Archive for May, 2010

31
May
10

U.S. prepares for the worst after best hope of oil solution falls apart

NEWS
U.S. prepares for the worst after best hope of oil solution falls apart

Monday, May 31, 2010

Earth

••• After the failure of BP’s ‘top kill’ attempt to plug the leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well, company officials say it may take a week to implement the next bid.

Hours after the British oil giant acknowledged failure in its ‘top kill’ attempt to plug the underwater well, company officials said it could take a week to implement the next bid – placing a cap over the leak.

‘Right now we are going to a containment operation,’ BP Managing Director Bob Dudley told CNN’s State of the Union program of the latest attempt to deal with the ruptured well about 1.5 kilometres under water.

‘Because this is being done at 5,000 feet with robots, we’re going to take our time, do it extremely carefully. By the end of the week, we should have this in place,’ Dudley said.

While the ‘top kill’ would have sealed the well using a combination of heavy drilling fluid and eventually cement, the new effort aims only to contain most of the leak, and might temporarily increase the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

The well will only be sealed when BP finishes drilling two relief wells – which are supposed to be a better long-term solution – but those are not expected to be ready until August.

That means the relief well won’t be completed until the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama’s top energy advisor, Carol Browner, said on Sunday that the spill was ‘probably the biggest environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country.’
‘I think what the American people need to know is that it is possible that we will have oil leaking from this well until August when the relief wells will be finished,’ she said.

The spill has dumped between 18 million gallons (68 million litres) and 40 million gallons (150 million litres) into the Gulf, according to government estimates.

The leak began after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers.

Some 500 people braved rains in New Orleans’ French Quarter on Sunday to denounce BP for the oil spill, as well as the Obama administration’s response to the disaster.

The new bid underway involves using robots to sever a damaged riser pipe carrying oil from the wellhead and placing a containment device called a Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) over the leak.

Oil would then be siphoned from the device up to a container ship at the surface.

But the process could actually increase the amount of oil leaking into the sea, and it is uncertain how much oil would be contained, Browner said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.

On Friday, Obama visited Louisiana for the second time since the spill began, and he pledged on Saturday to do whatever it takes to help those whose livelihoods have been upended by the catastrophe.

‘We will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimised by this manmade disaster are made whole,’ he said.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen – who is leading the government’s response to the spill – said at a briefing with Obama on Sunday that the federal containment effort had redoubled, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

‘Officials on the ground have increased efforts to be more responsive to needs identified by local communities,’ Allen said, according to Gibbs.

Since the spill began, an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude have leaked into the Gulf each day.

The disaster has already closed stretches of coastal fishing waters, endangering the seafood industry and tourism, and threatening a catastrophe for Louisiana marshes, home to many rare species.

Government data released Thursday suggested between 18.6 million gallons and 29.5 million gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf – far more than the roughly 11 million gallons of crude spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

The spill has been a public relations nightmare for BP, which faced new allegations of negligence on Sunday after The New York Times said internal company files showed the firm had serious concerns about the Deepwater rig weeks before the accident.
• Source(s): BP PLC & AP
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30
May
10

BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

NEWS
BP: ‘Top kill’ fails to stop Gulf oil leak, new plan readied

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Earth

••• BP’s risky ‘top kill’ operation to plug the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has failed, the energy giant says.

BP and federal authorities are now turning to a new strategy to stop the leak, but it will take at least four to seven days before it can be put in place.

At least 75 million gallons are now estimated to have gushed into the ocean since the disaster unfolded five weeks ago, threatening an environmental and economic catastrophe across hundreds of kilometres of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

‘After three full days of attempting ‘top kill’, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it’s time to move on to the next of our options,’ BP Chief Operations Officer Doug Suttles told a news briefing.

Engineers had spent days pumping some 30,000 barrels of heavy drilling fluid into the leaking well head on the ocean floor in a high-pressure bid to smother the gushing crude and ultimately seal the well with cement.

But the effort failed, and when asked specifically why, Suttles had no direct answer.

‘We don’t know that for certain,’ he said, adding that ‘we were unable to sustainably overcome the flow’.

The announcement marks the latest failure for BP, which despite a series of high-tech operations over the past month has appeared powerless to bring the disaster to heel since an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20 that killed eleven workers. The rig sank two days later.

The British energy giant had stressed that ‘top kill’ was the best chance at stopping the leak other than drilling an entirely new relief well, a process that has already begun but is expected to take another two months.
Efforts will now focus on severing the damaged riser pipes that lay crumpled on the ocean floor, then installing a containment device that could capture the leaking oil and siphon it to the surface.

BP and the Coast Guard said it would take four to seven days before the contraption – dubbed the ‘Lower Marine Riser Package’, or LMRP – can be put in place.

And Suttle said even if LMRP works, it would only contain a majority of the oil and not all of it.

The setback came a day after President Barack Obama visited the region for the second time since the oil spill began 40 days ago, in an attempt to bring new urgency to the response.

Obama toured some of the affected areas in Louisiana on Friday and pledged ‘to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by the spill.’
• Source(s): BP PLC
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29
May
10

Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen

NEWS
Weekly Address: Honoring the Fallen
President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asked all Americans to join him in remembering and honoring our men and women in uniform who have died in service to the country. The commitment these heroes have demonstrated – the willingness to lay down their lives so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation – has helped make America the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth and it is what we honor on Memorial Day.

This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.

It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.

Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.

