the popular sentiments of the street. Mr. Sadr's group was one of the most successful in the March 7 vote, and his lawmakers are deeply involved in the negotiations over a new government. But they still cast themselves as outsiders, and at Friday Prayer and elsewhere, the movement's clerics insist that they are representing the people's demands.

The protest gathered before the provincial headquarters, where residents ruefully noted that Basra is located in an oil-rich region. "Prison is more comfortable than our homes," one banner read. The protest turned violent when demonstrators began throwing rocks and security forces opened fire. Three people were also wounded, and officials in Basra said they would investigate the shooting of the protester who died.

Some of the protest's leaders said more demonstrations were planned.

"We're going to keep demonstrating until the government meets our simplest needs," said Mohammed al-Bahadli, a 41-year-old cleric and protest organizer.

Hours after the protest, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered a delegation to travel to Basra to address the problem. The group met provincial officials Saturday night, but there was no word on what, if anything, would be done.

An Iraqi employee of The New York Times contributed from Basra, Iraq.


3) BP Chief Draws Outrage for Attending Yacht Race
[Tony Hayward's "getting back to his life" while the Gulf dies.]
June 19, 2010

BP officials on Saturday scrambled yet again to respond to another public relations challenge when their embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward, spent the day off the coast of England watching his yacht compete in one of the world's largest races.

Two days after Mr. Hayward angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill with his refusal to provide details during testimony about the worst offshore oil spill in United States history, and one day after BP's chairman said the chief executive would not be as involved in daily operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Hayward sparked new controversy from afar.

"He is having some rare private time with his son," a BP spokeswoman, Sheila Williams, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

But Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, who taped an interview for ABC's "This Week," called Mr. Hayward's attendance at the race "part of a long line of P.R. gaffes and mistakes" that he has made.

"To quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back," Mr. Emanuel said.

On May 31, six weeks after the spill began, Mr. Hayward uttered "I'd like my life back," a comment that struck many in the gulf region as insensitive, and for which he eventually apologized.

On Saturday, Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, called Mr. Hayward's yacht outing the "height of arrogance," in an interview with Fox News.

"I can tell you that yacht ought to be here skimming and cleaning up a lot of the oil," Mr. Shelby said. "He ought to be down here seeing what is really going on. Not in a cocoon somewhere."

But Mr. Hayward's role in the gulf became the topic of further speculation on Saturday, even as Ms. Williams, the BP spokeswoman, insisted that Mr. Hayward was still in charge of the company and the enormous cleanup operations.

"Tony receives regular updates from the gulf," she said in an e-mail message.

On Friday, the chairman of the board of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, told the British TV network Sky News that Mr. Hayward would be "now handing over" the daily operations in the gulf to Robert Dudley, an American who joined BP as part of its acquisition of Amoco a decade ago.

On Saturday, BP tried to clarify what Mr. Svanberg had said about the transition of leadership in the gulf. "What he meant by 'now,' " Ms. Williams said, was that "there would be a transition over to Bob over a period of time."

"Obviously, Tony's main priority remains overseeing all BP operations," she said. "Over all, there will be some responsibilities handed over, but Tony will remain in full control until we have stopped the leak."

When that might happen is not clear. Crude oil is flowing at a rate estimated between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of oil a day from the damaged well, and BP has been able to capture only a percentage of that with its current containment methods.

BP said it was aiming to stop the leak in August, when two relief wells it is drilling will intersect with the damaged one. The company said on Friday that it was ahead of schedule on one of the wells and within 200 feet of the side of the damaged well, but that the drilling would proceed more slowly the closer it got.

Workers had captured 24,500 barrels of oil on Friday before shutting down the operation because of a malfunction on the vessel that is siphoning the oil from the leaking well - 1,000 fewer barrels than on Thursday. Operations restarted early Saturday.

By then, Mr. Hayward was already in Cowes on the southern coast of England for the J. P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, a yacht race around the Isle of Wight. A spokeswoman for the race said in an e-mail message "that a gentleman by the name of Tony Hayward is a co-owner of an entered boat called 'Bob' that was racing today, however his name did not appear on any crew list."

The boat finished fourth in a class of 45 others.


4) Fishing Tournament Cancellations Spread With Oil Spill
June 19, 2010

Shawna Meisner, the director of the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic offshore sports fishing tournament in the Gulf of Mexico, had been one of the last holdouts. But on Thursday - five days before the tournament's start - the spreading BP oil spill left her little choice.

Meisner canceled the event, a team fishing competition in Destin, Fla. It is ranked by Marlin magazine as having the gulf's richest purse, reaching a peak of $1.5 million in 2008.

In the wake of the oil spill, many of the top fishing events in the gulf have been postponed or canceled. Those in recreational fishing regard the sport as a key part of the region's economy. Industry-financed studies estimate that the annual number of day trips on boats to fish in the gulf is 23.5 million, in addition to millions fishing from the shoreline.

Although a small percentage of boating anglers compete in offshore tournaments, they are among the biggest spenders. Each team pays $5,000 to enter the two-day Emerald Coast competition, and the fees can reach more than $50,000 depending on the categories it competes in.

About half a dozen other key tournaments in June and July had been canceled, but Meisner and her tournament committee persisted. In May, they issued a statement that they were "proceeding with optimism."

But some teams pulled out, anyway. About 20 remained last week, down from the more than 70 that typically compete. That decline was not the reason for the cancellation, Meisner said. The breaking point, she said, was when oil spread into the waters off the Florida Panhandle last week, leading to intermittent closures of a waterway that leads to deeper water. The federal authorities also widened the area closed to fishing.

"The long-reaching effect of canceling these events is devastating," said Jim Simons, the president of the World Billfish Series, a major championship in the rapidly growing sport.

The World Billfish Series and the International Game Fishing Association, the two major offshore fishing series, choose top competitors from qualifying tournaments around the world. They will have to adjust their process for selecting the gulf fishing teams for their championships.

The Billfish Series championship is in December in Costa Rica. It plans to invite last year's top competitors in the gulf and will also allow those who just missed qualifying to enter.

The game fishing association runs its championship in Mexico. Dan Jacobs, the tournament director, said it was considering allowing those from the gulf who qualified last year to enter. It may also allow fishing clubs like Emerald Coast to designate representatives.

Previous tournaments that were canceled or postponed stretch from Pensacola, Fla., to Mobile Bay, Ala., Biloxi, Miss, and Venice, La. But the cancellations may benefit other competitions. Jacobs said several teams unable to take part in gulf tournaments planned to compete in events in Bermuda and elsewhere.

In sport fishing competitions, teams essentially bet on who will catch particular kinds of fish. The prize money is divided among top finishers. In catch-and-release categories, teams document the number of fish they catch. Other winners are determined by the weight of individual fish brought to shore.

"It is no longer just a sport for the rich," Simons said. The number of anglers competing in the gulf has increased fivefold in the last decade, rising to about 5,000 people a year, mostly men. The growth has led to more tournaments, including the Emerald Coast competition, which started seven years ago.

Along with devastating the commercial fishing industry in the gulf, the oil spill is crippling the business of offshore recreational sport fishing. Offshore fishing, including tournaments, is worth $1.9 billion a year to the gulf region, based on an American Sportfishing Association-financed analysis of spending on items like hotels, docking and gear. The group said that millions of dollars had been lost.

"It's a disappointing season," said Jeff Shoults, a professional fisherman whose company owns the Mollie, a $3 million, 66-foot boat for deepwater fishing. He was among those who had planned to fish in the Destin tournament and four others in the gulf.

He estimated that in a typical year, his teams spent $80,000 to enter tournaments and grossed $250,000.

"I don't go to practice; I go to win," Shoults said.

His boat is outfitted with radar and satellite imaging to find seams where cold and warm water collide and fish are usually most plentiful. For a typical tournament, his boat may burn 1,500 gallons of fuel and venture more than 200 miles into the gulf in search of a prize blue marlin.

Shoults, 45, conceded his training did not include going to the gym. He just fishes and tries to stay awake for long hours at sea.

"It's a lot of Coca-Colas, Mountain Dews, anything with a lot of sugar," he said. "When you catch a big fish, it's a great feeling. It's a fun ride back to the dock when you know you've got a winner."


5)Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident - it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. In this special report from the Gulf coast, a leading author and activist shows how it lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism
Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film. [This is an important film to view. Scroll to the bottom of the page in the Guardian to view it or look it up on YouTube. Everywhere there is a refinery or drill site, poisons are being released into our environment.]
BY Naomi Klein
The Guardian
Saturday 19 June 2010

Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes, part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster in US history.

"Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to," the chair of the meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions.

And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to "doing better" to process their claims for lost revenue - then passed all the details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that, contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in massive quantities was really perfectly safe.

But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard captain, took to the podium to reassure them that "the coast guard intends to make sure that BP cleans it up".

"Put it in writing!" someone shouted out. By now the air conditioning had shut itself off and the coolers of Budweiser were running low. A shrimper named Matt O'Brien approached the mic. "We don't need to hear this anymore," he declared, hands on hips. It didn't matter what assurances they were offered because, he explained, "we just don't trust you guys!" And with that, such a loud cheer rose up from the floor you'd have thought the Oilers (the unfortunately named school football team) had scored a touchdown.

The showdown was cathartic, if nothing else. For weeks residents had been subjected to a barrage of pep talks and extravagant promises coming from Washington, Houston and London. Every time they turned on their TVs, there was the BP boss, Tony Hayward, offering his solemn word that he would "make it right". Or else it was President Barack Obama expressing his absolute confidence that his administration would "leave the Gulf coast in better shape than it was before", that he was "making sure" it "comes back even stronger than it was before this crisis".

It all sounded great. But for people whose livelihoods put them in intimate contact with the delicate chemistry of the wetlands, it also sounded completely ridiculous, painfully so. Once the oil coats the base of the marsh grass, as it had already done just a few miles from here, no miracle machine or chemical concoction could safely get it out. You can skim oil off the surface of open water, and you can rake it off a sandy beach, but an oiled marsh just sits there, slowly dying. The larvae of countless species for which the marsh is a spawning ground - shrimp, crab, oysters and fin fish - will be poisoned.

It was already happening. Earlier that day, I travelled through nearby marshes in a shallow water boat. Fish were jumping in waters encircled by white boom, the strips of thick cotton and mesh BP is using to soak up the oil. The circle of fouled material seemed to be tightening around the fish like a noose. Nearby, a red-winged blackbird perched atop a 2 metre (7ft) blade of oil-contaminated marsh grass. Death was creeping up the cane; the small bird may as well have been standing on a lit stick of dynamite.

And then there is the grass itself, or the Roseau cane, as the tall sharp blades are called. If oil seeps deeply enough into the marsh, it will not only kill the grass above ground but also the roots. Those roots are what hold the marsh together, keeping bright green land from collapsing into the Mississippi River delta and the Gulf of Mexico. So not only do places like Plaquemines Parish stand to lose their fisheries, but also much of the physical barrier that lessens the intensity of fierce storms like hurricane Katrina. Which could mean losing everything.

How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made whole" as Obama's interior secretary has pledged to do? It's not at all clear that such a thing is remotely possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to fully recover from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and some species of fish never returned. Government scientists now estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth of oil may be entering the Gulf coastal waters every four days. An even worse prognosis emerges from the 1991 Gulf war spill, when an estimated 11m barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf - the largest spill ever. That oil entered the marshland and stayed there, burrowing deeper and deeper thanks to holes dug by crabs. It's not a perfect comparison, since so little clean-up was done, but according to a study conducted 12 years after the disaster, nearly 90% of the impacted muddy salt marshes and mangroves were still profoundly damaged.

We do know this. Far from being "made whole," the Gulf coast, more than likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast's legendary culture will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages - much like the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand. (BP, for its part, is well aware of the limits of recovery. The company's Gulf of Mexico regional oil spill response plan specifically instructs officials not to make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal". Which is no doubt why its officials consistently favour folksy terms like "make it right".)

If Katrina pulled back the curtain on the reality of racism in America, the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money - not BP's recently pledged $20bn (£13.5bn), not $100bn - can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast.

"Everything is dying," a woman said as the town hall meeting was finally coming to a close. "How can you honestly tell us that our Gulf is resilient and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what is going to happen to our Gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act like you know when you don't know."

This Gulf coast crisis is about many things - corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. During Thursday's congressional testimony, Hayward said: "The best minds and the deepest expertise are being brought to bear" on the crisis, and that, "with the possible exception of the space programme in the 1960s, it is difficult to imagine the gathering of a larger, more technically proficient team in one place in peacetime." And yet, in the face of what the geologist Jill Schneiderman has described as "Pandora's well", they are like the men at the front of that gymnasium: they act like they know, but they don't know.

BP's mission statement

In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually taking the form of a mother. Europeans - like indigenous people the world over - believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including mining.

The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of nature's mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be "put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man".

Those words may as well have been BP's corporate mission statement. Boldly inhabiting what the company called "the energy frontier", it dabbled in synthesising methane-producing microbes and announced that "a new area of investigation" would be geoengineering. And of course it bragged that, at its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it now had "the deepest well ever drilled by the oil and gas industry" - as deep under the ocean floor as jets fly overhead.

Imagining and preparing for what would happen if these experiments in altering the building blocks of life and geology went wrong occupied precious little space in the corporate imagination. As we have all discovered, after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, the company had no systems in place to effectively respond to this scenario. Explaining why it did not have even the ultimately unsuccessful containment dome waiting to be activated on shore, a BP spokesman, Steve Rinehart, said: "I don't think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we're faced with now." Apparently, it "seemed inconceivable" that the blowout preventer would ever fail - so why prepare?

This refusal to contemplate failure clearly came straight from the top. A year ago, Hayward told a group of graduate students at Stanford University that he has a plaque on his desk that reads: "If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?" Far from being a benign inspirational slogan, this was actually an accurate description of how BP and its competitors behaved in the real world. In recent hearings on Capitol Hill, congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts grilled representatives from the top oil and gas companies on the revealing ways in which they had allocated resources. Over three years, they had spent "$39bn to explore for new oil and gas. Yet, the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention and spill response was a paltry $20m a year."

These priorities go a long way towards explaining why the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the federal government for the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well reads like a Greek tragedy about human hubris. The phrase "little risk" appears five times. Even if there is a spill, BP confidently predicts that, thanks to "proven equipment and technology", adverse affects will be minimal. Presenting nature as a predictable and agreeable junior partner (or perhaps subcontractor), the report cheerfully explains that should a spill occur, "Currents and microbial degradation would remove the oil from the water column or dilute the constituents to background levels". The effects on fish, meanwhile, "would likely be sublethal" because of "the capability of adult fish and shellfish to avoid a spill [and] to metabolise hydrocarbons". (In BP's telling, rather than a dire threat, a spill emerges as an all-you-can-eat buffet for aquatic life.)

Best of all, should a major spill occur, there is, apparently, "little risk of contact or impact to the coastline" because of the company's projected speedy response (!) and "due to the distance [of the rig] to shore" - about 48 miles (77km). This is the most astonishing claim of all. In a gulf that often sees winds of more than 70km an hour, not to mention hurricanes, BP had so little respect for the ocean's capacity to ebb and flow, surge and heave, that it did not think oil could make a paltry 77km trip. (Last week, a shard of the exploded Deepwater Horizon showed up on a beach in Florida, 306km away.)

None of this sloppiness would have been possible, however, had BP not been making its predictions to a political class eager to believe that nature had indeed been mastered. Some, like Republican Lisa Murkowski, were more eager than others. The Alaskan senator was so awe-struck by the industry's four-dimensional seismic imaging that she proclaimed deep-sea drilling to have reached the very height of controlled artificiality. "It's better than Disneyland in terms of how you can take technologies and go after a resource that is thousands of years old and do so in an environmentally sound way," she told the Senate energy committee just seven months ago.

Drilling without thinking has of course been Republican party policy since May 2008. With gas prices soaring to unprecedented heights, that's when the conservative leader Newt Gingrich unveiled the slogan "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" - with an emphasis on the now. The wildly popular campaign was a cry against caution, against study, against measured action. In Gingrich's telling, drilling at home wherever the oil and gas might be - locked in Rocky Mountain shale, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and deep offshore - was a surefire way to lower the price at the pump, create jobs, and kick Arab ass all at once. In the face of this triple win, caring about the environment was for sissies: as senator Mitch McConnell put it, "in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas, they think oil rigs are pretty". By the time the infamous "Drill Baby Drill" Republican national convention rolled around, the party base was in such a frenzy for US-made fossil fuels, they would have bored under the convention floor if someone had brought a big enough drill.

Obama, eventually, gave in, as he invariably does. With cosmic bad timing, just three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, the president announced he would open up previously protected parts of the country to offshore drilling. The practice was not as risky as he had thought, he explained. "Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." That wasn't enough for Sarah Palin, however, who sneered at the Obama administration's plans to conduct more studies before drilling in some areas. "My goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death," she told the Southern Republican leadership conference in New Orleans, now just 11 days before the blowout. "Let's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!" And there was much rejoicing.

In his congressional testimony, Hayward said: "We and the entire industry will learn from this terrible event." And one might well imagine that a catastrophe of this magnitude would indeed instil BP executives and the "Drill Now" crowd with a new sense of humility. There are, however, no signs that this is the case. The response to the disaster - at the corporate and governmental levels - has been rife with the precise brand of arrogance and overly sunny predictions that created the disaster in the first place.

The ocean is big, she can take it, we heard from Hayward in the early days. While spokesman John Curry insisted that hungry microbes would consume whatever oil was in the water system, because "nature has a way of helping the situation". But nature has not been playing along. The deep-sea gusher has bust out of all BP's top hats, containment domes, and junk shots. The ocean's winds and currents have made a mockery of the lightweight booms BP has laid out to absorb the oil. "We told them," said Byron Encalade, the president of the Louisiana Oysters Association. "The oil's gonna go over the booms or underneath the bottom." Indeed it did. The marine biologist Rick Steiner, who has been following the clean up closely, estimates that "70% or 80% of the booms are doing absolutely nothing at all".

And then there are the controversial chemical dispersants: more than 1.3m gallons dumped with the company's trademark "what could go wrong?" attitude. As the angry residents at the Plaquemines Parish town hall rightly point out, few tests had been conducted, and there is scant research about what this unprecedented amount of dispersed oil will do to marine life. Nor is there a way to clean up the toxic mixture of oil and chemicals below the surface. Yes, fast multiplying microbes do devour underwater oil - but in the process they also absorb the water's oxygen, creating a whole new threat to marine life.

BP had even dared to imagine that it could prevent unflattering images of oil-covered beaches and birds from escaping the disaster zone. When I was on the water with a TV crew, for instance, we were approached by another boat whose captain asked, ""Y'all work for BP?" When we said no, the response - in the open ocean - was "You can't be here then". But of course these heavy-handed tactics, like all the others, have failed. There is simply too much oil in too many places. "You cannot tell God's air where to flow and go, and you can't tell water where to flow and go," I was told by Debra Ramirez. It was a lesson she had learned from living in Mossville, Louisiana, surrounded by 14 emission-spewing petrochemical plants, and watching illness spread from neighbour to neighbour.

