Archive for May 22nd, 2010

22
May
10

Facebook preparing to make changes to privacy settings in response to criticism

NEWS
Facebook preparing to make changes to privacy settings in response to criticism

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facebook on Saturday said it plans to simplify privacy controls at the popular social-networking service to appease critics.

‘We’ve spent the last couple of weeks listening to users and consulting with experts in California; Washington, DC, and around the world,’ Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in response to an AFP inquiry.

‘The messages we’ve received are pretty clear. Users appreciate having precise and comprehensive controls, but want them to be simpler and easier to use.’

Facebook contended that members like new programs rolled out at the California-based internet hotspot but want easy ways to opt out of sharing personal information with third-party applications or websites.

‘We’re listening to this input and incorporating it into innovations we hope to announce shortly,’ Noyes said.

Facebook has been under fire from U.S. privacy and consumer groups, U.S. lawmakers and the European Union over new features that critics claim compromise the privacy of its more than 400 million members.

The features introduced last month include the ability for partner websites to incorporate Facebook data, a move that would further expand the social network’s presence on the internet.
Four U.S. senators, in a letter to Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, said they were worried that personal information about Facebook users is being made available to third party websites.

The senators also expressed concerns that ‘Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private’.

Sharing personal information should be an ‘opt-in’ procedure in which a user specifically gives permission for data to be shared, privacy advocates argue.

Coming Facebook refinements are not expected to include a shift to an opt-in model.

Facebook vice president of global communications Elliot Schrage has been adamant that online privacy is taken very seriously at the company.

‘These new products and features are designed to enhance personalisation and promote social activity across the internet while continuing to give users unprecedented control over what information they share, when they want to share it, and with whom,’ Schrage said.

MySpace on May 17 announced plans to simplify its privacy settings as it seeks to differentiate itself from social network rival Facebook, which has eclipsed the News Corp-owned social networking service.

‘The last few weeks have been fraught with discussion around user privacy on social networks,’ MySpace co-president Mike Jones said in a blog post without directly mentioning Facebook by name.

‘While MySpace at its core is about discovery, self expression and sharing, we understand people might want the option of limiting the sharing of their information to a select group of friends,’ Jones said.
Jones said MySpace, which was bought by News Corp. in 2005 for $580 million, is ‘planning the launch of a simplified privacy setting for our user profiles.

‘While we’ve had these plans in the works for some time, given the recent outcry over privacy concerns in the media, we felt it was important to unveil those plans to our users now,’ he said.
• Source(s): Facebook Inc. and MySpace / Digital Media Group / News Corporation
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22
May
10

Obama forms commission to probe oil spill

NEWS
Obama forms commission to probe oil spill

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Earth

••• An independent presidential commission has been set up to probe the huge oil spill from a wrecked BP-leased rig in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday.

The main task of the bipartisan body, formed by an executive order, is to provide recommendations on how the oil industry can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

‘Now, this catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature, and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address,’ Obama said in his weekly radio address as he announced the formation of the commission.

‘But the question is what lessons we can learn from this disaster to make sure it never happens again.’
Two-term Florida governor and former senator Bob Graham, a Democrat, and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William Reilly, a Republican, will serve as co-chairmen of the seven-member body, Obama said.

‘I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand,’ the president pointed out.

He said he will appoint the remaining five members of the panel in coming days. It will include scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates, but no sitting government employees or elected officials.

Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have flowed into the water since the April 20 explosion that heavily damaged a Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by energy giant BP in the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people.

Obama said his administration had deployed more than 1100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel and more than two million feet of protective boom to help contain the spill.

‘And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them,’ he noted.

The environmental disaster has prompted calls for a halt in offshore drilling.

But Obama all but brushed off this option, saying he had promised to put the country on the path to energy independence and has ‘not wavered from that commitment’ despite the giant spill.
» BP: Live video link from the ROV monitoring the damaged riser
» Related: Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission
» Related: BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day
• Source(s): The White House
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22
May
10

Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission

NEWS
Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama announced that he has signed an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling with former two-term Florida Governor and former Senator Bob Graham and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly serving as co-chairs.

The bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling is tasked with providing recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

• The commission will be focused on the necessary environmental and safety precautions we must build into our regulatory framework in order to ensure an accident like this never happens again, taking into account the other investigations concerning the causes of the spill.
• The commission will have bipartisan co-chairs with a total membership of seven people. Membership will include broad and diverse representation of individuals with relevant expertise. No sitting government employees or elected officials will sit on the commission.
• The Commission’s work will be transparent and subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Commission will issue a report within six months of having been convened.

President Obama named the following individuals as Co-Chairs of National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:

Senator Bob Graham is the former two–term governor of Florida and served for 18 years in the United States Senate. Senator Graham is recognized for his leadership on issues ranging from healthcare and environmental preservation to his ten years of service on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence — including eighteen months as chairman in 2001–2002. After retiring from public life in January 2005, Senator Graham served for a year as a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. From May 2008 to February 2010, he served as Chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism whose mandate was to build on the work of the 9/11 Commission. Senator Graham was also appointed to serve as a Commissioner on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, established by Congress to examine the global and domestic causes of the recent financial crisis. The Commission will provide its findings and conclusions in a final report due to Congress on December 15, 2010. He also serves as a member of the CIA External Advisory Board and the chair of the Board of Overseers of the Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida. Senator Graham has been recognized by national and Florida organizations for his public service including The Woodrow Wilson Institute award for Public Service, The National Park Trust Public Service award and The Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame. Senator Graham earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and an LLB from Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of an honorary doctorate of public service from his alma mater, the University of Florida, and honorary doctorates from Pomona College and Nova Southeastern University.

William K. Reilly is a Founding Partner of Aqua International Partners, LP, a private equity fund dedicated to investing in companies engaged in water and renewable energy, and a Senior Advisor to TPG Capital, LP, an international investment partnership. Mr. Reilly served as the first Payne Visiting Professor at Stanford University (1993-1994), Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1989-1993), president of the World Wildlife Fund (1985-1989), president of The Conservation Foundation (1973-1989), and director of the Rockefeller Task Force on Land Use and Urban Growth from (1972-1973). He also served as the head of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Earth Summit at Rio in 1992. Mr. Reilly is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of the World Wildlife Fund, Co-Chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy, Chairman of the Board of the Climate Works Foundation, Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and a Director of the Packard Foundation and the National Geographic Society and a member of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force. He also serves on the Board of Directors of DuPont, Conoco Phillips, Royal Caribbean International and Energy Future Holdings, for which he serves as Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Advisory Board. In 2007 Mr. Reilly was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds a B.A. degree from Yale, J.D. from Harvard and M.S. in Urban Planning from Columbia University.

One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster.

In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them.

Folks on the Gulf Coast – and across America – are rightly demanding swift action to clean up BP’s mess and end this ordeal. But they’re also demanding to know how this happened in the first place, and how we can make sure it never happens again. That’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes talking with you about.

First and foremost, what led to this disaster was a breakdown of responsibility on the part of BP and perhaps others, including Transocean and Halliburton. And we will continue to hold the relevant companies accountable not only for being forthcoming and transparent about the facts surrounding the leak, but for shutting it down, repairing the damage it does, and repaying Americans who’ve suffered a financial loss.

But even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable. Now, this catastrophe is unprecedented in its nature, and it presents a host of new challenges we are working to address. But the question is what lessons we can learn from this disaster to make sure it never happens again.

If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws – I want to know it. I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down. We know, for example, that a cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and agencies that regulate them has long been a source of concern.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has taken steps to address this problem; steps that build on reforms he has been implementing since he took office. But we need to do a lot more to protect the health and safety of our people; to safeguard the quality of our air and water; and to preserve the natural beauty and bounty of America.

In recent weeks, we’ve taken a number of immediate measures to prevent another spill. We’ve ordered inspections of all deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve announced that no permits for drilling new wells will go forward until the 30-day safety and environmental review I requested is complete. And I’ve called on Congress to pass a bill that would provide critical funds and tools to respond to this spill and better prepare us to confront any future spills.