There are any number of reasons America emerged from its humble beginnings as a cluster of colonies to become the most prosperous, most powerful nation on earth. There is the hard work, the resilience, and the character of our people. There is the ingenuity and enterprising spirit of our entrepreneurs and innovators. There are the ideals of opportunity, equality, and freedom that have not only inspired our people to perfect our own union, but inspired others to perfect theirs as well.

But from the very start, there was also something more. A steadfast commitment to serve, to fight, and if necessary, to die, to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish. It’s a commitment witnessed at each defining moment along the journey of this country. It’s what led a rag-tag militia to face British soldiers at Lexington and Concord. It’s what led young men, in a country divided half slave and half free, to take up arms to save our union. It’s what led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marjah.

That commitment – that willingness to lay down their lives so we might inherit the blessings of this nation – is what we honor today. But on this Memorial Day, as on every day, we are called to honor their ultimate sacrifice with more than words. We are called to honor them with deeds.

We are called to honor them by doing our part for the loved ones our fallen heroes have left behind and looking after our military families. By making sure the men and women serving this country around the world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home safely. By making sure veterans have the care and assistance they need. In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country – and their families – as well as they have served us.

On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.

A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

The Largest Cleanup Effort in U.S. History

NEWS
The Largest Cleanup Effort in U.S. History

Saturday, May 29, 2010

••• Following up on his press conference discussing the BP oil spill, the President travelled to the Gulf Coast to get another first-hand look at the progress and to be briefed by those on the ground. At the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grande Isle, Louisiana, the President spoke to the frustration those in the local community and across America feel watching the BP oil leak:

Understandably, the feelings of frustration and anger, the sense that any response is inadequate – we expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem. But in the meantime, we’ve got to make sure that everybody is working in concert, that everybody is moving in the same direction. And I want everybody to know that everybody here – at every level – is working night and day to end this crisis. We’re considering every single idea out there, especially from folks who know these communities best.

The President commended those in the area who have “rolled up their sleeves” to help with the clean up, saying that “we’re in this together.” He warned that as frustrating as it is now, the clean-up will be a monumental and lengthy process, but he pledged to ensure that BP compensates those whose livelihoods have suffered and directed small business owners and others in need of help to the resources here at WhiteHouse.gov.

He spoke extensively of what he saw touring the tragedy this morning:

And our response treats this event for what it is: It’s an assault on our shores, on our people, on the regional economy, and on communities like this one. This isn’t just a mess that we’ve got to mop up. People are watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach. Parents are worried about the implications for their children’s health. Every resident of this community has watched this nightmare threaten the dreams that they’ve worked so hard to build. And they want it made right, and they want to make it right now.

I just had a chance to listen to Mayor David Carmadelle of Grande Isle, our host here, telling us heartbreaking stories about fishermen who are trying to figure out where the next paycheck is going to come from, how are they going to pay a mortgage or a note on their boat. And he is having to dig into his pocket at this point to make sure that some of them are able to deal with the economic impact. So this is something that has to be dealt with immediately, not sometime later. And that’s everybody’s driving focus – everybody who is standing behind me. This is our highest priority and it deserves a response that is equal to the task.

That’s why this has already been the largest cleanup effort in U.S. history. On the day this disaster began, even as we launched a search and rescue effort for workers on the drilling rig, we were already staging equipment in the event of a larger-scale spill. By the time we discovered the third breach, a week after the Deepwater Horizon platform sank, we had already stationed more than 70 vessels and hundreds of thousands of feet of protective boom on site.

Today, there are more than 20,000 people in the region working around the clock to contain and clean up this spill. We’ve activated about 1,400 members of the National Guard across four states. Nearly 1,400 vessels are aiding in the containment and cleanup effort. And we deployed more than 3 million feet of hard and sorbent boom, including an additional 100,000 just yesterday for these parishes in Louisiana that face the greatest threat.

Now, I’ve made clear to Admiral Allen and I did so again today that he should get whatever he needs to deal with this crisis. Whatever he needs, he will get.

Right now, we’re still within the window where we don’t yet know the outcome of the highly complex top kill procedure that the federal government authorized BP to use to try to stop the leak. If it is successful, it would obviously be welcome news. If it’s not, a team of some of the world’s top scientists, engineers and experts, led by our Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, has for some time being – has for some time been exploring any and all reasonable contingency plans.

But our response will continue with its full force regardless of the outcome of the top kill approach – because even if the leak was stopped today it wouldn’t change the fact that these waters still contain oil from what is now the largest spill in American history. And more of it will come ashore.

To ensure that we’re fully prepared for that, and in accordance with input from folks down here, I’ve directed Secretary Napolitano and Admiral Allen to triple the manpower in places where oil has hit the shore or is within 24 hours of impact. This increase will allow us to further intensify this already historic response, contain and remove oil more quickly, and help minimize the time that any oil comes into contact with our coastline. That means deploying more boom, cleaning more beaches, performing more monitoring of wildlife and impact to this ecosystem.

We’re also going to continue to do whatever it takes to help Americans whose livelihoods have been upended by this spill. Gulf Coast residents should know that we’ve gathered all pertinent information regarding available assistance and the federal response in one place at whitehouse.gov.

We have ordered BP to pay economic injury claims, and we will make sure they deliver. And the parish presidents and governors here in Louisiana were already giving us some sense of some of the bureaucratic problems that we’re going to have to cut through, but we are going to cut through them. And for those who are in economic distress, if you’ve already filed a claim and you’re not satisfied with the resolution, then whitehouse.gov will point you in the right direction.