Human limitation has been the one constant of this catastrophe. After two months, we still have no idea how much oil is flowing, nor when it will stop. The company's claim that it will complete relief wells by the end of August - repeated by Obama in his Oval Office address - is seen by many scientists as a bluff. The procedure is risky and could fail, and there is a real possibility that the oil could continue to leak for years.

The flow of denial shows no sign of abating either. Louisiana politicians indignantly oppose Obama's temporary freeze on deepwater drilling, accusing him of killing the one big industry left standing now that fishing and tourism are in crisis. Palin mused on Facebook that "no human endeavour is ever without risk", while Texas Republican congressman John Culberson described the disaster as a "statistical anomaly". By far the most sociopathic reaction, however, comes from veteran Washington commentator Llewellyn King: rather than turning away from big engineering risks, we should pause in "wonder that we can build machines so remarkable that they can lift the lid off the underworld".

Make the bleeding stop

Thankfully, many are taking a very different lesson from the disaster, standing not in wonder at humanity's power to reshape nature, but at our powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP's live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth's guts gush forth, in real time, 24 hours a day.

John Wathen, a conservationist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of the few independent observers to fly over the spill in the early days of the disaster. After filming the thick red streaks of oil that the coast guard politely refers to as "rainbow sheen", he observed what many had felt: "The Gulf seems to be bleeding." This imagery comes up again and again in conversations and interviews. Monique Harden, an environmental rights lawyer in New Orleans, refuses to call the disaster an "oil spill" and instead says, "we are haemorrhaging". Others speak of the need to "make the bleeding stop". And I was personally struck, flying over the stretch of ocean where the Deepwater Horizon sank with the US Coast Guard, that the swirling shapes the oil made in the ocean waves looked remarkably like cave drawings: a feathery lung gasping for air, eyes staring upwards, a prehistoric bird. Messages from the deep.

And this is surely the strangest twist in the Gulf coast saga: it seems to be waking us up to the reality that the Earth never was a machine. After 400 years of being declared dead, and in the middle of so much death, the Earth is coming alive.

The experience of following the oil's progress through the ecosystem is a kind of crash course in deep ecology. Every day we learn more about how what seems to be a terrible problem in one isolated part of the world actually radiates out in ways most of us could never have imagined. One day we learn that the oil could reach Cuba - then Europe. Next we hear that fishermen all the way up the Atlantic in Prince Edward Island, Canada, are worried because the Bluefin tuna they catch off their shores are born thousands of miles away in those oil-stained Gulf waters. And we learn, too, that for birds, the Gulf coast wetlands are the equivalent of a busy airport hub - everyone seems to have a stopover: 110 species of migratory songbirds and 75% of all migratory US waterfowl.

It's one thing to be told by an incomprehensible chaos theorist that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's another to watch chaos theory unfold before your eyes. Carolyn Merchant puts the lesson like this: "The problem as BP has tragically and belatedly discovered is that nature as an active force cannot be so confined." Predictable outcomes are unusual within ecological systems, while "unpredictable, chaotic events [are] usual". And just in case we still didn't get it, a few days ago, a bolt of lightning struck a BP ship like an exclamation mark, forcing it to suspend its containment efforts. And don't even mention what a hurricane would do to BP's toxic soup.

There is, it must be stressed, something uniquely twisted about this particular path to enlightenment. They say that Americans learn where foreign countries are by bombing them. Now it seems we are all learning about nature's circulatory systems by poisoning them.

In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in the Andean cloud forests, the U'wa let it be known that if Occidental Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained that oil is part of ruiria, "the blood of Mother Earth". They believe that all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region, saying there wasn't as much oil as it had previously thought.)

Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living in the natural world - in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests - as did European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves a practical purpose. Calling the Earth "sacred" is another way of expressing humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe.

If we are absorbing this lesson at long last, the implications could be profound. Public support for increased offshore drilling is dropping precipitously, down 22% from the peak of the "Drill Now" frenzy. The issue is not dead, however. It is only a matter of time before the Obama administration announces that, thanks to ingenious new technology and tough new regulations, it is now perfectly safe to drill in the deep sea, even in the Arctic, where an under-ice clean up would be infinitely more complex than the one underway in the Gulf. But perhaps this time we won't be so easily reassured, so quick to gamble with the few remaining protected havens.

Same goes for geoengineering. As climate change negotiations wear on, we should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama's undersecretary of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate and aluminium particles into the atmosphere - and of course it's all perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP's former chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the technology behind BP's supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, "You know what happens when windmills collapse into the sea? A splash."

The most positive possible outcome of this disaster would be not only an acceleration of renewable energy sources like wind, but a full embrace of the precautionary principle in science. The mirror opposite of Hayward's "If you knew you could not fail" credo, the precautionary principle holds that "when an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health" we tread carefully, as if failure were possible, even likely. Perhaps we can even get Hayward a new desk plaque to contemplate as he signs compensation cheques. "You act like you know, but you don't know."

Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film


6) Tuberculosis: Mining Plays Bigger Role in TB in Africa Than Had Been Realized, Study Finds
By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
June 21, 2010

Dust-choked mine shafts, crowded working conditions and stifling hostels where up to 16 miners share a room - all conspire to make mining a more important contributor to tuberculosis in Africa than had been realized, a new study finds.

Rates of the illness have doubled in Africa over the past two decades, and have tripled in South Africa, which even in 1996 had the highest TB rates in the world. Until now it has been assumed that the increases were driven by Africa's high rates of infection with the AIDS virus, which weakens the immune system, helping latent TB become active.

But researchers from Brown and Oxford Universities, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco, compared 44 African countries and found that even some with low rates of H.I.V. infection rates had high TB rates. When a country's mines shut down, tuberculosis often fell. The study appeared in The American Journal of Public Health.

The paper notes that many miners are migrant laborers who may go home only once or twice a year. Not only can they infect their wives and children, the authors found, but they stop seeing the mine clinic doctors who are familiar with tuberculosis and may interrupt taking their antibiotics, increasing the chances that they will develop a drug-resistant strain.

Gold seems to be the most dangerous product to mine, because workers in those deep, hot shafts breathe in more rock dust.


7) Regulators Failed to Address Risks in Oil Rig Fail-Safe Device
"In Senate testimony on June 9, Mr. Salazar made clear that Mr. Obama had no intention of pulling back permanently from deepwater drilling off the United States coast.
"'It was the president's directive that we press the pause button,' Mr. Salazar said. 'It's important for all of you on this committee to know that word - it's the pause button. It's not the stop button.'"
This article is by David Barstow, Laura Dodd, James Glanz, Stephanie Saul and Ian Urbina.
June 20, 2010
[Video and graphics accompany this article on]

It was the last line of defense, the final barrier between the rushing volcanic fury of oil and gas and one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history.

Its very name - the blind shear ram - suggested its blunt purpose. When all else failed, if the crew of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig lost control of a well, if a dreaded blowout came, the blind shear ram's two tough blades were poised to slice through the drill pipe, seal the well and save the day. Everything else could go wrong, just so long as "the pinchers" went right. All it took was one mighty stroke.

On the night of April 20, minutes after an enormous blowout ripped through the Deepwater Horizon, the rig's desperate crew pinned all hope on this last line of defense.

But the line did not hold.

For days, technicians and engineers worked furiously to figure out why, according to interviews and hundreds of pages of previously unreleased notes scrawled by industry crisis managers in the disaster's immediate aftermath.

Engineers sent robotic submersibles 5,000 feet deep to prod the blind shear ram, nestled in the bosom of a five-story blowout preventer standing guard over the Macondo well.

They were driven on, documents and interviews reveal, by indications that the shear ram's blades had come within a few maddening inches of achieving their purpose. Again and again, they tried to make the blades close completely, knowing it was their best chance to end the nightmare of oil and gas billowing into the Gulf of Mexico.

"If that would've worked," a senior oil industry executive said of the blind shear ram, "that rig wouldn't have burned up and sunk."

Much remains unknown about the failure of this ultimate fail-safe device. It continues to be a focus of inquiries, and some crucial questions will not be answerable until the blowout preventer is recovered from the sea.

But from documents and interviews, it is possible to piece together some of the decisions and events that came into play when the Deepwater Horizon most needed the blind shear ram.

Engineers contended with hydraulic fluid leaks that may have deprived the ram of crucial cutting force. They struggled to comprehend what was going on in the steel sarcophagus that encased the shear ram, as if trying to perform surgery blindfolded.

They wondered if the blades had by chance closed uselessly on one of the nearly indestructible joints that connect drilling pipe - a significant bit of misfortune, given a decision years before to outfit the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer with just one blind shear ram when other rigs were already beginning to use two of them to guard against just this possibility.

But the questions raised by the failure of the blind shear ram extend well beyond the Deepwater Horizon.

An examination by The New York Times highlights the chasm between the oil industry's assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality. It reveals that the federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.

It also shows that the Obama administration failed to grapple with either the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers or the sufficiency of the nation's drilling regulations even as it made plans this spring to expand offshore oil exploration.

"What happened to all the stakeholders - Congress, environmental groups, industry, the government - all stakeholders involved were lulled into a sense of what has turned out to be false security," David J. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said in an interview.

Even in one significant instance where the Minerals Management Service did act, it appears to have neglected to enforce a rule that required oil companies to submit proof that their blind shear rams would in fact work.

As it turns out, records and interviews show, blind shear rams can be surprisingly vulnerable. There are many ways for them to fail, some unavoidable, some exacerbated by the stunning water depths at which oil companies have begun to explore.

But they also can be rendered powerless by the failure of a single part, a point underscored in a confidential report that scrutinized the reliability of the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer. The report, from 2000, concluded that the greatest vulnerability by far on the entire blowout preventer was one of the small shuttle valves leading to the blind shear ram. If this valve jammed or leaked, the report warned, the ram's blades would not budge.

This sort of "single-point failure" figures prominently in an emerging theory of what went wrong with the Deepwater Horizon's blind shear ram, according to interviews and documents. Some evidence suggests that when the crew activated the blind shear ram, its blades tried to cut the drill pipe, but then failed to finish the job because one or more of its shuttle valves leaked hydraulic fluid.

These kinds of weaknesses were understood inside the oil industry, documents and interviews show. And given the critical importance of the blind shear ram, offshore drillers began adding a layer of redundancy by equipping their blowout preventers with two blind shear rams.

By 2001, when Transocean, now the world's largest offshore drilling contractor, acquired the Deepwater Horizon, it had already begun equipping its new rigs with blowout preventers that could easily accommodate two blind shear rams.

Today, Transocean says 11 of its 14 rigs in the gulf have two blind shear rams. The company said the three rigs that do not were built before the Deepwater Horizon.

Likewise, every rig currently under contract with BP, which had been renting the Deepwater Horizon, comes with blowout preventers equipped with two blind shear rams, according to BP. While no guarantee against disaster, drilling experts said, two blind shear rams give an extra measure of reliability, especially if one shear ram hits on a joint connecting two drill pipes.

"It's kind of like a parachute - it's nice to have a backup," said Dan Albers, a drilling engineer who is part of an independent investigation of the disaster.

But neither Transocean nor BP took steps to outfit the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer with two blind shear rams. In a statement, BP pointed to the need for the rig to carry its blowout preventer from well to well.

BP said space limitations on the Deepwater Horizon would have prohibited the company from adding a second blind shear ram to the existing configuration on the blowout preventer. But other experts told The Times that a second blind shear ram could have been swapped in for some other component.

In a statement, Transocean said BP would have been responsible for deciding whether the blowout preventer was equipped with one or two blind shear rams; BP said both companies would have been involved.

Whatever the reasoning, the result was that the Deepwater Horizon was left with just one blind shear ram to contain a blowout. And yet, The Times examination found, government regulations do not require any regular checks of several important elements of blind shear rams.

What's more, when those elements were put to the test after the blowout, some appeared to malfunction. In addition, interviews and documents show that after the crew abandoned the rig, the initial frantic efforts to find another way to activate the blind shear ram were hampered by the lack of submersibles with sufficient power.

Teams of engineers knew they were up against the clock. With each passing hour, more oil and well debris were rattling up through the blowout preventer under tremendous force, almost certainly chewing away at the blades of the blind shear ram - the very blades they still hoped and prayed would come to their rescue.

Vulnerable Devices

Last year, Transocean commissioned a "strictly confidential" study of the reliability of blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs.

Using the world's most authoritative database of oil rig accidents, a Norwegian company, Det Norske Veritas, focused on some 15,000 wells drilled off North America and in the North Sea from 1980 to 2006.

It found 11 cases where crews on deepwater rigs had lost control of their wells and then activated blowout preventers to prevent a spill. In only six of those cases were the wells brought under control, leading the researchers to conclude that in actual practice, blowout preventers used by deepwater rigs had a "failure" rate of 45 percent.

For all their confident pronouncements about blowout preventers (the "ultimate failsafe device," some called it), oil industry executives had long known they could be vulnerable and temperamental.

Rising five or more floors and weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, these devices were daunting in their scale and complexity. There were hundreds of ways they could malfunction or be improperly maintained, tested and operated. Not only did they have to withstand extreme environments, they were relied upon to tame the ferocious forces often unleashed when drilling rigs penetrate reservoirs of highly compressed oil and gas.

They were also costly to maintain. An industry study last year estimated the price of stopping operations to pull up a blowout preventer for repairs at $700 per minute.

Those costs could be enough to draw the attention of Wall Street. Last August, during a conference call with investment analysts, Steven L. Newman, the chief executive of Transocean, was asked why his deepwater fleet had been paid for fewer days of drilling compared with earlier in the year.

Mr. Newman said the fleet had experienced a "handful of B.O.P. problems."

But he assured the analysts that the problems were not systemic. "They were anomalies," he said. "I would just leave it at that."

A draft of another industry-financed study this year contended that companies cut corners on federally mandated tests of blowout preventers. A copy obtained by The Times described a mentality of "I don't want to find problems; I want to do the minimum necessary to obtain a good test."

It also included this observation: "Often there is a great deal of pressure to run the B.O.P. stack before it is deemed fit for purpose by the experts who maintain and test the equipment."

When the report was finalized, those criticisms were omitted, although it is not clear why.

Last Finger in the Dike

Blowout preventers are designed to handle a range of well control problems. They come with several types of rams, giving rig workers flexibility if a situation escalates. But one component in particular has to work properly: the blind shear ram, the last finger in the dike during an uncontrolled blowout.

The danger is not merely theoretical.

More than three decades ago, the failure of a shear ram was partly to blame for one of the largest oil spills on record, a blowout at the Ixtoc 1 well off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Descriptions of the accident at the time detailed problems both with the shear ram's ability to cut through thick pipe and with a burst line carrying hydraulic fluids to the blowout preventer.

In 1990, a blind shear ram could not snuff out a major blowout on a rig off Texas. It cut the pipe, but investigators found that the sealing mechanism was damaged. And in 1997, a blind shear ram was unable to slice through a thick joint connecting two sections of drill pipe during a blowout of a deep oil and gas well off the Louisiana coast. Even now, despite advances in technology, it is virtually impossible for a blind shear ram to slice through these joints. In an emergency, there is no time for a driller to make sure the ram's blades are clear of these joints, which can make up almost 10 percent of the drill pipe's length.

The problems highlighted by these cases were common knowledge in the drilling industry.

But in two studies, in 2002 and 2004, one of the industry's premier authorities on blowout preventers, West Engineering Services of Brookshire, Tex., found a more basic problem: even when everything worked right, some blind shear rams still failed to cut pipe.

West's experts concluded that calculations used by makers of blowout preventers overestimated the cutting ability of blind shear rams, so-called because they close off wells like a window blind. Modern drill pipe is nearly twice as strong as older pipes of the same size. In addition, the intense pressure and frigid temperatures of deep water make it tougher to shear a pipe. These and other "additive pressures," the researchers found, can demand hundreds of thousands of additional pounds of cutting force.

Yet when the team examined the performance of blind shear rams in blowout preventers on 14 new rigs, it found that seven had never been checked to see if their shear rams would work in deep water. Of the remaining seven, only three "were found able to shear pipe at their maximum rated water depths."

"This grim snapshot," the researchers concluded, "illustrates the lack of preparedness in the industry to shear and seal a well with the last line of defense against a blowout."

Yet as the industry moves into deeper waters, it is pressing to reduce government-mandated testing of blowout preventers. BP and other oil companies helped finance a study early this year arguing that blowout preventer pressure tests conducted every 14 days should be stretched out to every 35 days. The industry estimated the change could save $193 million a year in lost productivity.

The study found that blowout preventers almost always passed the required government tests - there were only 62 failures out of nearly 90,000 tests conducted over several years - but it also raised questions about the effectiveness of these tests.

"It is not possible," the study pointed out, "to completely simulate" the actual conditions of deepwater wells.

Flawed Oversight

BP is the largest oil producer in the Gulf of Mexico. It pumped 182 million barrels of crude oil from the gulf last year, and it is leading the charge to go deeper. Last fall, while working on another BP well, the Deepwater Horizon drilled a record 35,055 feet.

As with BP, the rig's owner, Transocean, was aware of the vulnerabilities and limitations of blowout preventers.

But they were not the only ones.

The Minerals Management Service knew the problems, too. In fact, the agency helped pay for many of the studies that warned of their shortcomings, including those in 2002 and 2004 that raised doubts about the ability of blind shear rams to cut pipe under real-world conditions.

In some cases, the agency did not act on the recommendations of its consultants. But in 2003, it adopted a regulation requiring companies to submit test data proving that their blind shear rams could work on the specific drill pipe used on a well and under the pressures they would encounter. Companies had to submit this information to get drill permits.

At least, that was the way it was supposed to work.

Last year, when BP applied for its permit to drill the Macondo well, its application was reviewed by Frank Patton, an engineer in the New Orleans office of the Minerals Management Service. With nearly three decades of experience working for the agency and the oil industry, Mr. Patton was fully aware of the blowout preventer's importance.

"It is probably the most, in my estimation, the most important factor in maintaining safety of the well and safety of everything involved, the rig and personnel," he testified last month during the Coast Guard's inquiry into the disaster.

Yet Mr. Patton said he approved BP's permit without requiring proof that its blowout preventer could shear pipe and seal a well 5,000 feet down. "When I was in training for this, I was never, as far as I can recall, ever told to look for this statement," he explained.

Mr. Patton said he had approved hundreds of other well permits in the gulf without requiring this proof, and BP likewise contends that companies have never been asked to furnish this proof on drilling applications.

In subsequent testimony, Michael Saucier, the agency's regional supervisor for field operations in the gulf, insisted that the regulation was enforced. But asked if anyone ensures that a blowout preventer functions properly, Mr. Saucier replied, "I don't know if somebody does or not."

Capt. Hung M. Nguyen, the co-chairman of the Coast Guard inquiry, seemed incredulous at the agency's deference to the industry on the most critical of safety devices.

"So my understanding," Captain Nguyen said, "is that it is designed to industry standard, manufactured by industry, installed by industry, with no government witnessing oversight of the construction or the installation. Is that correct?"

"That would be correct," Mr. Saucier said.

Adding Protection

As a consequence of this arrangement, the agency had little likelihood of knowing what engineering consultants had determined in 2000, when they were asked to assess the specific vulnerabilities of the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer. The consultants, hired by the blowout preventer's manufacturer, Cameron, zeroed in on what they considered the most serious weakness: the potential failure of the blind shear ram to close.