As I said yesterday, the Small Business Administration has stepped in to help businesses by approving loans, but also as important, allowing many to defer existing loan payments. A lot of folks are still loaded up with loans that they had from Katrina and other natural disasters down here, so they may need some additional help.

If you’re a small business owner and you weren’t aware of some of the programs that have been put in place or haven’t participated, then, again, the White House website will connect you to the resources you need. And we are making sure that all the parish presidents know, and folks like the mayor, other local officials are going to be aware of how they can get immediate help from us.

What’s more, we’ve stationed doctors and scientists across the five Gulf States to look out for people’s health and then to monitor any ill effects felt by cleanup workers and local residents. And we’ve begun setting up a system to track these efforts – excuse me, to track these effects – and ensure folks get the care that they need. And we’ve told BP that we expect them to pay for that, too.

As I’ve said before, BP is the responsible party for this disaster. What that means is they’re legally responsible for stopping the leak and they’re financially responsible for the enormous damage that they’ve created. And we’re going to hold them accountable, along with any other party responsible for the initial explosion and loss of life on that platform.

But as I said yesterday, and as I repeated in the meeting that we just left, I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I’m the President and the buck stops with me. So I give the people of this community and the entire Gulf my word that we’re going to hold ourselves accountable to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this catastrophe, to defend our natural resources, to repair the damage, and to keep this region on its feet. Justice will be done for those whose lives have been upended by this disaster, for the families of those whose lives have been lost – that is a solemn pledge that I am making.

• Source(s): The White House
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29
May
10

Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion

NEWS
Shell Buys U.S. Gas Assets From East Resources for $4.7 Billion
Saturday, May 29, 2010

••• Royal Dutch Shell, the energy major, has almost doubled its reserves of shale gas with the $4.7 Billion in cash acquisition of East Resources.

East Resources owns and operates more than 2,500 producing oil and gas wells in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Colorado and is actively exploring drilling programs in Wyoming, according to its website. It has been operating in the Marcellus Shale Area for 25 years.

Companies from India’s Reliance Industries Ltd to Japan’s Mitsui & Co are spending billions of dollars on drilling to dislodge natural gas from shale – sedimentary rock composed of mud, quartz and calcite. Shell expects its share of gas in total output to rise to 52 percent in 2012.
“They’ve seen others take material positions in U.S. gas, and this is one way they can also play a part in that business,” said Jason Kenney, head of oil and gas research at ING Commercial Banking in Edinburgh.

The acquisition is the second-biggest oil and gas deal this year, after BP Plc’s acquisition of deepwater assets from Devon Energy Corp for $7 billion in March, according to Bloomberg data.

“We are enhancing our world-wide upstream portfolio for profitable growth, through exploration and focused acquisitions, and through divestment of non-core positions,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser said in a statement today.

Exxon Mobil Corp, the biggest U.S. oil company, agreed in December to buy XTO Energy Inc, the country’s largest natural gas producer, for $31 billion to gain control of shale-gas assets.
• Source(s): Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Bloomberg L.P.
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29
May
10

Apple’s iPad makes global debut

NEWS
Apple’s iPad makes global debut

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thousands of die-hard Apple fans mobbed shops worldwide on Friday as the iPad, called a revolution in personal computing by some and limited and overhyped by others, began its global launch.

Long queues of customers snaked outside Apple shops in Australia and Japan hours before the opening and similar huddled masses turned out at stores in six European countries, including Britain and France.

The iPad – a flat, 9.7 inches black tablet – also went on sale in Canada as part of a global rollout that was pushed back by a month due to huge demand in the United States.

One million iPads were sold in 28 days in the United States after the product’s debut in early April despite mixed reviews from consumers.

The product is the latest from Apple, which dethroned software giant Microsoft this week as the largest U.S. technology company in terms of market value, to create a frenzy.

At Apple’s flagship store in Paris, set in the prestigious mall beneath the Louvre museum, 24-year-old engineer Audrey Sobgou beamed as she walked away with one of the prized tablets.

Sobgou travelled 127 miles from her hometown in Lille, northern France, and waited nearly two hours before stepping inside the busy Apple store.

‘I’m not a victim of hype,’ she insisted. ‘I know Apple products and it’s about the quality, the interface, how it’s designed and what it can do. With elegance and style.’

Hundreds of people queued outside the Paris Apple store hours before it opened.

In Britain, a few dozen enthusiasts waited outside the Apple store in central London at 3am to get their hands on the iPad when it opened five hours later.

Staff escorted the first group of customers one by one up to buy their iPad after they opened the doors, whooping, chanting and cheering.

‘I queued overnight for about 20 hours since midday yesterday but it was very, very worth it,’ Jake Lee, a 17-year-old student from Essex, told AFP, clutching his treasured iPad.

The iPad also went on sale in Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland and will be followed in July by a launch in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Alejandro Barras, manager of the Apple store in downtown Madrid, said his iPad stock sold out one hour after opening.

Apple aficionados in Zurich camped out overnight in front of the store to buy the tablet and download some of the 5000 available apps – the media applications that run on the device.

In Montreal, an 82-year-old man with a long white beard and a beret stood in line with about 100 people, some of whom arrived at the Apple store at 6am.

‘I’m not a fan of gadgets,’ Jean-Maurice Demers told AFP. ‘But I’m involved in several political committees and community groups and I’m tired of dragging around several kilograms of files.’

Prices in Japan and Australia for the basic 16GB iPad are comparable to US prices, although a significant markup by Apple in Britain and continental Europe has triggered grumbling.