The consultants said the Deepwater Horizon's blind shear ram was vulnerable to "single-point failure." In other words, the breakdown of just one part could result in a catastrophic failure. The consultants focused on one of several T-shaped shuttle valves, which control the flow of pressurized hydraulic fluid that pushes the shear ram's blades together.

This particular valve has no backup, so if it gets stuck or leaks hydraulic fluid, disaster beckons. In fact, the consultants concluded that this one shuttle valve represented 56 percent of the blowout preventer's "failure likelihood."

"Care should be taken to ensure the highest reliability possible from this valve," they wrote.

In a written statement, BP said the consultants' report was used "to ensure that critical components and maintenance activities are clearly understood so that system reliability remains high." The company said a portion of the assessment not seen by The Times found that the blowout preventer's overall risk of failure was tiny. It declined to release that part of the report.

In the 61 days since the blowout, BP and Transocean have clashed over who was responsible for what on the Deepwater Horizon. In written responses to questions, BP and Transocean differed yet again on why the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer was not originally outfitted - or later converted - to have two blind shear rams.

Transocean said that BP, as the rig's operator, would have determined the blowout preventer's configuration. "Operators select B.O.P. stack configurations based on their anticipated operating environments, including water depths, seismic data, anticipated well conditions and the like."

BP, however, said it was a collaborative decision driven by "contractor preference and operator requirements." The company emphasized that blowout preventer reliability did not simply boil down to the number of blind shear rams. "These choices are risk assessed to provide the overall stack and system reliability to perform in a wide variety of situations."

In 2001, just as BP and Transocean were pressing the Deepwater Horizon into service, the Minerals Management Service was being warned against allowing deepwater rigs to operate with only one blind shear ram. The agency had commissioned a study that documented more than 100 failures during testing of blowout preventers.

"All subsea B.O.P. stacks used for deepwater drilling should be equipped with two blind shear rams," said the report, written by the SINTEF Group, a Scandinavian research organization that advises the oil industry and maintains detailed records on blowouts around the world.

The agency made no such requirement. Indeed, it waited until 2003 to require even one blind shear ram. By then, the industry had already started moving to two blind shear rams - although industry and government records show that roughly two-thirds of the rigs in the gulf today still have only one.

The benefit of two shear rams was examined last year in a report to Transocean. It estimated that while a blowout preventer with a single blind shear ram was 99 percent reliable, having two shear rams increased that reliability to 99.32 percent. Still, the study said, blowout preventers remain vulnerable to the same "single-point failures."

In 2003, BP and Transocean experienced firsthand the benefits of redundant blind shear rams. On May 21 at 4 a.m., the Transocean rig Discoverer Enterprise, working on a deepwater BP well, was violently jolted. The steel riser that connected the rig to the well had cracked apart in two places. A BP executive would later write that if there had been a blowout, more oil would have spilled in a week "than occurred during the whole of the Exxon's Valdez oil spill."

One of the blowout preventer's blind shear rams was triggered shortly after the jolt and worked as expected. But when a robotic submersible was sent down, it found the blowout preventer damaged. Workers then activated the second blind shear ram, giving an extra layer of safety.

On the other hand, BP and Transocean officials could have drawn reassurance from another close call that year, this one involving the Deepwater Horizon itself. On June 30, 2003, while drilling a 25,000-foot-deep well in the gulf, high winds and strong currents pushed the rig away from the well hole. The crew was forced to perform an emergency disconnect from the blowout preventer, which triggered the blind shear ram.

It worked perfectly. Whether it would have worked as perfectly in an actual blowout, or with a different type of drill pipe, was another matter. The following year, BP opted to remove a layer of redundancy from the blowout preventer. It asked Transocean to replace one of the blowout preventer's secondary rams with a "test ram" - a device that would save BP money by reducing the time it took to conduct certain well tests. In a joint letter, BP and Transocean executives confirmed that BP was aware that the change "will reduce the built-in redundancy" and raise Transocean's "risk profile."

The Deepwater Horizon was scheduled for a series of extensive maintenance checks later this year. The last time it was checked so thoroughly, records indicate, was in 2005, when significant problems with the blowout preventer were uncovered. The control panels on the rig that operate the blowout preventer acted strangely, giving unusual pressure readings and flashing unexplained alarm signals. A critical piece of equipment, the "hot line" that connects the rig to the blowout preventer, was "leaking badly," Transocean maintenance documents said.

As part of its assessment of the blowout preventer, Transocean hired West Engineering, which had a checklist of more than 250 components and systems to examine. It did not perform 72 of them, mostly for a simple reason: at the time, the Deepwater Horizon was operating in the Gulf of Mexico, and the blowout preventer was on the seafloor and therefore inaccessible.

According to a West Engineering document, one of those 72 items was verifying that the blowout preventer could shear drill pipe and seal off wells in deepwater. This checkup appears to be the last time an independent expert was asked to perform a comprehensive examination of the Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer.

The rig's blowout preventer did get lots of attention from Transocean's maintenance workers. In January, as the Deepwater Horizon sailed toward the Macondo well site, technicians spent 145 hours repairing and checking the blowout preventer, records show. And the maintenance continued, almost daily, as the drilling began.

A Rich, Difficult Well

The Macondo project yielded a rich prize: one of the largest finds in the Gulf of Mexico. But the crew repeatedly struggled to maintain control of the well against powerful "kicks" of surging gas. They contended with stuck drilling pipes and broken tools. The job fell weeks behind schedule, costing BP millions of dollars in rig rental fees. In e-mail messages, BP engineers vented their frustrations, calling it a "crazy well" and a "nightmare well."

Yet in April, as BP prepared to seal the well for later production, the company took what numerous industry experts and fellow oil executives say were highly questionable shortcuts. These included using a well design that presented few barriers to high-pressure gas rising up; skipping a crucial $128,000 test of the quality of the cementing; and failing to install capping devices at the top of the well that could also have kept gas from lifting a critical seal.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asserted last week that the common thread behind all of these decisions was that they saved BP time and money but raised the risk of catastrophe. "BP has cut corner after corner to save $1 million here, a few hours or days there, and now the whole Gulf Coast is paying the price," Mr. Waxman said.

However, as Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, repeatedly told Mr. Waxman's committee last Thursday, many of these decisions were approved by the Minerals Management Service.

But if federal regulators did not see any problems, some crew members on the Deepwater Horizon appeared to believe that BP's decisions were, increasing the odds of a catastrophic blowout that only the rig's blind shear ram could stop. In testimony in the Coast Guard inquiry, Douglas Brown, the rig's chief mechanic, recalled an argument hours before the explosion between a BP official and Jimmy Harrell, a senior Transocean manager.

Mr. Brown recalled Mr. Harrell walking away, grumbling, "Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for."

Moment of Crisis

Minutes after the blast at 10:20 p.m. on April 20, Chris Pleasant headed for the bridge. As a subsea engineer who operated the blowout preventer, his first thought was to activate "the pinchers" with the ship's emergency disconnect system. The system is supposed to trigger the blind shear ram and then free the rig by disconnecting the riser.

Mr. Pleasant immediately noticed that something was amiss. An alarm on the control panel indicated that "the pressure had dropped" in the blowout preventer's hydraulics, he testified at the Coast Guard hearing. Without hydraulic pressure, the blowout preventer, and especially its blind shear ram, would be useless.

"I'm E.D.S.-ing," he told the rig's captain, referring to the emergency system.

The captain told him to hold off and calm down, he recalled. But Mr. Pleasant said he disconnected the system anyway. At first, he said, all seemed well. A control light switched from green to red, indicating that the blind shear ram had been activated.

But then he checked the panel's flow meters, which measure whether hydraulic fluid is actually flowing under pressure to the blowout preventer. The meters showed no flow, he said. At that moment, he realized the ship and crew were in terrible danger.

"I knew it was time to leave."

Yet even as emergency rescue operations began under the crippled Deepwater Horizon, the scramble was on to activate the blind shear ram in some other way. The chaos and confusion of those efforts emerge from testimony and documents, including the handwritten crisis team notes.

It was a race against time. The destructive force of oil, drilling mud and well debris blowing through the guts of the blowout preventer was sure to rapidly erode the shear ram's blades and chew away its seals, leaving it useless.

Some people thought they had days at most. One study considered it "highly unlikely" the blades and seals could withstand a blowout for even five minutes.

It would be 27 hours after Mr. Pleasant abandoned ship before engineers could make their next effort to trigger the blind shear ram, according to BP documents.

Within the first few days, engineers had already begun to wonder whether a leak of hydraulic fluid had crippled the ram. "May have had leak & have lost pressure," one entry reads. Using a robotic submersible equipped with a hydraulic pump, they injected seawater into the blind shear ram, hoping to drive its pistons and blades closed. But the pump did not have nearly the needed strength; it could not pump water fast enough to budge the blades.

Industry studies had highlighted the problem of submersibles without sufficient strength years earlier. Now, as BP and Transocean officials searched the globe for more powerful ones, engineers plotted out a plan essentially to trick the blind shear ram into closing.

When the rig's control panels fail, two separate backup systems, the deadman and the autoshear, are supposed to close the blind shear ram automatically. The deadman is designed to close the shear ram if the electronic and hydraulic lines connecting the rig to the blowout preventer are severed.

An underwater robot cut several lines at 2:45 a.m. on April 22.

Nothing happened.

The situation was rapidly deteriorating. "2 explosions around 3:30-4:00 this morning & rig listing at about 35 degrees," a crisis manager wrote. "High risk of sinking."

The autoshear is designed to trigger the blind shear ram if a rig drifts out of position and yanks its riser loose from the blowout preventer.

At 7:30 a.m., a submersible cut a firing pin on the blowout preventer, simulating the rig's pulling free. This time, the blowout preventer shuddered, as if struggling to come back to life. "L.M.R.P. rocked & settled," one note says, referring to the top half of the blowout preventer. But after a few moments, as oil continued to flow, it became clear that this, too, had failed.

Soon after, the Deepwater Horizon sank.

Stunning Discovery

The deadman, the autoshear and the underwater robots constitute the critical backup systems that have given regulators and oil industry officials great confidence that no matter what, they could always find a way to activate their last line of defense.

This was more an act of faith than a fully tested proposition.

The Minerals Management Service had never required any of these backup systems to be tested despite a report it commissioned in 2003 that said these systems "should probably receive the same attention to verify functionality" as the rest of the blowout preventer. The agency had also declined to take the modest step of requiring rigs to have these backup systems in place at all, though it had sent out a safety alert encouraging their use.

At a BP complex in Houston after the Deepwater Horizon's sinking, in a room called the hive with video screens displaying feeds from as many as a dozen underwater robots, engineers considered their options. BP officials theorized - perhaps based on the lower estimates of leakage in those first days - that the blind shear ram might have crimped, but not quite severed, the pipe.

The idea provided a comforting mental picture. Just a few more inches with the blind shear ram, the reasoning went, and perhaps it would snap shut and stanch the spewing oil.

So six days after the explosion, they began the fifth effort to close the blind shear ram. This time they sent down tanks of pressurized hydraulic fluid that a submersible could inject directly into the ram.

Shockingly, the blind shear ram's hydraulic system leaked, meaning pressure could not be maintained on its shearing blades.

This leak shocked engineers because the blowout preventer's hydraulic system was obsessively checked for leaks. "We see tests fail because the hydraulics leaked two drops," said Benton Baugh, a leading authority on blowout preventers. Indeed, the blind shear ram had been tested for leaks only hours before the blowout, and according to Transocean, no hydraulic leaks had been detected in the weeks before the blowout.

The underwater robots tried to find and fix the leak, but by now, leaks were springing up on nearly every component of the blowout preventer.

"Retighten leak," reads a note from 4 a.m. on April 26. At 4:45: "Retest & leak still present." Fifteen minutes later: "Retighten loose connection."

Some of those leaks appeared to be coming from shuttle valves leading to the blind shear ram - possibly the "single-point failure" that had been identified as the blowout preventer's biggest vulnerability back in 2001. Or the leaks could have come from shuttle valves that let hydraulic fluid from the robots reach the blind shear ram.

The leaks pointed to a gaping hole in the government's mandated leak tests. Those tests do not require rig operators to look for leaks in the connection points used by submersibles to activate a blowout preventer in an emergency.

Finally, seven long days after the explosion, operators of the underwater robots managed to repair the leak on the blind shear ram and apply 5,000 pounds per square inch of hydraulic pressure on its blades. This was nearly double the pressure it typically takes to shear pipe.

A BP report tersely described the results: "No indication of movement."

But engineers could not be absolutely sure. Without any way to see into the blowout preventer, engineers had essentially been operating blind, using the rate of oil flow, for example, to deduce the conditions inside.

Help came from Scott Watson, an expert in gamma ray imaging at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Gamma rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to X-rays but higher in energy, might at least penetrate a few inches into the blowout preventer's thick steel walls. Then engineers might be able to see a device called a wedge lock, which slides into place behind the shear ram to hold it closed.

In mid-May, Mr. Watson ventured to the well site, where robotic submersibles were sent down to the seafloor with cobalt 60, a radioactive isotope that generates gamma rays. The team from Los Alamos was able to get a clear view of only one half of the blind shear ram. But the images showed one wedge lock fully engaged, meaning at least one half of the shear ram had deployed.

"I don't think anybody who saw the pictures thought it was ambiguous," Mr. Watson said.

It was a crushing moment.

Engineers realized that all their efforts to revive the blowout preventer had probably never budged the critical component at the machine's core, the blind shear ram. They had assumed that at some point early on, the blades had tried to close. They had hoped to close them all the way. But now, the gamma ray images showed that at least one blade was fully deployed, and they had run out of options for forcing the other one closed. Continuing to push on the ram's pistons with more hydraulic fluid would achieve nothing.

The last line of defense was a useless carcass of steel.

False Sense of Security

Barely three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama announced that he planned to open vast new tracts of ocean for oil exploration, including environmentally sensitive areas that for decades had been declared off limits by presidents from both parties.

Environmental groups were bitterly disappointed, but Mr. Obama said he had arrived at his decision after more than a year of study by his administration, including a careful weighing of environmental risks. Yet the administration's examination did not question the oil industry's confident assertions about its drilling technology. The well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers and blind shear rams simply did not make it onto the administration's radar, interviews and documents show.

Mr. Hayes, the deputy interior secretary, said senior officials were reassured, perhaps wrongly, by "the NASA kind of fervor" over the oil industry's seemingly "terrific technology." They took comfort in what appeared to be a comprehensive regime of regulations. Most of all, he said, they were impressed by the rarity of significant oil spills even as more of the nation's domestic oil supply was being drawn from ultradeep wells.

"The track record was good," he said. "The results were significant."

Not even environmental groups bitterly opposed to expanding offshore drilling were raising concerns about the industry's technology for preventing deepwater spills, he added. "We were not being drawn by anybody to a potential issue with deepwater drilling or blowout preventers."

As for the Minerals Management Service's own studies on the vulnerabilities and failings of blowout preventers, Mr. Hayes faulted the agency for not bringing them to the administration's attention. Long before Mr. Obama's announcement, Mr. Hayes said, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had asked the agency for a report describing the potential risks and benefits of expanding offshore drilling.

The report, 219 pages long, made no mention of blind shear rams. It barely mentioned blowout preventers. It did, however, assure Mr. Salazar that safety and engineering requirements were "extensive" and that blowouts were "very rare."

"We did not have red flags about a problem with the enforcement culture at M.M.S.," Mr. Hayes said. "We certainly have that now."

After the Deepwater Horizon blowout, Mr. Obama declared a moratorium on offshore drilling and ordered Mr. Salazar to look for ways to improve safety. Within weeks, Mr. Salazar came back with a long list of changes, most of them clearly responsive to weaknesses that industry and government studies had identified years before.

Mr. Salazar recommended, for example, that all blowout preventers be equipped with two blind shear rams - a step suggested to the Minerals Management Service in 2001. He recommended new rules to make sure rigs were equipped with the right kind of underwater robots and had emergency backup systems to activate blowout preventers - a step suggested to the Minerals Management Service in 2003.

He also urged a break from the agency's tradition of taking the drilling industry's word. From now on, he said, government inspectors should witness actual testing on blowout preventers. Rig operators, he said, should have to pay an independent expert to verify that their blowout preventers were properly designed and had not been compromised by modifications.

But Mr. Salazar stopped short of what Mr. Hayward, the BP chief executive, said was called for in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. "We need a fundamental redesign of the blowout preventer," Mr. Hayward testified last Thursday.

Still, J. Ford Brett, a drilling expert who contributed to Mr. Salazar's list of suggestions, cautioned that blowout preventers, whatever their design, "will not save you in every situation."

Mr. Salazar has yet to offer ideas for what to do if another blowout preventer fails thousands of feet beneath the sea. In the absence of a Plan B, he ordered his department to come up with new "deepwater well control procedures" in the next four months.

Already, though, pressure is building on the administration to let offshore drilling operations resume. Last month, Mr. Obama lifted the moratorium on drilling in shallow waters. But along the Gulf Coast, where drilling operations are responsible for an estimated 150,000 jobs, politicians are clamoring for an end to the deepwater moratorium, too.

In Senate testimony on June 9, Mr. Salazar made clear that Mr. Obama had no intention of pulling back permanently from deepwater drilling off the United States coast.

"It was the president's directive that we press the pause button," Mr. Salazar said. "It's important for all of you on this committee to know that word - it's the pause button. It's not the stop button."

Michael Moss and Henry Fountain contributing reporting.


8) For the Crew of a Drill Ship, a Routine Task, a Far-From-Routine Goal
June 20, 2010

ABOARD DEVELOPMENT DRILLER II, off Louisiana - The first thing that greets visitors to the Development Driller II is a large official sign that bears the name pencil pushers have given the well being drilled by this mammoth floating rig: OCS-G 32306.

But the rig's tool pushers and other workers - and, by now, the rest of the world - know that this is not just another deepwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of two relief wells meant to put an end, once and for all, to the undersea gusher that has been spewing oil into the gulf for two months.

Working 12-hour shifts for 21 days at a stretch in the thick gulf air 40 miles offshore, the crew may have gotten into its familiar drilling routine, but conversations with family and friends back home constantly reinforce the importance of the work.

"They know that it is us, that we need to stop it," said Mickey Frugé, the senior representative on board for BP, the oil company responsible for the leak and for this well, being drilled at a cost of about $100 million. "People are asking us questions. All we want to do is get the oil stopped."

So far the DD II, as everyone refers to the rig, is about halfway there, in terms of depth, having drilled 10,000 feet below the surface of the gulf since the operation began May 16.

In one of the first visits by journalists to the scene of the disaster, a small group of reporters watched Saturday as, a few feet away, a team of roughnecks and others prepared a tool that would be used to lower several thousand feet of steel casing to the bottom of the hole, where it would form part of the well's permanent lining.

It was hard work on the slick steel of the drilling floor below the rig's 220-foot-high derrick, surrounded by soaring lengths of drill pipe stacked vertically like drinking straws on a lunch counter. Pipe and tools were maneuvered into position by heavy-duty lifting equipment, operated from inside a small cabin on one side of the floor. Inside the air-conditioned cabin, working joysticks and seated in an overstuffed chair, the operator was the only one of the crew who could possibly be comfortable.

And amid the finest drilling equipment that a half-million-dollar-a-day rig can buy, the workers resorted to wrapping the tool in duct tape and rags to protect it until it was lowered into the well.

The other relief well, being drilled by the Development Driller III nearby, got started earlier and, at 15,900 feet, is closer to the target area of the damaged well, 18,000 feet down. Once one or both relief wells reach the target - perhaps by late July, Mr. Frugé said, barring storms, major mechanical failures or other problems - heavy drilling mud will be pumped into the damaged well, followed by cement, to plug it permanently. Drilling experts both inside and outside BP insist the approach will work.

None of the 172 workers on board the DD II need to be reminded of that leaking well and the blowout on April 20 that caused it - as well as the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon rig. Nine of the 11 workers killed that day worked for Transocean, the company that owned the Horizon and owns the two relief well rigs.

"Some of the guys on board here did know some of the guys that were on it," said Wendell Guidry, drilling superintendent of the DD II.

But reminders are ever-present anyway, just half a mile away through the haze. There, at the spot where the Deepwater Horizon once sat, a production ship collects oil from a cap on the damaged well 5,000 feet below, flaring the accompanying natural gas like a fire-breathing monster.

Just beyond that sits another vessel that, since last week, has been burning both oil and gas from the well through a device that creates a rosette of flame so large and hot that workboats constantly douse the equipment with plumes of water. And off in the distance, black smoke rose from two controlled burns of oil on the surface.

There are so many vessels in the area - Mr. Frugé said he counted 66 one day recently, including oil skimmers, supply boats and support ships for the robotic submersibles working at the seabed - that coordinating their movements is a major concern. It is a far cry from the DD II's previous task, drilling wells in BP's Atlantis oil field about 150 miles away, where at most there might be one or two vessels nearby.

From a drilling standpoint, Mr. Frugé said, there was little difference between this well and a normal one. And the pace of drilling is the same, said Eric Jackson, who as a tour pusher - a kind of deputy tool pusher, or drilling manager - was leading the crew working on the casing tool.

"It's business as usual," said Mr. Jackson, wearing, like everyone, a hard hat and clad, like nearly everyone, in magenta Transocean coveralls. With preshift meetings and other work-related activities, he said, "sometimes you have 13 to 14 hours a day invested in what you're doing."

Once the well gets near completion - it is currently being drilled vertically, but soon will be redirected at an angle toward the runaway well - special instruments will be used to make sure it hits its target.

Mr. Frugé said the operation relied on specialists with expertise in what is called "measurement while drilling," as well as on what he referred to as "rock doctors," geologists who have studied the underground formations of stone and sand, to know where the drill bit was at all times and where it had to go.

The work continues round the clock, and setbacks do occur. In the early hours of Saturday a 5,500-pound hydraulic "tong," a tool used to hold lengths of pipe as they are screwed together, broke. It took three hours to get it repaired, said Elton Jack, a contractor working on the casing.

Once the 18-inch string of casing is run down to the bottom of the well - one of successively narrower strings - cement will be pumped down to fix it in place, and then the next section of the well can be drilled. Mr. Frugé estimated that drilling would begin again in about two days.

Mr. Guidry said that although there was another well doing the same task just a few thousand feet away, there was little sense of competition between the two rigs.

"Whichever one gets there first," he said. "The main thing is we try to keep the guys focused."

Like the Deepwater Horizon and all other drilling rigs, the DD II has its own blowout preventer, an enormous stack of safety valves designed to keep the well under control. The device was lowered to the seabed through the rig's "moon pool" - an opening in the deck below the drilling floor - early in the drilling process.

Given the disaster that occurred just a half mile away when the Deepwater Horizon's preventer failed, Mr. Guidry, who has 27 years of experience and has worked on the DD II since 2005, said that avoiding a blowout with the relief well was even more of a concern than usual.

"Always on our mind," he said.


9) Panel Is Unlikely to End Deepwater Drilling Ban Early
"But Mr. Reilly said that ending the moratorium would require that the industry adopt safer drilling techniques and that the government regulatory agencies, particularly the Minerals Management Service, a part of the Interior Department, be markedly strengthened. 'Those things would have to happen faster than past history would suggest is possible,' he said. He also noted that a Congressional hearing last week revealed that the five major domestic oil companies relied on a common and clearly inadequate plan for responding to a major offshore spill."
June 21, 2010

WASHINGTON - The bipartisan commission named by President Obama in May to study the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the future of American offshore drilling will hold its first formal meeting in mid-July at the earliest, most likely delaying the delivery of its final report into next year, a co-chairman of the panel said in an interview.

The co-chairman, William K. Reilly, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the first President Bush, also said it was unlikely that the panel would recommend the lifting of the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling before it completes its report. Such a move would require profound changes in industry practice and government oversight that cannot be done that quickly, Mr. Reilly said in his first extensive remarks on the commission's work.

The oil industry, its supporters in Congress and Gulf Coast officials have called for swiftly lifting the moratorium, saying the ban was causing severe economic hardship and that drilling could resume safely under tighter interim rules. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and some other administration officials had given the industry hope that the ban would be lifted as soon as new regulations were in place.

But Mr. Reilly said that ending the moratorium would require that the industry adopt safer drilling techniques and that the government regulatory agencies, particularly the Minerals Management Service, a part of the Interior Department, be markedly strengthened.

"Those things would have to happen faster than past history would suggest is possible," he said. He also noted that a Congressional hearing last week revealed that the five major domestic oil companies relied on a common and clearly inadequate plan for responding to a major offshore spill.

"I would be very wary of encouraging more deepwater development until I was confident that the response plans were more realistic," Mr. Reilly said. "They are not realistic at this time."

Mr. Reilly has taken a leave from the board of ConocoPhillips, one of the oil companies whose chief executives testified before Congress last week.

Mr. Obama set a six-month deadline for the panel to produce its report, but the clock does not begin until the seven-member body officially meets. The group's start has been set back by delays in naming the other five members and by a complicated White House vetting process for staff.

Mr. Obama named the two co-chairmen, Mr. Reilly and former Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida, on May 22. But the White House did not designate the other five members until June 14. They are Frances G. Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Terry D. Garcia, an executive vice president at the National Geographic Society; Cherry A. Murray, dean of the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and Frances Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The panel as yet has no staff or budget, although the White House has requested $15 million from Congress for the group.

Mr. Obama said that the mandate of the commission was to find the causes of the BP disaster and to make recommendations for preventing such accidents in the future. Mr. Obama was explicit, both in public comments and in private statements to Mr. Reilly and Mr. Graham, Mr. Reilly said, that the United States would depend for the foreseeable future on oil and natural gas from beneath the gulf. The investigative panel is not charged with determining whether offshore oil development can be conducted safely; rather, its mission is to show how it can resume with greater safeguards.

"The president was clear," Mr. Reilly said. "He was not inviting us to revise his energy policy. He said he was much more concerned to look ahead than look backward."

Mr. Reilly said he expected his group to examine the reliability of blowout preventers, the toxicity of dispersants, the quality and frequency of inspections, and the possible need for simultaneous relief wells in deep water.

Officials with experience in earlier investigative panels said that it was essential to understand why the Deepwater Horizon accident happened before meaningful recommendations could be made about future actions.

Bruce Babbitt, who served on the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and later was President Bill Clinton's interior secretary, said the entire culture of the offshore drilling industry would have to change.

"You have to strengthen regulation," Mr. Babbitt said, "but there has to be some way of implanting some safety DNA across the entire industry."

The Three Mile Island panel's recommendations led to the creation of a nuclear safety institute that trains plant operators and inspectors. Mr. Babbitt said something similar may be needed in the oil and gas industry.

He also said that the Minerals Management Service should be blown apart, not merely restructured, as Mr. Salazar has proposed. Environmental regulation must be taken out of the Interior Department and transferred to the E.P.A., Mr. Babbitt said.

Philip D. Zelikow, who served as executive director of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, urged the new panel to follow the 9/11 group's path by writing a narrative history of the accident. That is the best way, he said, to understand the factors that led to the disaster and to generate public and political support for the changes that will be needed to prevent a recurrence.

"To explain is not necessarily to excuse," Mr. Zelikow said, "but it is the first step in understanding."

He said that in studying previous disasters, like the shuttle Challenger explosion, he learned that government agencies and private corporations engaged in cutting-edge endeavors, like deep-sea drilling or space exploration, over time begin to "normalize" and discount the risk.

"Here is an industry increasingly obliged to engage in ultra-hazardous activity," Mr. Zelikow said. "I wouldn't look just at BP. They are functioning in a much larger institutional culture. Everyone who worked on this rig has worked on other projects, maybe at other companies. What you want to discover is if there is something distinct and pathological about all of these institutions, or something distinctly pathological about BP."

He added that it might be impossible for Mr. Reilly and the other commissioners to avoid the question of whether deepwater drilling should be pursued at all before recommending how it could resume, even though that matter was beyond their presidential mandate.

"I don't think you can answer one question without answering the other," Mr. Zelikow said.


10) Monitoring the Manatee for Oil Ills
June 20, 2010

APALACHICOLA, Fla. - To the people who know her best, Bama is a skittish creature: smart, a good traveler, does not mix much with her peers. On a recent afternoon, Allen Aven watched her from an anchored pontoon boat, counting the time between her breaths.

"This is a good environment for her," Mr. Aven said, looking around the busy, narrow waterway of Scipio Creek, across from the Up the Creek Raw Bar. "It's sheltered from wave action. There's lots of vegetation, and it's relatively fresh water."

A large gray snout belonging to Bama, a manatee, broke the water's surface.

"Breath," Mr. Aven yelled.

Mr. Aven is part of a team of researchers from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama who are monitoring Bama and other manatees - massive aquatic mammals that are on the list of endangered species - for signs that they are being affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Aven and Nicole Taylor gathered water samples and recorded that Bama appeared to be eating regularly - she weighs in at around 1,200 pounds - and was not discolored, a sign of infection.

Until recently, biologists believed that manatees rarely ventured west of peninsular Florida, where, so far, no oil has appeared. But in 2007, Ruth Carmichael, who leads the Dauphin Island team, began documenting a relatively large summer migration of manatees to Mobile Bay, Ala. - leading them directly into and through the path of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak. From a couple of dozen to as many as 100 come to Mobile Bay for the summer, out of a total North American population of 5,000, she said.

As oil spreads into the bay, these travelers are now in danger of having their migratory routes and habitats contaminated, putting at risk a group that Dr. Carmichael believes may represent the scouts for the larger population.

"They're not here accidentally," Dr. Carmichael said. "Maybe they're coming because of habitat loss in Florida. So even though they're a small part of the overall manatee population, a loss of even one or two animals represents a large percentage of those in this group."

Using VHF radio transmitters and aerial surveillance, the researchers monitor the manatees' positions and the progress of the oil contamination, looking for signs of unusual behavior. But even if the manatees avoid oil in the bay, by the time they are ready to return to Florida in winter, their route back may contain deadly concentrations of oil and dispersants.

Because they raise their snouts to breathe, any surface chemicals or fumes would affect them directly. "These animals don't know to avoid it," Dr. Carmichael said.

The manatees' size makes rescues extraordinarily difficult, involving Sea World, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal Geological Survey and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Rescuers have to lift the animals by hand onto specially equipped boats, then transfer them by truck to a rehabilitation center in Tampa, Fla.

Jim Helland, a Mobile, Ala., businessman, has been trying to raise money for rescues. "We can't save all the wildlife," he said. "But maybe we can save these few." But at most they could rescue a handful in a season, and even these might swim back into the oil when released, Dr. Carmichael said.

"So much is unknown," she said. Manatees eat 10 percent of their body weight in sea vegetation per day. If oil clings to the sea grass, the animals could eat it, get the oil on their bodies and pass it to others by contact. After a 1983 oil spill in the Persian Gulf, between 38 and 60 dugongs, a species that is similar to manatees, died from exposure.

For Bama, that exposure is yet to come. She left her winter home near a nuclear power plant in Crystal River, Fla., just before the spill, and researchers expected her to head for Mobile Bay, as she did last year. But after quickly reaching Apalachicola, nearly 200 miles east, she has stopped. She may sense trouble in the waters ahead, Dr. Carmichael said.

As Mr. Aven recorded Bama's movements, a mullet jumped in the placid water behind her. The manatees, it seems, and the researchers, like the rest of this coast, are still waiting to see where and in what quantities the oil is going to wash in. "We've been bracing ourselves for this for eight weeks," Mr. Aven said. "I wake up every morning and say, 'Is this going to be the day?' "


11) Poll Finds Deep Concern About Energy and Economy
June 21, 2010

Overwhelmingly, Americans think the nation needs a fundamental overhaul of its energy policies, and most expect alternative forms to replace oil as a major source within 25 years. Yet a majority are unwilling to pay higher gasoline prices to help develop new fuel sources.

Those are among the findings of the latest nationwide New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll, which examines the public's reaction to the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, highlights some of the complex political challenges the Obama administration faces. For instance, despite intense news coverage and widespread public concern about the economic and ecological damage from the gulf disaster, most Americans remain far more concerned about jobs and the nation's overall economy.

And in that regard, President Obama does not fare well: 54 percent of the public say he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs, while only 34 percent say he does, an ominous sign heading into this fall's midterm elections.

Respondents were nearly evenly split on the president's handling of the economy - 45 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove. His job approval rating remains just below 50 percent. And by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

They are also impatient with Mr. Obama's response to the oil disaster in the gulf, by a large margin, and attribute the spill to risks taken by BP and its partners in the failed well, according to the poll, which was conducted by telephone from June 16 to 2o with 1,259 adults.

The survey included an in-depth look at the attitudes of people most directly affected by the oil spill - those living in counties in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi that border the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Coast residents, whose communities are most affected by the leak and whose livelihoods have been linked to oil for generations, are more likely than Americans over all to say they are confident that those who were affected by the spill will be fairly compensated by BP. A majority say the Obama administration has a lot or some control over whether BP will pay for the damages caused by the spill. Last week, the president received a promise from BP executives to create a $20 billion fund to pay damage claims from the accident.

Gulf Coast residents are also more likely than other Americans to support increased drilling off the coastlines of the United States.

By a large margin, the public over all said more regulation of offshore drilling to protect the environment was needed, but respondents were also more likely to attribute the BP accident to a failure of the federal government to enforce existing rules than to a lack of adequate regulation.

Reba Davis, 78, a retired vocational nurse in Abilene, Tex., one of the poll respondents, said she believed that BP took shortcuts to save money in drilling the doomed well, but she also said the government needed to take a stronger hand in overseeing offshore operations.

"The responsibility totally lies with BP and the regulatory system in our country, which is pretty slim and needs to be ramped up and enforced," Mrs. Davis said in a follow-up telephone interview.

Large majorities disapprove of the way BP is handling the spill and have little faith in the oil industry generally to act in the public interest. By a 2-to-1 margin, they trust the federal government more than BP to handle the cleanup efforts in the gulf.

Yet they also think the Obama administration could be doing more to fix the damage from the leak. Fifty-nine percent said Mr. Obama did not have a clear plan for dealing with the spill.

Lewis Cullen, 78, an insurance executive who retired to Orange Beach, Ala., said the spill had slashed the value of his home. "If I wanted to sell my property I couldn't, and anyway it would be worth half of what it was last year," Mr. Cullen said. "It's going to take years for this to go away. I read there's a good possibility they won't be able to stop it ever."

The dependence of local residents on gulf-related industries like fishing and oil is evident in the poll. About 3 in 10 said they or someone in their household worked in those industries.

They are divided on the benefits of the government's six-month moratorium on offshore drilling put into place after the Deepwater Horizon blowout, while the majority of Americans think it is a good idea.

Two months after the rig explosion and fire, just 18 percent of Americans think that BP will be able to stop the leak in the next month. Instead, about half, 48 percent, think it will take the oil company several more months; 16 percent think it will take a year or longer; and 7 percent say the company will never be able to stop the leak.

Respondents who live in the counties in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi that have been most affected by the oil spill gave similar responses.

Yet optimism is resilient. Two-thirds of all Americans, including about the same proportion of Gulf Coast residents, say that despite severe environmental damage, the fish, birds, turtles and other wildlife of the region will recover. And about 8 in 10 Americans, including more than 7 in 10 Gulf Coast residents, say the region's economy, including businesses like tourism and fishing, will eventually bounce back.

The longer that people think the oil will continue to leak, the less likely they are to think that the region's ecology and economy will recover. Still, even among those who think the leak will continue for another year or longer, most are optimistic.

Two-thirds of those living along the Gulf Coast say they have been affected by the oil spill; a third say they have been directly affected, and another third indirectly affected. They cite lost jobs and income and damage to local fisheries as the main consequences of the spill. Forty-five percent are very concerned that they or someone in their household will be unemployed in the coming year. Eight in 10 gulf residents say their communities are suffering financially.

"Obama has put a moratorium on deep-well drilling, and it's going to kill us," said Barbara Hebert, 71, of Houma, La., a retired nurse anesthetist. "Next year this is going to be a ghost town. We don't want the industry shut down. Just go over the plans and see that safety issues are taken care of."

Dalia Sussman and Marina Stefan contributed reporting.


12) Notes From Wake of Blowout Outline Obstacles and Frustration
June 21, 2010

In the first frantic days after the blowout of the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, crisis managers in Houston, concerned about the potential for an even greater catastrophe, weighed the risks of using more aggressive methods to try to control the well or leaving it alone, according to meeting notes and other documents.

"Is the well safe?" one participant wrote in a daily log after a senior management meeting among executives from BP and other companies on April 23, less than three days after the explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig. "What are the risks?"

The participant in the meeting participant described a "noninvasive, but ready" approach that involved monitoring the blowout preventer, the massive stack of safety devices 5,000 feet underwater that failed to stop the blowout. "Do nothing that will risk its current state, that would/could disturb its status," the participant, who was not identified by name in the log, wrote. "No pumping on, drilling holes, unbolting, unscrewing."

The handwritten log was among hundreds of pages of unreleased documents obtained by The New York Times in which managers describe the desperate bid to control the subsea gusher that has spewed millions of gallons of oil into the gulf.

Covering roughly the first month of the crisis, they provide a vivid, though incomplete, picture of what were mostly unsuccessful engineering efforts to seal the well or contain the leaking oil. These efforts were hampered by the lack of information on the condition of the well, logistical problems, unexplained delays and other obstacles, the documents show.

There are moments of great frustration recorded in the documents, especially over the inability to activate the devices on the blowout preventer with robotic submersibles.

Upon discovering that one safety device, called the middle pipe ram, or M.P.R., had been modified years before - meaning that more than a week's worth of effort to activate it had been doomed from the start - one engineer was obviously displeased. "So for approx. 10 days, we have been closing on M.P.R. port," the engineer wrote. "But in reality it was the lower pipe rams. This is a modification to the original system."

There are frequent complaints about problems in getting material and equipment to the right places at the right times, all on short notice.

"Logistics have been horrible," one manager wrote on May 6, as preparations were under way for the top kill, in which heavy drilling mud was pumped down the well in a failed effort to seal it.

"Still more delays with no explanation as to why!!!" another manager wrote on May 23 while waiting for the Q4000, a drilling rig involved in the top kill, to maneuver into position. "Multiple delays incurred for poor planning on the Q4000."