In France, wi-fi models sell for between 499 and 699 euros ($613 and $860), with the 3G models going for between 599 and 799 euros ($736 and $982) .

The multi-functional device is tipped by some pundits to revitalise media and publishing, with many major newspapers and broadcasters launching applications.

As well as the five other European countries, Apple plans to bring the iPad to Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore in July.

Apple has declined to reveal the number of pre-orders received for the iPad internationally, but Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky put it at around 600,000.

The iPad has officially gone on sale in Australia, with hundreds of tech lovers snapping up the touchscreen tablet device within minutes of it being released in Sydney.

Over 200 Apple fans braved the chilly Sydney weather overnight to be the first to get their hands on the new technology when the George Street store opened its doors at 08:00 am (AEST) on Friday.

Rahul Koduri, who had been in the line since 02:00 am (AEST) on Thursday, succeeded in his dream of being the first in Australia to purchase the iPad.

The 22-year-old Blacktown resident, who snapped up two iPads, was delighted.

‘It’s fantastic, it was so worth the wait,’ he said, holding up his two shiny iPad boxes.

‘One of these is for me, of course, and the other is for a family member.’

• Source(s): Apple Inc. and Independent Television News (ITN)
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28
May
10

Obama Visits Gulf, Pledges to Stop Leak

NEWS
Obama Visits Gulf, Pledges to Stop Leak

Friday, May 28, 2010

••• President Barack Obama has told the people of the U.S. Gulf Coast they won’t be ‘abandoned’, in his most impassioned remarks yet on the United States’ worst-ever oil spill.

‘To the people of the Gulf Coast, I know you’ve weathered your fair share of trials and tragedy,’ Obama said, in a reference to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 which triggered a botched government response.

‘I know there have been times where you have wondered if you’re being asked to face them alone,’ Obama said on a barrier island off Louisiana during his second tour of disaster hit-areas on Friday.
‘I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone.

‘You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind. The cameras at some point may leave. The media may get tired of the story. But we will not,’ he said.

‘We are on your side, and we will see this through. We’re going to keep at this every day until the leak is stopped, until this coastline is clean, and your communities are made whole again.

‘That’s my promise to you. And that is a promise on behalf of a nation. It is one that we will keep.’
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28
May
10

Sony to challenge Apple in Japan with e-reader

NEWS
Sony to challenge Apple in Japan with e-reader

Friday, May 28, 2010

••• A group of four companies including Sony Corp. has announced the launch of a new firm to facilitate the distribution of digital content for the emerging e-reader market, including Sony’s Reader.

The four companies – Sony, Toppan Printing Co., KDDI Corp. and Asahi Shimbun Co. – jointly announced on Thursday that they are setting up a new company to provide a common base for e-publishing by facilitating the digitization, distribution and promotion of newspaper and other publication content.

“We’d like to provide an opportunity for users to easily access e-publications whenever and wherever they’d like, while establishing a platform where publishers can provide their content with ease,” said a representative of the four companies.

The four firms will jointly form a planning company on July 1, which will be turned into a business corporation by the end of the year for the launch of the new service.

The move has already gained support from a number of major publishers, including Kodansha, Shogakukan, Shueisha and Bungei Shunju – all members of the recently established Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan (EBPAJ). With the new partnership aiming to launch multiple online bookstores, it aspires to seek support from other publishers as well.

Each of the four founding companies will hold 25 percent shares in the new firm, which will be capitalized at 30 million yen. The location of its headquarters has yet to be decided.

Sony, which will release its e-ink-based Reader in Japan later this year, is a “returner” to the country’s e-book market. Though it had attempted to break into the e-book business as early as 1990, a lack of e-book content eventually forced the company to pull out in Japan.

“Things have evolved since then, with completely different content offerings and devices. The time is now ripe,” Sony Electronics Senior Vice President Fujio Noguchi said during a press conference on Thursday.

Regarding Apple Inc.’s release of the iPad tablet computer to the domestic market on Friday, Noguchi said, “I don’t think we got a late start.”

Meanwhile, KDDI will also develop its own e-reader device.

“The market will see a variety of e-reader devices popping up, but they cannot do without 3G cellular connections. We have an advantage in making a foray into the market,” said a KDDI representative.
• Source(s): Sony Corporation (ソニー株式会社)
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28
May
10

Guatemala volcano forces airport closure, kills one

NEWS
Guatemala volcano forces airport closure, kills one

Friday, May 28, 2010

Earth••• Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has declared a state of emergency after a powerful eruption at the southern Pacaya volcano killed one person and forced the international airport to close.

Ash blanketed the region as rocks and lava spewed from the volcano 31 miles south of the capital, as Colom late on Thursday issued the emergency decree lasting at least 15 days for the three departments nearest the eruption, which began on Wednesday night and has since built in intensity.
The La Aurora International Airport was closed to ensure planes were not flying through the volcano’s hazardous ash cloud or landing on the ash-strewn runway, said spokeswoman Monica Monge.

Incoming flights were being diverted to airports in other parts of the country, she told reporters.

About 1600 people were evacuated from the slopes of the volcano, which rises 1.59 miles above sea level in the tropical Central American nation.

The burnt body of Guatelamalan television journalist Anibal Archila was found near the volcano by a colleague, who said the reporter had been unable to escape the raining rocks and other projectiles thrown out in the eruption.

Three children aged seven, nine and 10 are also missing in the area, officials said.