Other delays had nothing to do with logistics.

"Can't work on pod till the lawyers show up," a manager wrote, referring to an effort to rebuild one of the blowout preventer's control pods, which had been brought to the surface. The preventer and all its accompanying equipment will be critical evidence in investigations of the disaster.

In the documents, it is concern about the condition of the well that stands out, particularly in the days after the Deepwater Horizon sank and the riser pipe that attached it to the well head collapsed in a tangle on the seabed.

At one point an engineer noted a report that temperatures were rising in the riser pipe as hot oil from the reservoir deep below shot out through it. "Riser skin temp is as high as 165F!" the engineer wrote, the numbers double-underlined for emphasis. "Bad for annular!" The blowout preventer had two annulars, safety devices that consist of large doughnuts of rubber that can be squeezed around pipe to control flow.

The April 23 meeting included senior management from BP; Transocean, the owner of the drilling rig; Cameron, which made the blowout preventer; and Wild Well Control, which had been brought in to help in the capping effort. Among the BP executives listed as attending were "Andy Angles," presumably Andy Inglis, head of exploration and production, and "Tony Haywood," presumably Tony Hayward, the company's chief executive. The purpose of the meeting, according to the notes, was to review "what has been done and what the options are ahead."

"We have to take a noninvasive approach and not broach/risk what we have now in regards to stability of the well," the notes continued.

The list of noninvasive steps included X-raying the blowout preventer, deploying a containment dome to capture some of the leaking oil and assessing the well site with sonar and other technologies. Invasive approaches included "crimping" - of the riser pipe or something else is not clear - and closing the devices on the blowout preventer by using submersibles.

In fact, some of the submersible work had already begun. On April 22, two days after the blowout and less than 12 hours before the rig sank, submersibles had tried to trigger a dead-man function on the preventer. Later that day, other efforts were made to activate other devices, all to no avail. But the meeting may at least have caused the engineers to pause and think through their procedures, for according to the timeline the next subsea effort to activate the preventer did not occur until April 25.

It is also clear from the events of those first few weeks that as managers got more comfortable with the condition of the well, they realized that invasive efforts were needed. Engineers continued to work on the preventer with submersibles, and started preparing for the top kill, a procedure that entailed some risk because to succeed it would first have to build up pressure at the top of the well. In fact, one reason BP gave for ending the unsuccessful effort was concern that the pressure might damage the well and make the situation worse.

The documents also show that, as BP has said, engineers were working on many ideas at once. As it was becoming clearer that the blowout preventer could not be made to work, they were developing plans for a dome to be placed over the oil spewing from the end of the riser. "Containment is goal," an engineer wrote on May 2.

The same day another engineer noted that a rig to drill the first of two relief wells - the ultimate solution to stopping the gusher - was in place at the site, but that weather was delaying the start of drilling.

The documents also give a flavor of the improvisational, never-before-experienced nature of the work. There are crude on-the-fly drawings of equipment and schematics, as well as pressure calculations and other chicken-scratchings. But other notes are far more elaborate and detailed, including a 10-page step-by-step procedure for removing one of the control pods on the blowout preventer, complete with annotated pictures, that apparently was put together in just a few days.

There are moments of improvisation, with the engineers displaying the ingenuity of a shade-tree mechanic. When there is doubt whether one of the submersibles is pumping hydraulic fluid at a fast enough rate to activate part of the blowout preventer, the engineers have the submersible aim the flow at a plate on the preventer that is covered with silt. "It took a minute with pump engaged and finally saw some light movement of silt," one engineer wrote. "Certainly not equivalent to 5-7 gallons per minute flow supposedly being pumped."

Amid all the concern and frustration there are even some lighthearted moments, as when a manager refers to the "junk shot," an effort to clog the blowout preventer with debris, by a more scatological term.

On May 5, a large stand needed to support the control pod when it was brought to the surface was missing in transit. "Pod stand shipped from Berwick is lost at dock or on another vessel," one engineer wrote. "They are searching for it. I sent them picture of stand loaded on truck in Berwick prior to leaving to docks, to use in vessel and dock search."

"Pod retrieval on hold while looking for pod stand," the engineer wrote several hours later.

By the next day, though, the stand had been found and the effort to bring it up from the sea floor began again.


13) The Era of the Oil Gusher
June 21, 2010, 4:09 pm

By some odd twist, oil gushers have come down in American cultural memory as a form of good news - evidence of riches found, like the popping of some geological champagne cork.

In the 1956 movie "Giant," the last of the three films in which James Dean played a major role, he portrayed a young ranch hand whose fortunes were transformed by an oil gusher.

The truth, however, is that gushers, which plagued the early decades of the oil business, were disasters anywhere and everywhere they happened. They occurred when oil drillers penetrated a formation where oil and natural gas were under high pressure.
Courtesy of Pete Gianopulos The Lakeview Gusher in action.

The geyser of erupting oil could destroy drilling equipment, kill workers and shatter the eardrums of those it did not kill. Fire was a huge risk. Getting gushers under control sometimes took months.

In Saturday's paper, I made a brief mention of one - the Lakeview Gusher of 1910. It was not the most famous American oil gusher; that was probably the 1901 Lucas gusher at Spindletop, a hill in Beaumont, Tex.

But the Lakeview Gusher, in Kern County, Calif., appears to have been the largest oil-well blowout in American history, mainly because it took 18 months to get under control.

The total volume of oil spilled was estimated at nine million barrels, or 378 million gallons, and it produced a lake of oil so large that people crossed it in boats.

By the highest government estimates, the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is not yet half as large as the Lakeview spill.

By some miracle, fire was avoided over the course of the 18 months that oil gushed from the well. Today, remarkably, the evidence of the Lakeview Gusher is minimal - some blackened areas and patches of hardened asphalt.

A local amateur historian in Kern County, Pete Gianopulos, sent me the picture below, which he took on Friday.

It shows the historical marker at the site, California marker No. 485, and behind that, some of the old drilling equipment, still poking from the ground. A YouTube video showing the site is also available.

The claim has often been made that oil spills broke down in the environment and posed no risk after a few years.

But recently it has become clear that toxic compounds often linger below the surface, and low-grade environmental damage can continue for decades.

If any reader is aware of a recent ecological assessment of the Lakeview Gusher site, please click on my byline above and drop me an e-mail message.

The era when oil drilling routinely produced gushers finally came to an end in 1922, with the invention, by Harry S. Cameron and James S. Abercrombie, of a device called the blowout preventer.

But for various reasons, oil wells still get out of control sometimes - often enough, in fact, to support entire businesses whose job is suppressing blowouts. One of the best-known of those companies, Wild Well Control, is at work right now in the gulf.
Pete Gianopulos A marker at the site of the Lakeview Gusher in Kern County, Calif. Some of the old drilling equipment, still poking from the ground, is visible in the rear.


14) ANSWER Coalition Interview on
Breaking News on Afghanistan
[Includes video interview with Brian Becker:]
June 22, 2010

The Obama administration and the Pentagon know that they have lost the war in Afghanistan. Yet they are still sending tens of thousands more soldiers and marines to kill and be killed.

The country learned today that the Pentagon is spending $2.16 billion of taxpayer money each year to pay the Taliban and other Afghan forces not to shoot at military convoys as they bring in supplies for the U.S. occupation. This revelation comes through a Congressional subcommittee report.

See this four-minute interview with Brian Becker, National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition broadcast this afternoon on these late-breaking developments.

At the same time, General Stanley McChrystal's interview in Rolling Stone Magazine is just one more indicator of the demoralization and disarray that is an inevitable consequence of a failed military adventure. It also demonstrates the contempt of the Pentagon high command for civilian elected officials, including the White House, who, according to the Constitution, are their superiors. This, in spite of the fact that President Obama has at each and every turn taken his cue from the Pentagon authorities who had originally been given their positions by the Bush administration.

Yet more and more rank-and-file members of the military are turning against the war, while the Pentagon and its generals do everything they can to hang on to a colonial-type war that cannot be won. Many organizations, including the ANSWER Coalition and March Forward!, an organization of service members and veterans against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, are stepping up their outreach to soldiers, marines, veterans and military families. In the coming weeks and months, there will be increased actions against the war in Afghanistan-be sure to sign up for actions alerts at

ANSWER volunteers work around the clock but we need financial support too to carry out all the organizing activities! Please make an urgently needed tax-deductible donation today to help continue this work. We can't do it without you!


15) US Fifth CIrcuit Court rules against Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3
June 22, 2010
International Coalition to Free the Angola 3
No Justice, No Peace!

On Monday, June 21, the US Fifth Circuit Court ruled to overturn a July 2008 decision that ordered that Albert Woodfox's conviction and life sentence be "reversed and vacated." As James Ridgeway and Jean Casella write in their article below, yesterday's decision was "a crushing blow to prisoners' rights."

Later this week, we will have more updates as we learn more about what Albert's next steps will be. Until then, please read Ridgeway and Casella's article featured below.

We continue to fight for Albert and Herman's freedom.
Human Rights Watch Film Festival in NYC

What's Next for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3?

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella

(Published by Mother Jones and Solitary Watch)

Albert Woodfox has spent nearly all of the last 38 years in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitientiary at Angola. His case has brought protests from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who argue that Woodfox's decades in lockdown constitute torture, and from a growing band of supporters, who believe that he was denied a fair trial. For more than ten years, he has been fighting for his release in the courts. But yesterday, a ruling by a federal appeals court [1] ensured that for the forseeable future, Albert Woodfox will remain right where he has been for the last three decades: in a 6 x 9 cell in the heart of America's largest and most notorious prison.

It's been nearly two years since a federal district court judge in Baton Rouge overturned Woodfox's conviction [2] for the 1972 murder of a guard at Louisiana's Angola prison. Judge James Brady's 2008 ruling, which ordered the state to retry Woodfox or release him, brought new hope to the 63-year-old Woodfox, who has been in Angola-originally for armed robbery-since he was 24. A member of the group known as the Angola 3, Woodfox has always contended that he was effectively framed for the guard's murder-and then thrown into permament lockdown-because of his involvement with the Black Panther Party, which was organizing against conditions in what was then known as the "bloodiest prison in the South."

Without drawing any conclusions about Woodfox's guilt or innocence, Judge Brady of the Federal District Court, Middle District of Louisiana, concluded that Woodfox had not received due process at his 1998 trial (which was intself a replacement for a faulty 1973 trial). The main grounds for overturning Woodfox's conviction were ineffective assistance of counsel, which allowed questionable evidence and irregular practices to stand without challenge. Woodfox had argued that better lawyers could have shown that his conviction was quite literally bought by the state, which based its case on jailhouse informants who were rewarded for their testimony. (Woodfox's case was described in full in this 2009 article for Mother Jones [3].)

Judge Brady agreed, and in July 2008 he granted Woodfox's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, ordering that his conviction and life sentence be "reversed and vacated." But some of the most powerful figures in the Lousiana justice system were committed to keeping Woodfox in prison and in lockdown. After his conviction was overturned, Attorney General James "Buddy" Caldwell declared [4], "We will appeal this decision to the 5th Circuit [Court of Appeals]. If the ruling is upheld there I will not stop and we will take this case as high as we have to. I will retry this case myself...I oppose letting him out with every fiber of my being because this is a very dangerous man."

Caldwell put his case before the federal Fifth Circuit in March 2009-and in yesterday's decision, he prevailed. In a 2-1 decision, a panel of three federal appellate judges ruled that Judge Brady had erred in overturning Wallace's conviction. Their decision is not only a crushing blow for Woodfox, but also a manifestation of how far the rights of the accused have fallen in recent decades.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals once had a reputation [5] as one of the finest appellate courts in the land. In the 1960s, a small group of Fifth Circuit judges mostly Southern-bred moderate Republicans was known for advancing civil rights and especially school desegregation. But today the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, is seen as among the most ideologically conservative of the federal appeals courts. It is notable for its overburdened docket and for its hostility to appeals from defendants in capital cases, including claims based on faulty prosecution and suppressed evidence. The court has even been reprimanded by the US Supreme Court, itself is no friend to death row inmates: In June 2004, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the Fifth Circuit was "paying lip service to principles" of appellate law in handing down death penalty rulings.

In addition, the decision in Woodfox's case shows the crippling effects on prisoners' rights of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) which was passed under Bill Clinton in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombings. That legislation has become the bane of anti-death penalty lawyers and activists, and of thousands of other prisoners seeking to challenge their convictions-a pursuit which AEDPA now renders nearly impossible.

As the Fifth Circuit noted in its ruling, "The AEDPA requires that federal courts "defer to a state court's adjudication of a claim" unless the state court decision ran "contrary to...clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court," or was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." And as the judges pointed out, "An unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect or erroneous application of the law."

In other words, the state courts could be wrong, they just couldn't be so far out as to be undeniably "unreasonable." And in the end, the Fifth Circuit judges agreed with the State's argument that "the district court failed to apply the AEDPA's heightened deferential standard of review to Woodfox's ineffective assistance claims." For Woodfox, this means that his time in prison stretches before him with no foreseeable end in sight. His lawyers have promised to return to his case with new evidence, but that could take years, and the outcome might still be the same. In the meantime, Woodfox and fellow Angola 3 members Herman Wallace and Robert King have mounted a constitutional challenge to their solitary confinement [6], which may come to trial before the end of this year. That case, too, will eventually go before the Fifth Circuit-and even a win would mean only a release from permanent lockdown, not from Angola.

This post also appears at James Ridgeway's personal blog, Solitary Watch[7].
Source URL:

[1] dist/custom/gci/InsidePage. aspx?cId=theadvertiser& sParam=33855807.story
[2] Convicted of the 1972 murder of a prison guard at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, both men maintain their innocence; they believe they were targeted for the crime and relegated to permanent lockdown because of their organizing work with the prison chapter of the Black Panthers. Wallace, who is now 68 years old, was recently transferred from Angola to the Hunt Correctional Center near Baton Rouge, where he continues to be held in solitary. In October, Wallace descended even deeper into the hole, placed in a disciplinary unit called Beaver 5 for unknown violations of prison policy.

Read the full article here.
Read the Mother Jones series "Angola 3: 36 Years of Solitude" here.


16) BP Is Pursuing Alaska Drilling Some Call Risky
"But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.... But BP's project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an 'onshore' project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island - a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water - built by BP."
June 23, 2010

The future of BP's offshore oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico has been thrown into doubt by the recent drilling disaster and court wrangling over a moratorium.

But about three miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.

All other new projects in the Arctic have been halted by the Obama administration's moratorium on offshore drilling, including more traditional projects like Shell Oil's plans to drill three wells in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Beaufort.

But BP's project, called Liberty, has been exempted as regulators have granted it status as an "onshore" project even though it is about three miles off the coast in the Beaufort Sea. The reason: it sits on an artificial island - a 31-acre pile of gravel in about 22 feet of water - built by BP.

The project has already received its state and federal environmental permits, but BP has yet to file its final application to federal regulators to begin drilling, which it expects to start in the fall.

Some scientists and environmentalists say that other factors have helped keep the project moving forward.

Rather than conducting their own independent analysis, federal regulators, in a break from usual practice, allowed BP in 2007 to write its own environmental review for the project as well as its own consultation documents relating to the Endangered Species Act, according to two scientists from the Alaska office of the federal Mineral Management Service that oversees drilling.

The environmental assessment was taken away from the agency's unit that typically handles such reviews, and put in the hands of a different division that was more pro-drilling, said the scientists, who discussed the process because they remained opposed to how it was handled.

"The whole process for approving Liberty was bizarre," one of the federal scientists said.

The scientists and other critics say they are worried about a replay of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because the Liberty project involves a method of drilling called extended reach that experts say is more prone to the types of gas kicks that triggered the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon.

"It makes no sense," said Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental watchdog group. "BP pushes the envelope in the gulf and ends up causing the moratorium. And now in the Arctic they are forging ahead again with untested technology, and as a result they're the only ones left being allowed to drill there."

BP has defended the project in its proposal, saying it is safe and environmentally friendly. It declined to respond to requests for further comment.

Extended-reach drilling has advantages. Drilling at an angle might be less threatening to sensitive habitats. But engineers say that this type of drilling is riskier and more complicated than traditional drilling because it is relatively new and gas kicks are more frequent and tougher to detect.

And because of the distance and angles involved, drilling requires far more powerful machinery, putting extra pressure on pipes and well casings.

Several companies have built artificial islands to drill offshore in the Arctic and elsewhere, in part because surging ice floes can destroy conventional floating or metal-legged offshore drilling platforms.

Critics say that such islands are so tiny that a large oil spill will quickly flow into the surrounding waters.

BP officials say that by accessing the Liberty oil field from far away, the project reduces its environmental impact in the delicate North Shore area.

The Liberty field lies about five miles from land under the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea in an area populated during the winter by seals and polar bears and covered by thick floating ice.

During the summer, bowhead whales migrate through the region.

"The overall Liberty Project has been planned and designed to minimize adverse effects to biological resources," BP wrote in 2007 in the development proposal to federal regulators. "Impacts to wetlands have been significantly reduced including shoreline and tundra habitat for birds and caribou."

The project will also involve nearly 400 workers in a region where jobs are scarce, according to BP.

But concerns exist about the project's oversight and critics say the project offers another example of dangerous coziness between industry and regulators.

For example, the federal scientists say that BP should never have been allowed to do environmental reviews that are the responsibility of the regulators. And yet, the language of the "environmental consequences" sections of the final 2007 federal assessment and BP's own assessment submitted earlier the same year are virtually identical.

No such overlap existed in the documents for other major projects approved by the same office around the same time, a review of the documents shows.

Both assessments concluded that the effects from a large spill potentially could have a major impact on wildlife, but discounted the threat because they judged the likelihood of spill to be very remote.

They also asserted that BP's spill response plan would be able to handle a worst case - which BP estimated as a spill of 20,000 barrels per day.

Officials from the minerals agency declined to answer questions about the handling of the BP's environmental assessment, but they added, "In light of the BP oil spill in the gulf and new safety requirements, we will be reviewing the adequacy of the current version of the Liberty project's spill plan."

In promotional materials, BP acknowledges that the Liberty project will push boundaries of drilling technology.

To reduce weight on the rig, BP has developed a new steel alloy for the drill pipe.

So much force is needed to power a drill over such long distances that BP had to invest more than $200 million to have a company build what it describes as the largest land rig in the world.

The drill's top drive is rated at 105,000 foot-pounds of torque, while North Slope rigs are typically rated at 40,000 foot-pounds.

"It will take all of this technology that we've developed and exploited in Prudhoe Bay and extend it to a new realm," Gary Christman, BP's director of Alaska drilling and wells, told Petroleum News in 2007.

But engineers say that realm includes greater risk.

John Choe, an expert in extended-reach drilling and director of the department of energy resources at Seoul National University, said that it was less safe than conventional types of drilling because gas kicks that can turn into blowouts are tougher to detect as they climb more slowly toward the rig.

"So, you may not detect it until it becomes serious," he said. "In that case, the kick or drilling related problems become too big to be managed easily."

A 2004 study commissioned by the Minerals Management Service came to a similar conclusion.

"A gas kick represents probably the most dangerous situation that can occur when drilling a well since it can easily develop to a blowout if it is not controlled promptly," it said. Extended-reach drilling wells "are more prone to kicks and lost-circulation problems than more conventional and vertical wells, but have some advantages when the well takes a kick because gas migration rates are lower."

Despite these concerns, the Liberty's 614-page environmental assessment says nothing about how the project would handle the unique risks posed by this type of drilling.

Mike Mims, a former owner of a company that specialized in extended-reach drilling, said he believed that the worries about this type of drilling were overblown. "The kicks can occur but they move slower and the bubbles don't expand as fast," he said.

"It all comes down to personnel," he added, "If your people understand the risks and handle the work carefully, this drilling is entirely safe."

BP discovered the Liberty oil field in 1997, began construction of a rig there in 2008, and was nearing final preparations this April when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Two weeks after the Obama administration declared a moratorium on offshore drilling on May 27, BP announced that the Liberty project would continue, with drilling scheduled to start in the fall, generating its first oil production by 2011. By 2013, BP estimates, Liberty will yield 40,000 barrels of oil per day.

If approved, the Liberty will be the longest horizontal well of its kind in the world. BP's production plan for the Liberty notes that drilling studies only support horizontal wells up to 8.33 miles. Any horizontal wells longer than that, the plan says, "have not been studied."

State regulators have faulted BP for not being prepared to handle a spill at a similar, though less ambitious project, known as the Northstar field. That project involves vertical drilling and sits on an artificial island six miles northwest of Prudhoe Bay in the Beaufort Sea.

The Liberty project will tie into the Endicott pipeline when complete. On April 20, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warned BP that it was in "probable violation" of federal standards because of corrosion found on its Endicott oil pipeline and a lack of records indicating corrosion protection and monitoring efforts.

BP has faced a number of challenges at its Alaska facilities. The company sustained two corrosion-caused leaks in its rigs in Prudhoe Bay in 2006, including a leak of over 200,000 gallons that cost the company around $20 million in fines and restitution. This was the largest spill to have occurred on Alaska's North Slope.

Robbie Brown contributed reporting.


17) BP Removes Containment Cap At Gulf Spill Site
by The Associated Press
June 23, 2010

Hundreds of thousands of gallons more oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after an undersea robot bumped a venting system and forced BP to remove a cap that had been containing some of the crude.

When the robot bumped the system, gas rose through the vent that carries warm water down to prevent ice-like crystals from forming in the cap, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.

The cap was removed and crews were checking to see if crystals had formed before putting it back on. Allen did not say how long that might take.

"There's more coming up than there had been, but it's not a totally unconstrained discharge," Allen said.

In the meantime, a different system was still burning oil on the surface.

Before the problem with the containment cap, it had collected about 700,000 gallons of oil in the previous 24 hours. Another 438,000 gallons was burned.

The current worst-case estimate of what's spewing into the Gulf is about 2.5 million gallons a day. Anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and blew out a well 5,000 feet underwater. BP PLC was leasing the rig from owner Transocean Ltd.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration tried to sort out how to resurrect a six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling that was struck down by a federal judge a day earlier.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman in New Orleans overturned the ban Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed that because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too.

Feldman, a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan, has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, including owning less than $15,000 of Transocean stock, according to financial disclosure reports for 2008, the most recent available. He did not return calls for comment.

The White House promised an immediate appeal of his decision. The Interior Department had imposed the moratorium last month in the wake of the BP disaster, halting approval of any new permits for deepwater projects and suspending drilling on 33 exploratory wells.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement late Tuesday that within the next few days he would issue a new order imposing a moratorium that eliminates any doubt it is needed and appropriate.

"It's important that we don't move forward with new drilling until we know it can be done in a safe way," Salazar told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday.

BP's new point man for the oil spill wouldn't say Wednesday if the company would resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked about it Wednesday on NBC's Today show, BP Managing Director Bob Dudley said they will "step back" from the issue while they investigate the rig explosion. BP said Wednesday that Dudley has been appointed to head the new Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, which is in charge of cleaning up the oil spill.

At least two major oil companies, Shell and Marathon, said they would wait to see how the appeals play out before resuming drilling.

The lawsuit was filed by Hornbeck Offshore Services of Covington, La. CEO Todd Hornbeck said after the ruling that he is looking forward to getting back to work. "It's the right thing for not only the industry but the country," he said.


18) Judge Won't Stay Drilling Decision
June 24, 2010

The Obama administration's efforts to suspend deepwater oil drilling were dealt another setback in court on Tuesday when the federal judge who struck down the administration's six-month moratorium refused to delay the decision's effects. .

The Interior Department petitioned Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the United States District Court in New Orleans to grant a stay of his decision, which lifted a ban on new drilling projects and on work on the 33 rigs already in place in the Gulf.

But Judge Feldman said he was denying the delay for the same reasons he gave for his June 22 decision: that the moratorium was doing "irreparable harm" to the businesses in the gulf that depend on drilling activity and that the government had not given sufficient basis for the moratorium.

The White House imposed the moratorium in May, about a month after a fatal explosion and fire on April 20 on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which left an undersea well spewing crude oil into the gulf. The moratorium, intended to give time for improvements in rig safety measures, was "blanket, generic, indeed punitive," the judge ruled.

Judge Feldman said on Thursday that the Interior Department now had 30 days to comply with his June 22 decision, a longer time than the 21 days he originally specified in his ruling. The government's appeal of the ruling will be heard by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, Ken Salazar, the Interior secretary, plans to reintroduce the moratorium in another version in the next several days, emphasizing why the moratorium is necessary in answer to the judge's criticism.

Judge Feldman's ruling on Thursday, denying the stay, held few surprises, given his ruling on Tuesday, but it did not mean that drilling would resume immediately.

"Does this mean companies are going to rush back to work?" asked Andy Radford, the senior policy advisor for offshore issues with the American Petroleum Institute. "There are probably too many unknowns to get a large-scale resumption of work at this point."

Mr. Radford said Mr. Salazar has been talking about a "flexible" moratorium that could be more beneficial than the original blanket ban. It could identify "a framework where companies can meet safety requirements and have equipment inspected and get back to work while we figure what exactly is going on," Mr. Radford said.

Judge Feldman's ruling striking down the moratorium was divisive for politicians, oil industry officials and environmental groups. Some said that Judge Feldman may have a conflict of interest, because as recently as 2008, he owned stock in several energy-related firms, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig.

In his decision on Thursday, Judge Feldman said a more recent financial disclosure statement would be released by the office of the federal courts as soon as practicable. In the gulf, the efforts by BP, the company responsible for the stricken well, to collect the leaking oil struggled to get back to the level reached earlier this week, before the company had to remove a containment cap over the well on Wednesday. A remote-operated submersible had bumped a vent the day before, compromising the improvised oil-collection system, BP said.

The company inspected and replaced the cap by Wednesday evening, and was able to collect and process 8,300 barrels of oil through it - roughly half what it been able to collect daily before the bumping mishap. Another 8,530 barrels of oil were collected on Wednesday using a second siphoning arrangement at the well site; that oil was burned.


19) June 24, 2010, 12:13 pm
Order and Chaos in a Bustling Cleanup

Reporting from Venice, La., and the surrounding marshlands on the shortage of containment booms to defend the gulf coastline against the oil from the spill, my colleague Rob Harris and I got a ground-level feel for the organization of the spill response.

On one hand, an impressive rhythm had been established, with each day beginning with an 8 a.m. meeting in the trailer version of a conference room. There, a dozen people each give a synopsis of the situation within their purview, leading off with a weather report. The crisp condensation of information on operations, logistics, medical matters and the day's goals takes about 20 minutes.

On the other, for all of the declarations that the Coast Guard is in charge and that BP and federal officials want to be transparent with the news media, there are signs that the spill response command is not a clear top-down hierarchy. When you add in the other players like the contractors, things work or they don't, reminding one of those old strings of Christmas-tree lights: one recalcitrant bulb can make the whole apparatus go dark.

In our case, we had set out to report on the work of Pete Parker of O'Brien's Response Management, whose boom repair shop has proved crucial because of the shortage of containment booms. The story nearly went unchronicled because the security guards for Premier Industries, on whose dockyard the repairs were being made, ruled that the press passes issued to us by Coast Guard and BP security were not valid.


Our guide, Chief Petty Officer John Kapsimalis, drove the 300 yards back to the main site and returned saying that everything was O.K. But the guards continued to refuse access. Finally, an open jeep appeared with four men who seemed in charge of that patch of ground. They talked to Officer Kapsimalis and threw me a hard hat. Then we were permitted to enter the dockyard - the same spot where we had met with Mr. Parker the day before without a problem - without interference.

Two days earlier, a representative of Heritage Environmental Services, a waste management company, was taking Rob along a beach on Grand Isle when he got a call from someone he said was his boss. The message: stop giving out information to the reporter, and do not take him to the staging area where the waste from the cleanup is being assembled.

When we did get to cleanup venues, however, from Fourchon Beach to the marshlands of Pass-a-Loutre in the Mississippi delta, the cleanup effort was fascinating. We watched people play out yards and yards of absorbent boom in the heat and humidity. We saw the motley flotilla of "vessels of opportunity," all of those fishing and pleasure craft drafted into the spill effort. We saw a marshland invaded by oil and surrounded by yellow vinyl absorbent boom to keep the oil from spreading elsewhere.

And out in Blind Bay, perched on a pole that jutted from the water at least a quarter-mile from the nearest marshland, we saw one of the creatures on whose behalf the flotilla was engaged: a pelican, clearly oiled, making occasional efforts to spread its wings. It moved very little until we were almost out of hearing, then lifted its beak skyward and uttered a dull croak.


20) Tuna's End
June 21, 2010

On the morning of June 4, in the international waters south of Malta, the Greenpeace vessels Rainbow Warrior and Arctic Sunrise deployed eight inflatable Zodiacs and skiffs into the azure surface of the Mediterranean. Protesters aboard donned helmets and took up DayGlo flags and plywood shields. With the organization's observation helicopter hovering above, the pilots of the tiny boats hit their throttles, hurtling the fleet forward to stop what they viewed as an egregious environmental crime. It was a high-octane updating of a familiar tableau, one that anyone who has followed Greenpeace's Save the Whales adventures of the last 35 years would have recognized. But in the waters off Malta there was not a whale to be seen.

What was in the water that day was a congregation of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish that when prepared as sushi is one of the most valuable forms of seafood in the world. It's also a fish that regularly journeys between America and Europe and whose two populations, or "stocks," have both been catastrophically overexploited. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one of only two known Atlantic bluefin spawning grounds, has only intensified the crisis. By some estimates, there may be only 9,000 of the most ecologically vital megabreeders left in the fish's North American stock, enough for the entire population of New York to have a final bite (or two) of high-grade otoro sushi. The Mediterranean stock of bluefin, historically a larger population than the North American one, has declined drastically as well. Indeed, most Mediterranean bluefin fishing consists of netting or "seining" young wild fish for "outgrowing" on tuna "ranches." Which was why the Greenpeace craft had just deployed off Malta: a French fishing boat was about to legally catch an entire school of tuna, many of them undoubtedly juveniles.

Oliver Knowles, a 34-year-old Briton who was coordinating the intervention, had told me a few days earlier via telephone what the strategy was going to be. "These fishing operations consist of a huge purse-seining vessel and a small skiff that's quite fast," Knowles said. A "purse seine" is a type of net used by industrial fishing fleets, called this because of the way it draws closed around a school of fish in the manner of an old-fashioned purse cinching up around a pile of coins. "The skiff takes one end of the net around the tuna and sort of closes the circle on them," Knowles explained. "That's the key intervention point. That's where we have the strong moral mandate."

But as the Zodiacs approached the French tuna-fishing boat Jean-Marie Christian VI, confusion engulfed the scene. As anticipated, the French seiner launched its skiffs and started to draw a net closed around the tuna school. Upon seeing the Greenpeace Zodiacs zooming in, the captain of the Jean-Marie Christian VI issued a call. "Mayday!" he shouted over the radio. "Pirate attack!" Other tuna boats responded to the alert and arrived to help. The Greenpeace activists identified themselves over the VHF, announcing they were staging a "peaceful action."

Aboard one Zodiac, Frank Hewetson, a 20-year Greenpeace veteran who in his salad days as a protester scaled the first BP deepwater oil rigs off Scotland, tried to direct his pilot toward the net so that he could throw a daisy chain of sandbags over its floating edge and allow the bluefin to escape. But before Hewetson could deploy his gear, a French fishing skiff rammed his Zodiac. A moment later Hewetson was dragged by the leg toward the bow. "At first I thought I'd been lassoed," Hewetson later told me from his hospital bed in London. "But then I looked down. " A fisherman trying to puncture the Zodiac had swung a three-pronged grappling hook attached to a rope into the boat and snagged Hewetson clean through his leg between the bone and the calf muscle. (Using the old language of whale protests, Greenpeace would later report to Agence France-Presse that Hewetson had been "harpooned.")

"Ma jambe! Ma jambe!" Hewetson cried out in French, trying to signal to the fisherman to slack off on the rope. The fisherman, according to Hewetson, first loosened it and then reconsidered and pulled it tight again. Eventually Hewetson was able to get enough give in the rope to yank the hook free. Elsewhere, fishermen armed with gaffs and sticks sank another Zodiac and, according to Greenpeace's Knowles, fired a flare at the observation helicopter. At a certain point, the protesters made the decision to break off the engagement. "We have currently pulled back from the seining fleet," Knowles e-mailed me shortly afterward, "to regroup and develop next steps." Bertrand Wendling, the executive director of the tuna-fishing cooperative of which the Jean-Marie Christian VI was a part, called the Greenpeace protest "without doubt an act of provocation" in which "valuable work tools" were damaged.

But the main damage that took place that day was indisputably to the bluefin. After the encounter, the fishermen aboard the Jean-Marie Christian VI transferred the fish alive into a holding cage and slowly towed them away. Soon those tuna would be brought to feeding pens where they will spend at least several months putting on weight. Afterward, they will be slaughtered and sent to Japan, where 80 percent of the world's Atlantic bluefin tuna are eaten with oblivion.

THERE ARE TWO reasons that a mere fish should have inspired such a high-strung confrontation reminiscent of Greenpeace's early days as a defender of whales. The first stems from fish enthusiasts who have for many years recognized the particular qualities of bluefin tuna - qualities that were they land-based creatures would establish them indisputably as "wildlife" and not just another "seafood" we eat without remorse. Not only is the bluefin's dense, distinctly beefy musculature supremely appropriate for traversing the ocean's breadth, but the animal also has attributes that make its evolutionary appearance seem almost deus ex machina, or rather machina ex deo - a machine from God. How else could a fish develop a sextantlike "pineal window" in the top of its head that scientists say enables it to navigate over thousands of miles? How else could a fish develop a propulsion system whereby a whip-thin crescent tail vibrates at fantastic speeds, shooting the bluefin forward at speeds that can reach 40 miles an hour? And how else would a fish appear within a mostly coldblooded phylum that can use its metabolic heat to raise its body temperature far above that of the surrounding water, allowing it to traverse the frigid seas of the subarctic?

Yes, bluefin tuna are warmblooded.

That bluefin can be huge - 10 feet and more than a thousand pounds - is a side note. For those of us who have seen their football silhouettes arise and vanish in less than a blink of an eye or held them alive, their hard-shell skins barely containing the surging muscle tissue within, they are something bigger than the space they occupy. All fish change color when they die. But with tuna the death shift feels more profound. Fresh from the water, their backs pulsing neon blue, their bellies gleaming silver-pink iridescence, they seem like the ocean itself.

And in a way they are, which explains the second reason bluefin have come to possess such totemic power. For bluefin tuna and all species of tuna are the living representation of the very limits of the ocean. Their global decline is a warning that we just might destroy our last wild food.

In prehistoric times, the hunting of fish began close by, in freshwater rivers and lakes and coastal ocean waters. But as human populations grew, easily accessed grounds fell short of demand. By the late Middle Ages, European stocks of freshwater fish and near-shore ocean species proved insufficient. By then, Basque and Viking fisherman had already moved on to the continental shelves off Canada, ushering in the Age of Cod - an age that escalated until the late 20th century, when some of the largest fishing vessels ever built devastated the once-two-billion-strong stock of cod on the Canadian Grand Banks. But there were still new places to fish. In the 1980s and '90s, virgin fishing grounds were found in the Southern Hemisphere, and supplies of replacement fish like New Zealand hoki and Chilean sea bass helped seafood supplies keep pace with demand.

But appetites continued to outstrip supply. Global seafood consumption has increased consistently to the point where we now remove more wild fish and shellfish from the oceans every year than the weight of the human population of China. This latest surge has taken us past the Age of Cod and landed us squarely in the Age of Tuna. Fishing has expanded over the continental shelves into the international no-man's territory known as the high seas - the ocean territory that begins outside of national "exclusive economic zones," or E.E.Z.'s, usually 200 nautical miles out from a country's coast, and continues until it hits the E.E.Z. of another country. The high seas are owned by no one and governed by largely feeble multinational agreements. According to the Sea Around Us project of the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Center, catches from the high seas have risen by 700 percent in the last half-century, and much of that increase is tuna. Moreover, because tuna cross so many boundaries, even when tuna do leave the high seas and tarry in any one nation's territorial waters (as Atlantic bluefin usually do), they remain under the foggy international jurisdiction of poorly enforced tuna treaties.

The essentially ownerless nature of tuna has led to the last great wild-fish gold rush the world may ever see. The most noticeable result of this has been the decline of the giant Atlantic bluefin tuna. But the Atlantic bluefin is just a symptom of a metastasizing tuna disease. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization reports that 7 of the 23 commercially fished tuna stocksare overfished or depleted. An additional nine stocks are also threatened. The Pew Environment Group's tuna campaign asserts that "the boats seeking these tuna are responsible for more hooks and nets in the water than any other fishery."

Tuna then are both a real thing and a metaphor. Literally they are one of the last big public supplies of wild fish left in the world. Metaphorically they are the terminus of an idea: that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. In the years to come we can treat tuna as a mile marker to zoom past on our way toward annihilating the wild ocean or as a stop sign that compels us to turn back and radically reconsider.

"WE FIND OURSELVES in a precarious situation." So wrote Ritchie Notar, a co-owner of the internationally acclaimed Nobu restaurant chain, to Greenpeace U.K. back in 2008 after Greenpeace intensified its tuna-defense efforts and put forward the idea that bluefin should no longer be served at Nobu's establishments. "We are dealing with thousands of years of cultural customs," Notar continued in correspondence Greenpeace forwarded to me. "The Japanese have relied on tuna and the bounties of the sea as part of their culture and history for centuries. We are absolutely appreciative of your goals and efforts within your cause, but it goes far beyond just saying that we can just take what has now all of a sudden been declared an 'endangered' species off the menu. It has to do with custom, heritage and behavior."

Many nations have contributed to the Atlantic bluefin's destruction. Europeans and North Africans do most of the catching and ranching of the fish in the world today. The United States continues to allow bluefin fishing in its waters even though the Gulf of Mexico-spawned stock is considered by many scientists to have entered into full-scale collapse. But it is Japan, the world's largest bluefin importer, that has taken perhaps the most aggressive pro-tuna-fishing position, sometimes assisted by Westerners like Ritchie Notar, who declaim the country's long tuna-eating tradition. But history shows that Japan's stake in tuna fishing is recent and, more important, part of the same endgame that has dragged all of humanity into the Age of Tuna. Before 1800, Japanese tuna sushi didn't even exist.