There are 288 volcanoes in Guatemala, eight of which are active.
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28
May
10

BP’s Gulf Oil Spill Worst in U.S. History

NEWS
BP’s Gulf Oil Spill Worst in U.S. History

Friday, May 28, 2010

Earth

••• BP’s oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is the worst spill in U.S. history, a government panel says.

Marcia McNutt, of the U.S. Geological Survey, said the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon has eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, and could be flowing at a rate nearly four times BP’s recent estimates.

BP has estimated some 5,000 barrels – totalling about 795,000 litres – have been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every day, but some scientists have given estimates of up to 20 times more with the U.S. Geological Survey now putting the figure at 12,000 barrels.
Some 260,000 barrels of oil in total were released in the Exxon Valdez disaster.

If the panel’s calculations are accurate, a total of at least 260,000 barrels of oil have spilled into the ocean by May 17.

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said more than 100 miles of the state’s 400-mile coast was now affected.
President Obama will make an announcement later on strict new regulations for oil drilling in U.S. waters.

After several failed attempts to plug the leak, BP has been using the ‘top kill’ procedure, which involves pumping mud and cement into the oil well.

The LA Times reported that the operation to stem the flow of oil had worked but BP’s chief executive said the firm remained cautious about the chances of success.

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28
May
10

Whatever is necessary to protect and restore the Gulf Coast

NEWS
Whatever is necessary to protect and restore the Gulf Coast

Friday, May 28, 2010

••• U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled tough moves to suspend new oil drilling and exploration following the Gulf of Mexico disaster, while denying the government was too slow to tackle the crisis.

After reviewing an Interior Department report into the massive oil spill, Obama outlined four steps to prevent such an accident from happening again including suspending 33 deepwater exploratory wells being drilled in the Gulf.

‘If nothing else, this disaster should serve as a wakeup call,’ the US president told a press conference, as official data showed the five-week-old spill was now the worst in U.S. history.
The government was extending an existing moratorium on deepwater drilling as well as suspending the issuing of new permits for six months, Obama said, as expert data said the oil was gushing at up to four times previous estimates.

Planned exploration in two locations off the coast of Alaska was suspended, and ‘we will cancel the pending lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico and the proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia,’

And Obama added ‘we will suspend action on 33 deepwater exploratory wells currently being drilled in the Gulf of Mexico.’

He was speaking as BP’s risky ‘top kill’ of the ruptured Deepwater Horizon well, which exploded on April 20 and then sank, appeared to stop the oil flow on Thursday.
Coast Guard chief Thad Allen, who is coordinating the US government’s battle against spill, said the ‘top kill’ maneuver begun on Wednesday by BP to plug the leak had stopped the gush of oil from the mile-deep well.

But he cautioned it was still too early to declare victory as the British energy giant pumps heavy drilling liquids, dubbed mud, into the fractured wellhead to beat back the flow of oil, before sealing it with concrete.

Unveiling new data, government scientists said the oil had been gushing from the burst pipe at a rate of between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day – much higher than the initial estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

Under such a scenario, that would mean that between 18.6 million gallons to 29.5 million gallons of oil have seeped into the Gulf.

Obama said the disaster showed the need to develop renewable energy sources, but dismissed charges the government had acted too slowly in the crisis.

‘The United States government has always been in charge of making sure that the response is appropriate,’ Obama said 37 days after the blowout at the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon well.

‘This notion that somehow the federal government is sitting on the sidelines and for the last three or four or five weeks we’ve just been letting BP make a whole bunch of decisions is simply not true,’ he said.
‘This entire White House and this entire federal government has been singularly focused on how do we stop the leak and how do we prevent and mitigate the damage to our coastlines,’ he said.

But the U.S. president said that ‘more than anything else this economic and environmental tragedy, and it’s a tragedy, underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean renewable sources of energy.’

He added it was time to move forward on legislation to promote renewable energy sources.

‘It’s time to accelerate the competition with countries like China who have already realised the future lies in renewable energy and it’s time to seize that future ourselves.’
• Source(s): The White House

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27
May
10

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces new privacy tools

NEWS
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces new privacy tools
Your privacy is important to us!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Facebook on Wednesday overhauled its privacy controls to fend off mounting criticism that it is betraying the trust that has made it the world’s biggest online social-networking service.

‘It’s been a pretty intense few weeks for us, listening to all the feedback coming in from all the changes we’ve made,’ Facebook’s 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg said as he unveiled simplified privacy controls.

‘Our teams internally have been cranking for the last couple of weeks.’

Facebook unveiled a redesigned privacy settings page to provide a single control for content and ‘significantly reduce’ the amount of information that is always visible to everyone.

Facebook also said it is giving users more control over how outside applications or websites access information at the service.

‘This is a pretty big overhaul to the system we already have,’ Zuckerberg said while outlining the changes during a press briefing at the social network’s headquarters in the California city of Palo Alto.

‘Now we are making it so there is less information that has to be public. People want a simple way to control the way information is shared with third parties, so that is what we are doing.’

The revamped privacy controls will roll out in the coming days, according to Zuckerberg.

Facebook last month sparked criticism from U.S. privacy and consumer groups, U.S. lawmakers and the European Union by adding the ability for partner websites to incorporate data regarding members of the social-networking service.

Zuckerberg was adamant that Facebook does not give advertisers access to members’ personal information.
• Source(s): Facebook Inc.
Facebook Blog
Privacy Settings
Mark Zuckerberg on ‘Making Control Simple’

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27
May
10

Second Iceland volcano could erupt in near future

NEWS
Second Iceland volcano could erupt in near future
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Earth••• An Icelandic volcano neighbouring Eyjafjoell, whose eruptions paralysed Europe’s skies last month, could come to life in the near future, experts have warned.