Trevor Corson is an East Asia scholar turned popular nonfiction writer and author of the 2007 book "The Story of Sushi," and for select groups he will act as a "sushi concierge," hosting dinners often at the Jewel Bako Japanese restaurant in Manhattan's East Village, one of which I attended this past winter. A Corson-guided meal aims to reveal the historical truth of tuna and to represent the very different fish that were the staples of sushi in earlier times. Plate by plate I watched as Corson walked a group of Manhattan professionals through a traditional Edo-period meal of snappers, jacks and other white-fleshed, smaller fish that most definitely did not include "red" tuna. Afterward, Corson sent me an excerpt from a 1999 Japanese anthology titled "Fish Experts Teach the Secrets of the Deliciousness of Fish" to further underline his point. "Originally, fish with red flesh were looked down on in Japan as a low-class food, and white fish were much preferred," one of the book's contributors, Michiyo Murata, writes. "Fish with red flesh tended to spoil quickly and develop a noticeable stench, so in the days before refrigeration the Japanese aristocracy despised them, and this attitude was adopted by the citizens of Edo [old Tokyo]." Other Japanese scholars like the sushi historian Masuo Yoshino confirm this. Murata, meanwhile, goes on to note that tuna were introduced into sushi only 170 years ago, when a large catch came into Edo one season. On that day a local sushi chef marinated a few pieces of tuna in soy sauce and served it as "nigiri sushi." The practice caught on. Occasionally a big bluefin became sushi, but Corson notes these fish were nicknamed shibi - "four days" - because chefs would bury them for four days to mellow their bloody taste.

By the 1930s, tuna sushi was commonplace in Japan, but demand could be met by local supplies of tuna, including the Pacific bluefin species, which dwells in Japan's coastal waters. It was World War II that took tuna fishing to the next level. "To recover from the devastation of the war," Ziro Suzuki, formerly of the Japanese Far Seas Research Laboratory, wrote me, "Japanese fishermen needed more tunas to secure food for domestic demand and also to earn more money by exporting tunas for canning industries in Europe and the U.S. Those needs urged the expansion of fishing grounds outside of the historic grounds of the western Pacific." But this next fishing expansion was technological as well as territorial. Throughout the postwar period, the Japanese perfected industrial long-lining, a practice that employs thousands of baited hooks. In the 1970s Japanese manufacturers developed lightweight, high-strength polymers that were in turn spun into extensive drift nets that could be many miles long. Though drift nets were banned in the high seas by the early '90s, in the 1970s hundreds of miles of them were often deployed in a single night. When drift nets and long lines were coupled with at-sea freezing technology invented around the same time, Japanese fishermen were able to fish the farthest reaches of the oceans while keeping their frozen tuna sushi-ready for as long as a year.

A major yield of all of this Japanese fishing effort was yellowfin tuna. Though they ate bluefin, Japanese did not hold them in high regard before the 1960s, and it took a confluence of socioeconomic factors in both Japan and the West to bring bluefin to the fore. By the late 1960s, sportfishing for giant bluefin tuna was starting in earnest off Nova Scotia, New England and Long Island. Like the Japanese at the time, North Americans had little regard for bluefin on the plate, usually discarding them after capture.

Bluefin sportfishing's rise, however, coincided with Japan's export boom. In the 1960s and '70s, Japanese planes stuffed with electronics unloaded in the U.S. and returned empty - a huge waste of fuel. But when a Japanese entrepreneur realized he could buy New England and Canadian bluefin for a song, he started filling up all those empty cargo holds with tuna. Exposure to beef and other fatty meats during the U.S. occupation had already drawn the Japanese to appreciate bluefin's fatty belly (otoro, in sushi terms). The Atlantic bluefin, the biggest bluefin, became the most favored of all. This appreciation boomeranged stateside when Americans started to develop their own raw-fish habit in the late 1970s.

Added to the already significant fishing pressure from the tuna canning industry, Japan's and now the West's sushi jones has come to stress populations of large tuna around the world, starting with the most environmentally sensitive Atlantic bluefin but with the risk of spreading to other species. In fact, one subpopulation of Atlantic bluefin has already vanished after heavy fishing by Japanese long-liners: The bluefin that used to congregate off Brazil disappeared in the early bluefin boom of the 1970s. The remaining Atlantic bluefin stocks are trending similarly, and the two other species of bluefin - the Pacific, which ranges between California and Japan, and the southern bluefin, which plies the waters around Australia - are not far behind. In the United States, the direct fishing pressure on bluefin continues - but perhaps a larger problem is that a large quantity of North American bluefin are caught accidentally as "by-catch" when industrial long-liners deploy their legions of hooks in search of yellowfin tuna over the bluefin's spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. By law, nearly all bluefin caught as by-catch must be dumped back into the sea. Usually by that point they are already dead.

All of this has led the bluefin to become a cause célèbre among conservation groups and the target of several organized "save the bluefin" campaigns. None of them have influenced Japanese consumers. In the case of Nobu, after numerous exchanges with Greenpeace, the sushi restaurant's owners remained unpersuaded of the need to stop serving the fish. Their only concession was a haiku-esque warning on the menus of its London eateries:

"Bluefin tuna
Is an environmentally threatened species
Please ask your server for an alternative."

Willie Mackenzie of Greenpeace U.K. responded angrily in a note to Ritchie Notar: "Despite the assurances that you take these issues seriously and that you want Nobu to be a leader in this field, you have essentially tried to abdicate responsibility by suggesting that it is down to your customers to decide if they want to eat an endangered species."

AWAY FROM RESTAURANT menus and the entree preferences of individual consumers, more far-ranging choices are presenting themselves to humanity than picking a California roll or a sliver of otoro. These are choices that will shape the fate of not just Atlantic bluefin tuna, not just all tunas, but all the great sea creatures - sharks, swordfish, marlin, even whales. For every one of these animals is highly migratory and roams the high seas, the vast, ownerless seascape that makes up some 60 percent of the oceans.

Until the 1970s, fishing in the high seas tended to be based on the principles of Hugo Grotius's 1609 treatise "Mare Liberum" - a document that advocated free use of the oceans by all. But in the last 40 years, Grotius's "free sea" has grown progressively more circumscribed. Today, high-seas and highly migratory fish are overseen by 18 regional fisheries-management organizations. These "consensus-oriented" institutions, in which each member nation has equal status, can be guided more by political horse-trading than by sound science. A former chairman of the scientific committee of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (or Iccat), the body responsible for Atlantic bluefin, told me, "Even though scientific advice says you should stick to a specific catch number, in order to negotiate a deal they tend to nudge that number over a little bit." That little nudge can be enough to put a population of tuna in jeopardy.

In 2008 Iccat set Atlantic bluefin catch limits that were nearly double what its own scientists recommended. Conservationists howled, and the quotas were reduced sharply. But by the time Iccat met again, in November 2009, environmentalists had come to home in on the historic mismanagement of Atlantic bluefin, many of them arguing that a simple reduction in catch quotas for the coming fishing season was not enough - that in fact a zero-catch quota was the only thing that would stave off the fish's extinction. Iccat rejected the zero-quota idea. This in turn forced a much more high-pitched confrontation this spring between parties like Japan, which seems to feel that fishery-management problems can be resolved within the status quo, and those who are looking to take the high seas in a profoundly different direction.

The debate was joined when delegates gathered this past March in Doha, Qatar, for a meeting of the United Nations Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, or Cites (pronounced SY-tees). It was a meeting that, for fish, could have been as important as the 1982 meeting of the International Whaling Commission that voted to establish a moratorium on commercial whaling worldwide. For if conservationists got their way, Atlantic bluefin would be included in the Cites treaty's Appendix One - a result that would ban the international trade of the tuna and put them under the jurisdiction of the same U.N. body that oversees tigers, white rhinos and giant pandas. It would be the beginning of a process that would transition Atlantic bluefin tuna from seafood to wildlife.

It is precisely this kind of recasting that happened with whales in the 1980s, and Japan was intent on avoiding a similar recategorization with Atlantic bluefin tuna. As Masanori Miyahara, the director of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, put it to me: "Cites Appendix One is too inflexible . . . once a species is listed in a Cites appendix, it will never be delisted or down-listed as the history of Cites clearly shows." In other words, once a fish becomes wildlife, it will stay wildlife. A Cites treaty would also allow those countries that happen to have bluefin in their territorial waters to continue to catch them for their own market while excluding all the other treaty member nations - a result that Masanori would surely find not only unfair but also capable of leading to further overfishing. (The European Union has indicated it will continue to catch its allowable quota even if a Cites resolution is passed.)

Japan's touchiness about fairness on the high seas is understandable given its dependence on seafood. Its per capita seafood consumption is among the highest of any industrialized country. And Japan has not been blind to the problems that come with overfishing and excessively large fishing fleets. Indeed, in the last few years it has tried to rein in its industrial fishing effort, decommissioning vessels, literally pulling hooks out of the water. But this has failed to resolve another problem of the Age of Tuna. Just as the industrialized countries are starting to realize the need for more sensible management of the high seas, developing countries are heading in the opposite direction. "Developing countries firmly believe they have a right to expand their fisheries and that developed countries should reduce their fishing effort to compensate," Ziro Suzuki wrote me. "In the process of trying to resolve the conflict of interest, the stocks become overfished, and overall fishing effort grows to an unacceptable level. . . . It's really just another example of the North-South problem, just like CO2 emissions."

The conflict between the developing and developed world plays an increasingly greater role in tuna negotiations, and at a certain point it is hard to figure out who is manipulating whom in an intrigue involving 175 countries, each trying to game the system. Representatives from both the WWF and the Pew Environment Group told me of a curious imbroglio as the Qatar Cites meeting neared its vote on bluefin. Japanese delegation members supposedly told African representatives that European bluefin fleets would relocate to the coast of Africa and catch African yellowfin tuna if the Cites bluefin motion passed. This despite the fact that European vessels are geared up specifically for bluefin fishing and lack the capacity to pursue yellowfin. Masanori Miyahara of the Fisheries Agency of Japan dismissed this claim as "completely wrong and unfounded. We never told such a thing to anybody. We even haven't thought such an idea, ever."

True or not, African nations lined up with Japan. After Libya and Sudan forced a vote, the Atlantic bluefin's Cites Appendix One listing was rejected by a large majority.

Delegates flew away from Qatar with the status quo in place. The monthlong bluefin purse-seining season set earlier by Iccat for the Mediterranean would stand as it was with quotas above what many scientists had recommended. A month after the Cites meeting, BP's Horizon Deepwater oil rig collapsed into the sea and spewed oil into the only bluefin spawning ground in the Americas just as the few remaining North American stock giant bluefin were preparing to mate in the Gulf of Mexico. Though the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has been deeply critical of the Mediterranean bluefin catch - in 2007, it went so far as to call for a moratorium - it has been noncommittal about the American fishery. When I asked the Fisheries Service if it would consider closing the bluefin season on the heels of the BP spill, I was offered a statement, part of which, recast in verse form, has an almost Nobu-type haiku quality:

"N.O.A.A. Fisheries is carefully monitoring

The spawning of bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico

By collecting larval samples and analyzing reports from scientific observers."

It seems then that no single nation is ready to commit to a sustainable future for the fish. Some would argue that extirpation might just have to be the bluefin's fate. Other, smaller tuna might be better suited to industrial exploitation. The bigeye and yellowfin tuna generally grow faster and spawn earlier. And indeed these lesser tuna are already starting to fill in for the bluefin's absence. In the United States most Americans usuallyend up eating bigeye when they order otoro - the fatty zebra-striped flesh that fetches the highest price on most sushi menus nowadays. But major populations of bigeye tuna are also declining. Should they go away, it's hard to say what would come next.

How then do we get ourselves out of the Age of Tuna with our moral center and our food supply intact? Can we develop a civilized hunter-gatherer relationship with tuna and indeed with all other fish and reach a point of equilibrium with our last wild food? Can the management bodies that have overseen the collapse of the most magnificent food fish we've ever known be trusted to manage what is left in its wake?

The answer depends on where you fall on the fairly broad political spectrum of the world's different tuna watchers. The Fisheries Agency of Japan maintains that "Japan is committed to ensure the recovery" of the Atlantic bluefin and has stipulated it will support a complete shutdown of the bluefin fishery at next fall's Iccat meeting, should the scientific committee recommend it. Greenpeace meanwhile has punted on the bluefin political process. "Others have failed our oceans," Oliver Knowles told the press as he prepared his mini armada off Malta, "so Greenpeace will act." Greenpeace is calling for a radical realignment of the high seas, to take stewardship away from regional fisheries-management organizations and establish 40 percent of the world's ocean territory as a marine reserve, a kind of Antarctica-style agreement with shades of whale, where nations, instead of bargaining over quotas, would simply not be able to do any fishing at all in large areas of the oceans. Most other environmental organizations are behind the marine-reserve idea, but they vary in opinion on how big those reserves should be. The Blue Ocean Institute calls for a five-year moratorium on Atlantic bluefin fishing everywhere. TheWWF further advocates that the industrial fishing methods that spread during the Age of Tuna - the drift nets, long lines, purse seines and spotter planes - be done away with. In their view, the "artisanal" single-hook-and-line fishing practices of old are the only way to sustainably hunt big and naturally scarce predators like bluefin.

But if we are to embark on a global project of ramping down tuna fishing, what are we to eat?

Until the modern era, the response to wild-game decline has been a primitive one: widespread destruction of the animals that can't stand up to our hunting followed by the selection of a handful of ones that we can tame. Out of the many mammals that our forebears ate before the last ice age, humans selected four - cows, pigs, sheep and goats - to be their principal meats. Out of all the many birds that darkened the primeval skies, humans chose four - chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese - to be their poultry.

And indeed, this is a process that is taking shape rapidly with fish. Atlantic salmon are now commercially extinct throughout almost the entirety of their range but have become one of the most widely farmed fish in the world.

But while leaps have been made in taming marine fish, tuna, particularly bluefin tuna, may not make very much sense for the farm. Bluefin ranching as it is practiced in the Mediterranean, and with the Pacific bluefin in Japan and the southern bluefin in Australia, rightly faces strong environmental criticisms since it relies on catching juveniles from the wild and denies those baby bluefin a chance to reach adulthood and breed. Now, however, the final steps of fully taming or "closing the life cycle" of bluefin tuna are under way, which will make it possible for bluefin to be grown from an egg in a laboratory to a full-size adult. In such a system, an isolated "domestic" family of bluefin can be established that need not have any interaction with the wild at all. For several years Japan has been producing small amounts of closed-life-cycle Pacific bluefin (known as Kindai tuna in the market). In Europe and Australia, scientists have used light-manipulation technology as well as time-release hormone implants invented by the Israeli endocrinologist Yonathan Zohar to bring about the first large-scale captive spawning of Atlantic and southern bluefin.

But there are considerable complications ahead. As Richard Smullen, an Australia-based feed-company specialist working to come up with a suitable diet for farmed bluefin, explained: "The thing is the metabolic rate of these fish is very high compared to other fish; they swim fast, they heat their brains and vital organs and are warmer than the surrounding water, so this is energetically expensive. An analogy is like trying to feed an ultramarathon runner - they have the potential to eat a lot and not put on any weight." Though Smullen says that it is possible to bring feed-conversion ratios for bluefin down, currently it may take 15 pounds of feed to produce a single pound of tuna, roughly 10 times as much as is needed for farmed salmon.

As fisheries decline globally, more and more countries are trying to replace their wild fish with farmed ones. Today 30 million tons of small forage fish are removed from the oceans yearly, with the majority of it going to feed farmed fish. If we end up farming bluefin on the same scale as we now farm salmon, the tuna, with its poor feed-conversion rate, may end up taking the food of the remaining wild fish that we haven't yet got around to catching.

In addition there is little evidence to suggest that taming a species saves its wild forebear. Tiger farms in China have not halted tiger declines in the wild. Hundreds of millions of farmed Atlantic salmon have not stanched wild Atlantic salmon's continued decline. Just because we can tame something doesn't mean we should. The example of whales again rises. As the science historian D. Graham Burnett points out in a coming book on the Save the Whales movement, collaborations between American nuclear scientists and marine biologists were once proposed in the 1960s whereby tropical atolls, leveled by nuclear testing, could be used as giant corrals for the commercial farming of cetaceans. But fortunately for the whale - and I think for us too - we have come to see the whale not as something we fish for, not as something we farm, but as something we appreciate and maybe empathize with. Instead of expanding our stomachs or our wallets, whales have expanded our consciousness, our very humanity. So we have to ask ourselves, is there any rational argument for humans to eat bluefin tuna, wild, ranched or farmed? Is the fish really so special that no substitute will do? If the Japanese adapted to a higher-fat diet in half a century, could they and all sushi lovers not shift gears again and adapt to a sustainable diet?

It was in answer to these questions that I went looking for a farmed fish that could satisfy tuna-eaters at the sushi bar. A fish that had the dense "bite" of tuna but with a smaller ecological footprint - a Volkswagen instead of a Hummer.

My search led me to the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, where I motored with a tall, optimistic Australian named Neil Anthony Sims. As we donned wetsuits, fins and scuba tanks, Sims rejoiced in telling me tales of his adopted land. Eventually we spat in our masks, adjusted our regulators and dived into the water above Sims's farm - a huge underwater ziggurat that is the center of his company, Kona Blue Water Farms.

Until recently, most of the fish we've chosen to domesticate have been accidents. Salmon, striped bass, trout - we have chosen those species because we knew them as wild game. We seldom considered their biological profiles or whether they jibed well with the ecological limitations of a crowded planet.

But Neil Sims was a fisheries biologist before he was a fish farmer. And it was his direct personal experience with the limitations of fisheries management that persuaded him that fish farming, done right, was a better choice than fish catching.

Sims began his career in the remote Cook Islands of the South Pacific. There he was responsible for managing a giant snail called a trochus that produces an attractive pearly shell, valuable to native jewelers. Over half a decade, he implemented numerous management strategies. Nothing worked - not even shortening the harvest season drastically. The day after one season ended, he came across a bare-chested Polynesian elder who had pulled his dugout canoe onto the beach. Sims looked inside the boat and saw it filled with trochus.

"I yelled at him," Sims remembers. "Then he yelled at me. He started to cry. Then I started to cry, and then the old bugger finally says: 'Why? Why did you close the season? There are still some left!' " This moment prompted him to look beyond fishing, to an entirely different approach.

Sims was drawn to Hawaii, with its deep near-shore waters and strong currents - attributes favorable to aquaculture that he believed could make ocean farming sustainable. But the fish farming he found on arrival in Hawaii didn't impress him. "People were trying milkfish and mullet," Sims recalled. "They start with the letter 'm' and they're all really kind of hmmmmm in the mouth, if you know what I mean." Sims found the fish too bony and small, with loose, mushy flesh. This was important. Sims's long-standing beat in the South Pacific had persuaded him that "there was an opportunity for a high-value, sushi-quality fish," a fish that could fit into the dense-flesh category that the Age of Tuna had cultivated in Japan and indeed throughout the developed world.