‘An eruption in the short term is a strong possibility,’ experts said, referring to Katla, which is larger and fiercer than Eyjafjoell, in a report from the University College London (UCL) institute for risk and disaster reduction.

The researchers also cautioned that Europe’s skies were likely to be hit by further ash cloud shutdowns, following April’s widespread closures and several smaller scale shutdowns since.

The report warned that ‘future moderately to highly explosive Icelandic eruptions combined with appropriate weather conditions are highly likely to cause a repeat of the recent air transport disruption.’

The Eyjafjoell volcano began erupting on April 14, and spewed out an ash cloud that drifted over Europe and led to massive flight disruption throughout the continent for several days.

It caused the biggest airspace shutdown in Europe since World War II, affecting more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.
The UCL experts – encompassing scientists, engineers and statisticians also criticised the response to the eruption.

‘The severe disruption to European airspace in April from (the volcano’s) ash clouds reflect a lack of integration between the monitoring, warning and risk management systems,’ said Carina Fearnley, of UCL’s hazard research centre.

In a second report released on Thursday, a team of British researchers said they had discovered a significant electrical charge in the ash plume.

The scientists, from the Institute of Physics, said they found that ‘the ash plume which hovered over Scotland carried a significant and self-renewing electric charge.’

They warned that the charge could pose a risk to both planes and passengers.

‘Charged particles can cause aircraft radio interference and, if introduced into aircraft cabins, charged ash may present an electrostatic hazard to occupants or aircraft systems,’ said the report.

The scientists used a specialist weather balloon to conduct research on a section of the ash cloud floating over Scotland.
• Source(s): University College London

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27
May
10

Apple iPad makes international debut

NEWS
Apple iPad makes international debut

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Apple’s iPad finally goes on sale outside the United States this week after heavy U.S. demand for the multi-media gadget forced a one-month delay of its international release.

The touchscreen tablet device from the maker of the Macintosh computer, the iPod and the iPhone will be available on Friday in stores in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.

The Cupertino, California-based Apple plans to bring the iPad to Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July.

The company co-founded by Steve Jobs had planned to begin selling the iPad internationally in late April but was forced to delay the global debut of the device because of what it said was ‘surprisingly strong U.S. demand.’

Apple said earlier this month that it sold one million iPads in the first 28 days it was available in the United States, less than half the time it took for the company to sell the same number of iPhones.

More than 5000 applications have been developed for the iPad, according to an Apple spokesman, in addition to the 200,000 programs already available for the iPhone or the iPod Touch, most of which run on the iPad.

A Wi-Fi version of the iPad, which allows users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the web or read electronic books, went on sale in the United States on April 3 for $499.

A more expensive model featuring both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular connectivity appeared on U.S. store shelves on April 30 for $829.

Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky estimated that Apple is selling over 200,000 iPads a week — more than its estimated Macintosh sales of 110,000 a week and its estimated iPhone 3GS sales of 246,000 a week.

Apple has declined to reveal the number of pre-orders received for the iPad internationally but Abramsky put it at around 600,000.

The U.S. sales figures indicate the iPad is a hit but success did not appear guaranteed when Apple’s Jobs unveiled the device at a high-profile media event in San Francisco in January.

‘There were plenty of questions before the iPad launch and quite a mixed reaction to it when it was released,’ said Gartner analyst Charles Smulders.

Critics derided it as a ‘big iPhone’ without a phone or a camera and bemoaned its inability to play Adobe’s popular Flash video software.

But the iPad appears to have won over the public with a hip advertising campaign and curious consumers can be seen lining up daily to play with tethered models of the device on display at Apple stores around the country.

‘Aside from the design, a key to its success has been getting the product into the hands of consumers,’ Smulders said.

‘With a new category of product like this it is difficult to understand its value unless you try it.

‘Apple has done a great job seeding the market.’

Ben Reitzes of Barclays Capital said he sees potential for the iPad beyond the consumer market.

‘Even corporations are piloting the device at a pace that surprises us,’ Reitzes said. ‘At the very least we believe the device can tap into the corporate market as a ‘log in’ device that accesses the network.

‘Many of our clients are increasingly using, or intend to use, the device as a reader for research as well,’ he said.

With success comes competition and imitation.

U.S. computer giant Dell plans to begin selling its own tablet computer, the “Streak,” which has a five-inch (12.5 cm) screen compared with the iPad’s 9.7 inches (24.6 cm), in Britain in June and in the United States later in the summer.

And another U.S. computer giant, Hewlett-Packard, recently announced plans to acquire struggling U.S. mobile phone maker Palm and is expected to use its WebOS operating system to develop a tablet computer of its own.
• Source(s): Apple Inc.

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26
May
10

BP Engineers Draw Up Plans for ‘Top Kill’

NEWS
BP Engineers Draw Up Plans for ‘Top Kill’

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Earth

••• BP began its “top kill” procedure overnight to try to cap the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after previous efforts to stem the flow failed.

The process began around 02:00 pm CDT and was expected to continue, BP said.

A “top kill” procedure involves pumping mud and cement into the leaking well to stop the flow of oil.

Rear Admiral Mary Landry, the U.S. government’s on-scene coordinator, granted approval for BP to begin their attempt to cap the well, the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command said.
“This expedited step provides the final authorization necessary to begin the procedure.”

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, engulfing it in fire and killing 11 workers. The rig sank two days later.

BP has estimated the amount of oil leaking into the gulf at 5000 barrels a day. Some independent experts have said that the amount could be as much as 10 times higher.
• Source(s): Associated Press
» BP: Live video link from the ROV monitoring the damaged riser
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25
May
10

AT&T Launches Wi-Fi Zone in NYC’s Time Square

NEWS
AT&T Launches Wi-Fi Zone in NYC’s Time Square

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

••• AT&T today announced the launch of an AT&T Wi-Fi “hotzone” in New York City’s Times Square. The pilot comes as AT&T looks for offload strategies in major markets like Manhattan and San Francisco, where the carrier has admitted its network performance has suffered.

AT&T has installed Wi-Fi service in the north central part of Times Square, near 7th Avenue between 45th and 47th Street. The effect is a large outdoor hotspot zone that AT&T users can access using any Wi-Fi enabled device. The ATT Wi-Fi hotzone at Times Square is available at no additional charge.

“With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we’re examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection to do what matters most to them,” said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer, in a statement.

AT&T claims that it has seen mobile data traffic growth of 5,000 percent over the past three years. As a result, the company has been experimenting with technologies like 3G MicroCell devices for homes, distributed Antenna System networks to extend 3G coverage in stadiums, convention halls and other areas where people congregate; and temporary network enhancements to support one-time events and emergency situations.

Pressed to find a solution to the 5,000% growth in its mobile data traffic, AT&T said Tuesday it is exploring establishing public Wi-Fi “hotzones” to relieve pressure on its mobile phone network, most of it caused by iPhone users.

AT&T said it has launched a “pilot deployment” in New York City’s Times Square, the nation’s symbolic public crossroads.

Wi-Fi hotspots have been proliferating in New York City, but most of them are for use by customers already paying for other services. For instance, Cablevision, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable currently offer Wi-Fi service across a vast New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, but users must already be a paid customer of one of the providers.

AT&T itself has some 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots that can be utilized by users who have an AT&T service. The Times Square service is free to AT&T customers with certain smartphones, laptops, and AT&T Internet plans.

With the Federal Communications Commission already sounding the alarm of an approaching “spectrum crisis” due largely to the rapid proliferation of smartphones and their insatiable thirst for data, carriers are seeking ways to encourage subscribers to use non-carrier spectrum. The FCC has suggested that Wi-Fi and femtocells be utilized to ease the spectrum crunch. AT&T recently began marketing its 3G MicroCell femtocell devices to its customers.

AT&T, which has an exclusive contract to market Apple’s popular – and data-guzzling – iPhone, has seen its mobile traffic grow 5,000% in three years and the New York City area has been particularly affected.

“With this pilot AT&T Wi-Fi hotzone, we’re examining new ways to combine our Wi-Fi and 3G networks to help ensure that AT&T customers in Times Square always have a fast mobile broadband connection,” said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer, in a statement. “It’s another example of how AT&T is exploring the ideal blend of technologies to maximize the mobile experience for our customers in New York City.”

Verizon Wireless offers a public area Wi-Fi service to many of its customers through a partnership with Boingo. If Verizon eventually markets an iPhone, as is rumored, the development would take at least some of the spectrum pressure off AT&T.
• Source(s): AT&T

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24
May
10

BP vows $500 million to study impact of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

NEWS
BP vows $500 million to study impact of Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Monday, May 24, 2010

Earth••• Oil giant BP has pledged up to $500 million to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon rig spill on the Gulf of Mexico environment.

The pledge has come as BP faces mounting pressure to check the massive oil leak, after the government threatened to take over the response to the month-old disaster.

A 10-year research program will study topics including how oil and the chemicals used to disperse it were affected by ocean currents, and how they were dispersed in the sea and on shore.

‘BP has made a commitment to doing everything we can to lessen the impact of this tragic incident on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast,’ BP chief executive Tony Hayward said in a statement on Monday.
‘We must make every effort to understand that impact. This will be a key part of the process of restoration, and for improving the industry response capability for the future.’

And he said: ‘There is an urgent need to ensure that the scientific community has access to the samples and the raw data it needs to begin this work.’

The research program would also examine how accidental oil spills compare to natural seepage from the seabed, whether chemicals used to disperse the oil helped or hindered biodegradation, and what can be done to improve technology.

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. Ever since, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil, perhaps even millions, have spewed each day into the sea, threatening marine and shore-based wildlife, fishing industries and tourism.
» BP: Live video link from the ROV monitoring the damaged riser
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24
May
10

BP losing Gulf of Mexico oil rig spill battle

NEWS
BP losing Gulf of Mexico oil rig spill battle

Monday, May 24, 2010

Earth••• A top U.S. official has warned he’s not confident in British energy giant BP’s ability to solve the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar insisted the full force of the federal government was bearing down on BP, which is legally responsible for dealing with the ruptured pipe gushing oil from the wreckage of an offshore rig.

‘I have no question that BP is throwing everything at the problem to try to resolve it because this is an existential crisis for one of the world’s largest companies,’ Salazar said.

‘Do I have confidence that they know exactly what they’re doing? No, not completely.’
Salazar said he had been good to his word when it came to ensuring the British oil giant was fully committed in responding to the environmental disaster and indicated the government would step in if required.

‘If we find that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, we’ll push them out of the way appropriately and we’ll move forward to make sure that everything is being done to protect the people of the Gulf Coast, the ecological values of the Gulf Coast, and the values of the American people.’