After parsing many species he came across Seriola rivoliana. Known in Hawaiias kahala, it is a speedy, firm-fleshed animal of the same family as yellowtail and amberjack. They are only very distantly related to tuna and do not have tuna's ruby red color, but they still have dense flesh and could easily pass for white albacore sushi. The fat content in Sims's farmed kahala is around 30 percent, and indeed it is the presence of fat that accounts for much of a sushi fish's tunalike flavor.

Sims was further intrigued when he found that kahala had barely been fished commercially. In their wild form kahala can carry ciguatera poison - a toxin sometimes deadly to humans that kahala ingest when they feed around coral reefs. But when kahala are isolated away from reefs and fed a traditional aquaculture diet of soy and fishmeal, they are ciguatera-free. (Sims asserts that ciguatera has never been detected in the flesh of his fish.) Since they have not been fished commercially, wild kahala populations are large and unlikely to be severely damaged through interaction with farmed fish. Moreover, kahala are much more "feed efficient" than tuna. The amount of fish required to produce a pound of kahala ranges from 1.6 pounds to 2 pounds, an order of magnitude better than bluefin. And Sims recently began feed trials using diets that contain no directly harvested forage fish. Lastly, unlike tuna, which require a tremendous investment in spawning technology, kahala are naturally fecund: they breed frequently, at least weekly, throughout the year.

THERE ARE, OF COURSE, those who would disagree with Sims's approach. When I asked Casson Trenor, author of the 2009 book "Sustainable Sushi," for his impression of the kahala as a farmed fish, he responded that the farming of any carnivore is "fighting the current." "You may have a farm that has a more efficient protein ratio," Trenor wrote me, "but produces more waste streams. Perhaps you have a feed pellet that knocks your feed conversion ratio down to 1 to 1, but you continue to host a rampant parasite infestation. . . . We need to identify fish that through their physiology and life history actually lend themselves to clean farming operations." Trenor's own compromise is to serve wild "small format" tuna like skipjack or albacore, fish that he feels can embrace the "principles of seasonality, local awareness and sustainability" that sushi originally expressed before it was "transformed through cultural misinterpretation and overzealous globalization into exactly the opposite."

But as I plunged into the calm blue waters off Kona and inflated my diving vest to gain equilibrium in the water column, I couldn't help thinking that in a world of environmental evils prosecuted against fish, the farming of a more efficient carnivore than a bluefin under the stewardship of a knowledgeable, environmentally conscious biologist was a good deal better than the rapacious industrial harvesting of "large format" tuna. Looking down at this "cathedral" of fish, as Sims called it, the possibility of a certain balance presented itself. Using technology developed over the last 10 years, Kona Blue has constructed diamond-shape cages that can be moored in the open ocean away from sensitive coastal areas. As I glided down, past the fish swimming in unison in their net pen, I felt a cautious optimism. The site of these pens had been carefully chosen; the swift currents meant that nutrientsdid not accumulate below the pens. And regular monitoring has found the fish to have no internal parasites, unlike the wild kahala. Sims's commitment to transparency is also encouraging. He regularly posts water-quality reports on his Web site and presumably will do the same as the operation expands.

Sims waved me over to the side of the net pen. I floated above him, close enough to see that the fish actually seemed to recognize him. In what he would later describe to me as the "rock-star effect," the fish crowded to be close to him. Sims spread his arms out wide and seemed to take in their adulation.

Sims has trademarked his kahala with the name Kona Kampachi - "Kona" for its point of origin, "Kampachi" for the similaranimal in Japan. They retail for $18 to $20 a pound in fillet form and to date have a tenuous foot in the market. Production reached more than a million pounds in 2008, about a third of the amount of bluefin caught in American waters that year. After a hiatus during most of 2009 and the first part of 2010 while Sims reconfigured his cages, the product will be reintroduced this July with even more capacity. Kona Kampachi may not have the rich ruby color of tuna (a color that is often enhanced artificially by "gassing" with carbon monoxide), but it is an extremely pleasant sushi experience. It satisfies the sashimi yen that has been created over the last 30 years - the yen for the firm, energy-rich musculature of a fast-swimming open-ocean fish.

Can we embrace a new set of species that we don't know intimately in their wild form? Can we come to an understanding of which fish work for us as "seafood" and which fish don't? I would hope so. The survival of the wild ocean could very well depend on it. I took one more look at Neil Sims floating with arms outstretched, his kahala finning in the current, each one mutely appraising this conductor of a silent concert. The only sound was the whir of bubbles rising by my ears.

SEAFOOD. HOW MANY species suffer those two mean English syllables? Other languages are no kinder. Romance European cultures use the expression "sea fruit," while Slavs say "sea gifts." So-called vegetarians rue the killing of farmed terrestrial animals but regularly eat wild fish. Kosher laws mandating merciful animal slaughter don't apply to fish.

These thoughts were in my head recently when I got perhaps my last look at a wild bluefin tuna, just a month before the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico. I was 20-odd miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., aboard the Sensation, a vessel chartered by the Tag-a-Giant Foundation, a nonprofit organization trying to decode the complex migration patterns of the bluefin and help lay the scientific foundation for the fish's protection. Tag-a-Giant had been fishing for a couple days, and many people had sat in the fighting chair I now occupied, reeling in tuna after tuna. But for me this was a first. I had never caught a bluefin before.

In the past I would have wanted to savor the fight, to do battle with the fish with lighter, more "sporting" tackle. But considering everything I'd learned about tuna, humans and the chances of the great fish's survival, it suddenly seemed infinitely more appropriate to fight this tuna with the full expression of humanity's power. For in the end tuna are no match for us. We have in this final phase of exploitation achieved dominion over the entirety of the watery world, from inland lakes and rivers to the littoral zone to the continental shelf out to the abyssof the high seas. Sitting in the huge fighting chair with the huge rod and reel, in the well of the huge sportfishing vessel, it was inescapably apparent who had the edge.

As my bluefin breached, one of the scientists opened a door at the stern of the boat. A blue vinyl mat was laid down on the deck. The fish came through the door, still "hot," banging its tail excitedly. But in an instant a biologist named Andre Boustany placed a moist cover over the tuna's giant eye and a hydration hose in its mouth. The tuna motor mellowed, and at last the fish was beatifically still.

"Do you want to tag him?" Boustany asked me.

I took the sharp four-inch needle from his hand and positioned it just behind the fish's dorsal fin. Pricking the skin slightly I started to pull my hand away.

"No," Boustany said, "you gotta really stick it in there."

Applying more pressure, I felt the needle slide into the flank, felt the resistance of the dense sushi flesh, raw and red and most certainly delicious. But for the first time in my life I felt tuna flesh for what it was: a living, perfect expression of a miraculous adaptation. An adaptation that allows bluefin to cross oceans at the speed of a battleship. An adaptation that should be savored in its own right as the most miraculous engine of a most miraculous animal, not as food.

Perhaps people will never come to feel about a tuna the way they have come to feel about whales. Whales are, after all, mammals: they have large brains; they nurse their young and breed slowly. All of that ensconces them in a kind of empathic cocoon, the warmth of which even the warmest-blooded tuna may never occupy. But what we can perhaps be persuaded to feel, viscerally, is that industrial fishing as it is practiced today against the bluefin and indeed against all the world's great fish, the very tigers and lions of our era, is an act unbefitting our sentience. An act as pointless, small-minded and shortsighted as launching a harpoon into the flank of a whale.

Paul Greenberg is a frequent contributor to the magazine. This article is adapted from his book "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food," which will be published next month by Penguin Press.


21) In India, BP Response Feeds Outrage Over Bhopal
"'The victims will get hardly 10 percent of the money and rest will go to the pockets of ministers and bureaucrats,' said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action an advocacy group. 'Indian people have to pay for the crimes committed by the U.S. corporations.'"
June 24, 2010

NEW DELHI - The contrast between the disasters, more than a quarter-century and half a world apart, could not be starker.

In 1984, a leak of toxic gas at an American company's Indian subsidiary killed thousands, injured tens of thousands more and left a major city with a toxic waste dump at its heart. The company walked away after paying a $470 million settlement. The company's American chief executive, arrested while in India, skipped bail, never to return. This month seven senior officials from the company were convicted of negligence, but the sentence - two years in jail - seems paltry to many here compared to the impact of their crime.

No matter how halting the Obama administration's response to the gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico might look to Americans, Indians cannot help but marvel - and envy - the alacrity with which the United States government has acted.

BP's $20 billion cleanup fund, as vast a sum as it seems from here, is in all likelihood merely a down payment on what the company will probably pay for the damage caused by the explosion of its oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. A criminal investigation has begun. And while the environmental toll is massive, the cost in human lives, compared with Bhopal, has been minimal.

Now, 26 years later, in the face of public outrage prompted by the light criminal sentences and the inescapable contrast with the BP disaster, the Indian government is trying shake off the shadow of Bhopal, an incident that has become synonymous with of ineffectual governance and humiliation at the hands of Western capital.

Indeed, the disaster and its aftermath are a stark reminder that even as India aspires to superpower status it still struggles to provide its 1.2 billion people with some of life's most basic necessities.

"This is one case where every organ of the state failed," said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research. "An event like this is actually does remind you that India is a weak state."

Analysts and historians say that the entire episode reeks of the humiliation of a poor and powerless country at the hands of a rich and resourceful Western corporation. India sought $3.3 billion in damages from Union Carbide, but in 1989 settled for less than half a billion dollars. Charges of culpable homicide against the company's senior officials were later reduced by India's Supreme Court to a charge most often used against reckless drivers in auto accidents.

Many Indian commentators have taken the BP comparison further, arguing that the Obama administration cares more about fish and birds in the Gulf of Mexico than it does about Indians maimed by an American company. But the onus, others argued, lies with the Indian government.

"If we in India aspire to sup with those at the high-table in the world, then the Indian government cannot be allowed to undervalue Indian lives so contemptuously," wrote Sitaram Yechury, a member of the upper house of Parliament representing the Communist Party, in The Hindustan Times.

At a news conference late Thursday evening, government officials announced a raft of new measures, from increased compensation for victims to a fresh effort to extradite Warren Anderson, the octogenarian former chairman of Union Carbide, the company that owned the pesticide factory in Bhopal, from the United States.

The government approved compensation of about $22,000 for the families of people killed by the leak, and about $4,000 for those diagnosed with cancer or total renal failure linked to the toxic gas. It also pledged that it would clean up the abandoned factory. Activists have long sought to make Dow Chemical, the company that bought the now-defunct Union Carbide, pay for the cleanup. The Indian government said Thursday that it will pay and seek reimbursement if a court finds Dow liable.

Some of the measures, like increased compensation and a cleanup of the site, are simply a matter of money. But others will be much harder to accomplish. The government said it will ask the Supreme Court to revisit its 1996 decision to reduce the criminal charges against the men convicted this month. Because the charges were reduced to negligence, the men faced a maximum sentence of 2 years rather than 10 years under the previous charges.

Mr. Anderson, the former Union Carbide chairman, traveled to India in the wake of the disaster in 1984. He was arrested and released on bail, then fled the country. He is still considered an absconder, but has retired comfortably on Long Island.

Indeed, his hasty departure, along with what many see as the meager price the company paid in compensation to the victims, became symbols of India's impotence, confirmation that it was a soft state unable to protect its citizens.

The new measures did little to quell anger among victims and activists.

"The victims will get hardly 10 percent of the money and rest will go to the pockets of ministers and bureaucrats," said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action an advocacy group. "Indian people have to pay for the crimes committed by the U.S. corporations."

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.


22) Pfc Bradley Manning arrested for leaking "Collateral Murder" video
By Courage to Resist
"From what I've heard so far of (Wikileaks co-founder Julian) Assange and (Army Pfc Bradley) Manning,... they are two new heroes of mine," Daniel Ellsberg, famous whistle-blower of the Pentagon Papers
June 23, 2010

In April, released a notorious video depicting a U.S. helicopter attack resulting in the killing of 11 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters employees. The video, titled "Collateral Murder" was widely posted and reported on. Last week, the U.S. military arrested 22-year-old Pfc Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who allegedly took credit for leaking the video. Lawyers for Wikileaks have not yet been allowed access to Bradley, who is currently being held in pretrial confinement in Kuwait. Courage to Resist's primary concern is that Bradley has access to civilian legal representation to fight what are expected to be very serious charges at court martial. We expect to collaborate with many concerned organizations and individuals in order to best support Bradley legally and politically.

Wired reports that Bradley claimed to have been rummaging through classified military and government networks for more than a year and said that the networks contained "incredible things, awful things ... that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC."

News reports about this case include:

* "The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks"
By Glenn Greenwald, June 18, 2010
* Democracy Now!
With Amy Goodman. June 17, 2010
* "Wikileaks Commissions Lawyers to Defend Alleged Army Source"
By Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter, June 11, 2010

More from that, if true, underscores Bradley courage to expose the truth:

Manning had already been sifting through the classified networks for months when he discovered the Iraq video in late 2009, he said. The video, later released by Wikileaks under the title "Collateral Murder," shows a 2007 Army helicopter attack on a group of men, some of whom were armed, that the soldiers believed were insurgents. The attack killed two Reuters employees and an unarmed Baghdad man who stumbled on the scene afterward and tried to rescue one of the wounded by pulling him into his van. The man's two children were in the van and suffered serious injuries in the hail of gunfire...

"At first glance it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter," Manning wrote of the video. "No big deal ... about two dozen more where that came from, right? But something struck me as odd with the van thing, and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer's directory. So I looked into it..."

"He would message me, Are people talking about it?... Are the media saying anything?" Tyler Watkins, a close civilian friend in Boston, said. "That was one of his major concerns, that once he had done this, was it really going to make a difference?... He didn't want to do this just to cause a stir.... He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn't happen again."


23) Venezuela Seizes Oil Rigs Owned by US Company
June 24, 2010

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela's government has seized control of 11 oil rigs owned by U.S. driller Helmerich & Payne, which shut them down because the state oil company was behind on payments.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez announced that Venezuela would nationalize the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company's rigs. He said in a statement Wednesday that Helmerich & Payne had rejected government demands to resume drilling operations for more than a year.

Helmerich & Payne announced in January 2009 that it was halting operations on two of its drilling rigs, because Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA, owed the company close to $100 million. It said it would halt the rest of its rigs by the end of July as contracts expired unless PDVSA began to make good on its debts.

Referring to Helmerich & Payne, Ramirez said: ''There's a group of drill owners who have refused to discuss service prices and have preferred to have this equipment put away for a year.''

President and CEO Hans Helmerich said in a statement on Thursday the company's position has remained clear: ''We simply wanted to be paid for work already performed.''

''We stated repeatedly we wanted to return to work, just not for free,'' he said. ''We are surprised by yesterday's announcement only because we have been in ongoing efforts in a good faith attempt to accommodate a win-win resolution, including a willingness to sell rigs.''

The company has worked in Venezuela for 52 years, Helmerich added.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he hopes Helmerich & Payne is compensated and suggested the takeover, along with other recent nationalizations, are scaring off private investment in Venezuela.

''We would just call on them, if they did make such a move, to compensate the owners of those wells,'' Toner said. ''This is the latest in such an instance where international investors, their investments are being nationalized by the government of Venezuela. It doesn't speak or bode well for the investment climate there.''

Helmerich & Payne is not the only oil services company to have complained about a delay in payments. Dallas-based Ensco International Inc. said last year that it had suspended oil drilling operations off Venezuela's Caribbean coast because Venezuela owed it $35 million -- prompting the state oil company -- PDVSA -- to take over the company's operations.

The government of President Hugo Chavez has nationalized dozens of privately owned companies in recent years as the socialist leader seeks to expand the state's role in the economy. Government critics and many business owners argue the takeovers violate private property rights.

Helmerich & Payne, Inc. is primarily a contract drilling company. As of June 8, 2010, the company's existing fleet included 214 U.S. land rigs, 39 international land rigs and nine offshore platform rigs.

Associated Press writers Justin V. Juozapavicius in Tulsa and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.


24) Extension of Jobless Aid Still Stalled
June 24, 2010

WASHINGTON - The Senate remained at an impasse on Thursday over legislation that would extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits, as Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for the legislative stalemate.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, introduced yet another version of the legislation on Wednesday night, including important tax changes, in his continuing bid to persuade at least a few Republicans to support the bill. But even as he unveiled the new package, aides conceded that Mr. Reid did not have the votes to pass it.

Still, after eight weeks of deadlock, Democrats said they would once again test the resolve of the bill's opponents by pushing for a procedural vote on Thursday evening.

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has insisted that any measure to extend benefits not add to the federal deficit, and he disparaged the new proposal on Thursday. "It has one thing in common with every other version they've offered: it adds new taxes and over $30 billion to an already staggering $13 trillion national debt," Mr. McConnell said.

Some centrist Republicans who have been negotiating with Democrats, including Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, have shown more flexibility. But they, too, called on Democrats to do more to cover the cost of the legislation.

In response, the Democrats pared a provision to extend higher Medicaid reimbursement for the states, to $16 billion from $24 billion, and they found spending reductions to offset its cost. House Democrats omitted the extra Medicaid money for states from its version of the legislation out of concern for the price tag; Senate Democrats restored it at the urging of governors and state legislatures.

The only provision of the Senate bill that remains unpaid for is the extension of unemployment benefits, estimated at $35.5 billion.

Citing data by the National Employment Law Project, Democrats say that without Congressional action, 1.2 million Americans will exhaust their jobless benefits by the end of the month.

The bill would reinstate a number of expired tax breaks and provide an array of safety-net spending. To help cover the cost, Democrats proposed using some unspent funds from last year's economic stimulus program, a move that prompted Republican cheers.

Mr. McConnell cited that as an indication that the two sides have found some common ground. "Now we even agree on redirecting untimely and untargeted money from the failed stimulus bill," he said.

Even some Democrats have expressed deep reservations about adding to the nation's fast-growing deficit. Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats, have joined with Republicans in opposing the bill.

At a news conference on Thursday, Senate Democratic leaders voiced exasperation at the way the legislation has stalled, and Mr. Reid said that if the next vote fails, he will move on to other legislation, beginning with a bill intended to help small businesses create jobs.

"We're where we are because Republicans have said 'no' to helping America," Mr. Reid said.

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and a member of the leadership, said she held out hope that some Republicans would change their position.

"This is a critical piece of legislation for thousands of families in our country, who want to know whether their United States Senate and Congress is on their side or is going to turn their back on them, right at a critical time when our economy is just starting to get around the corner," Mrs. Murray said.

"We're going to be on their side, fighting today," she added. "I hope that a few Republicans will join us in that vote, so American families can go to sleep tonight and sleep through the night."

Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the assistant majority leader, said, "For eight weeks, the majority leader and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, have tried every conceivable approach to win Republicans' support."

Mr. Durbin added, "This party of 'no' is saying no over and over again, and the American people hear it."

The Democrats suggested that the Republican opposition was rooted not in concern about the deficit but in an effort to protect wealthy corporate interests from paying more taxes. The bill would increase a tax on crude oil to 49 cents a barrel, from 8 cents. It would curtail favorable tax treatment for the earnings of investment managers, and it would raise taxes on some small professional-services corporations.


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