Salazar noted the federal government had sent a team of scientific ‘all-stars that are now leading an Apollo 13-type effort’ to BP’s Houston headquarters.

‘They have pushed BP in every way that they can to kill the well and they have pushed BP in every way that they can to stop the pollution,’ he said.

‘If there is a way to kill this well, they will find it. If there is a way to stop this pollution from spreading, they will find it.’
‘The best option at the moment is to proceed with a ‘top kill’ which involves injecting heavy drilling fluids into the ruptured pipe, Salazar said.

‘Originally scheduled to begin on Sunday, it has now been delayed until Wednesday as a result of the complexity of positioning the equipment 1 mile below sea level for an operation that has never been done at such depths.

”Once the procedure is triggered, what you will see quickly is a set of decisions that lead down a number of different pathways,’ Salazar said.

”If top kill succeeds, the deal is over and we just move forward into what is essentially then a program of dealing with the oil that has spilled and protecting the ecological resources of the Gulf.

”If top kill fails, it triggers another set of plans that will be effectuating quickly.’

‘Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have entered Gulf waters since the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that claimed 11 workers’ lives.
‘Independent experts have warned that the true size of the spill could be at least ten times higher.

‘Salazar said the nation’s top scientists were also working to get an accurate estimate on the flow rate out of the ruptured pipe and the actual size of the slick.

”Do I trust BP?’ Salazar said in response to a journalist’s question. ‘The fact is, this incident was never supposed to happen in the first place, because there was a number of different fail-safe arrangements that were supposed to be in place.’

‘While the incident is still being investigated, Salazar said a number of things went wrong: ‘Bad cementing, bad casing, bad blowout preventers, bad lots of things that went wrong here.’

”Those are BP’s responsibilities along with the rest of its contractors,’ he warned a day after President Barack Obama hinted for the first time criminal charges could be laid.
» BP: Live video link from the ROV monitoring the damaged riser
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23
May
10

No activity at Iceland volcano, eruption could be over

NEWS
No activity at Iceland volcano, eruption could be over

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Earth••• A geophysicist says Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano is no longer in activity raising hopes the eruption which has heavily disrupted European flights for more than a month could be over.

Magnus Gudmundsson (Professor of Geophysics) of Iceland University says he can confirm the activity of the crater has stopped and no magma is coming up.

However he’s cautioned it’s too early to tell whether this is the end of the eruption or just a temporary stop in activity.

The volcano began erupting on April 14 and during its highest activity peak in the week after it began erupting it released enough ash to cause the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II affecting more than 100-thousand flights and eight million passengers.
• Source(s): University of Iceland
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23
May
10

British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

NEWS
British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

Sunday, May 23, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways cabin crew will go ahead with a wave of strikes from tomorrow after hopes of a last-minute deal collapsed.

The British Airways cabin crew strike set to start at midnight will be suspended if Willie Walsh reinstates staff travel perks, Unite joint leader Tony Woodley has said.

In a last-minute appeal to the BA chief executive outside the union’s HQ in London, Mr. Woodley said he was ‘making a goodwill gesture to the public’.

He added: ‘As a sign of good faith, I’m making this offer now to Willie Walsh.

‘Turn round and reinstate our people’s travel without the unnecessary, vindictive removal of their service and this union will call off tonight’s strike and suspend the action.’

Earlier, it was announced the first of three five-day walkouts will go ahead after a ‘catastrophic’ breakdown in negotiations.

It was thought Mr. Woodley had told union officials there was no chance of resuming talks after the previous meeting was dramatically halted by a Socialist Workers Party protest.

Union sources claimed Mr. Walsh withdrew from further talks this morning – but the airline has said it is ‘willing, available and able’ to return to the negotiating table.

However, now Mr. Woodley has said a deal is ‘very close’ and ‘an agreement in principle on the business issues’ had been reached.

In a sideswipe at the protesters, Mr. Woodley said ‘fantastic progress’ had been made before the meeting was ‘rudely interrupted by our friends from the SWP’.

Only this morning, the BA boss had said there was still ‘an opportunity’ to avoid a strike – but warned contingency plans are in place.
‘British Airways will be flying tomorrow. We will not be grounded by the actions of a tiny minority who are clearly out of touch with reality,’ he told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show.

‘If the strike goes ahead at midnight we are ready.’

Speaking outside Heathrow Airport, Sky News’ Simon Newton said: ‘BA says it plans to operate 60% of long-haul and 50% of short-haul flights out of Heathrow.

‘The advice for passengers is to check with the British Airways website.’

There was a further twist when BA accused Unite’s other joint leader, Derek Simpson, of giving a ‘running commentary’ of the discussions via Twitter.

Mr. Walsh told Marr he had been ‘shocked and angry’ to learn of the tweets, adding: ‘That really does undermine the discussions that took place.
‘If it wasn’t for Derek’s actions and clearly then the mob storming the building, we may have been able to make significant progress.’

The messages which appeared on Twitter were posted under the name derekamicus next to a picture of Mr. Simpson.

One read: ‘Willie and Tony locking horns over accusations of unequal treatment of allegations of bullying.’

It was followed by another which read: ‘Arguments over the 8 sacked workers,’ and then: ‘Fear of more sackings to come.’

But Mr. Woodley said: ‘Never mind travelling the airwaves on Twitter, let’s deal with the issues that matter to the British travelling public.’
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp. and British Airways PLC

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