But we also need to take a comprehensive look at how the oil and gas industry operates and how we regulate them. That is why, on Friday, I signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. While there are a number of ongoing investigations, including an independent review by the National Academy of Engineering, the purpose of this Commission is to consider both the root causes of the disaster and offer options on what safety and environmental precautions we need to take to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. This Commission, I’d note, is similar to one proposed by Congresswoman Capps and Senator Whitehouse.

I’ve asked Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Bill Reilly to co-chair this Commission. Bob served two terms as Florida’s governor, and represented Florida as a United States Senator for almost two decades. During that time, he earned a reputation as a champion of the environment, leading the most extensive environmental protection effort in the state’s history.

Bill Reilly is chairman emeritus of the board of the World Wildlife Fund, and he is also deeply knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry. During the presidency of George H.W. Bush, Bill was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his tenure encompassed the Exxon Valdez disaster.

I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand. In the days to come, I’ll appoint 5 other distinguished Americans – including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates – to join them on the Commission. And I’m directing them to report back in 6 months with recommendations on how we can prevent – and mitigate the impact of – any future spills that result from offshore drilling.

One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America.

Thanks so much.

» Related: Obama forms commission to probe oil spill
» Related: BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day
• Source(s): The White House
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22
May
10

BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day

NEWS
BP oil spill clean-up costs spiral to $33 million a day

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Earth••• BP is facing increasing financial pressure as clean-up costs following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill spiral to $33 million a day.

Amid rising anger over a huge oil slick hitting U.S. shores, BP officials on Friday denied botching the month-long clean-up and deliberately hiding the true extent of the spill.

As Grand Isle, Louisiana, closed its seven-mile beach to clean up an orange-liquidy slick washing ashore, the British energy giant once again postponed an operation aimed at permanently stopping the leak.

The ‘top-kill’ operation to inject heavy drilling fluids into the ruptured well, a month after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and then seal it permanently with cement, will now not take place until Tuesday at the earliest instead of at the weekend.

Just how much oil is gushing daily from the rig’s wreckage has been a contentious issue, with BP initially putting the figure at 5000 barrels.

‘That was not just BP’s estimate. That was the estimate of the in-flight command, including NOAA and the Coast Guard. That’s the best estimate we have,’ BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles told ABC television Friday.

But in further confusing comments, BP also radically slashed by more than half its figures for how much of the oil it is siphoning up daily from the ruptured well via a 1 mile insertion tube.
BP spokesman John Curry said it now estimated some 92,400 gallons of oil had been diverted from the well in the 24 hours before midnight on Thursday.

That would mean BP is sucking up only 2,200 barrels daily from the pipe, not the 5,000 barrels it had estimated on Thursday.

Coast Guard commandant Thad Allen later told reporters that the flow was variable, fluctuating from a low rate of 2000 barrels a day to a high of 5,000 barrels.

Live webcam pictures showed more oil continuing to spew into the Gulf from the ruptured well — as visitors flocked to BP’s site to watch the video.

Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have flowed into the water since the disaster.

And independent experts have warned the flow could be at least 10 times higher than the current estimates.

Suttles sought to quell the growing anger among the US administration, telling ABC television that BP had already spent $700 million on the clean-up.

‘We’ve mounted the largest response ever done in the world. We put 20,000 people at this.
‘I understand the anger. But I can tell you, I don’t know of anything, absolutely anything we could be doing that we’re not doing,’ he said.

But he also revised the timetable for when BP would attempt its latest bid to stop the leak, the ‘top kill’ operation.

‘Our current forecast for when this operation will take place is sometime in the early part of next week. The best estimate is Tuesday,’ Suttles told reporters.

He added the operation was very complex and was being carried out by robotic submarines positioning the equipment on the seabed a mile down.

Meanwhile, the White House also insisted it was doing everything it could.

‘We are facing a disaster the magnitude of which we likely have never seen before… We are doing everything humanly possible and technologically possible to deal with that,’ said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

He said, however, that the government was ill equipped to deal with the disaster.

‘The technical expertise to clean up and deal with the equipment that is 5,000 feet below the surface of the sea, that’s equipment that BP has… that other oil companies have. That is not not based on equipment that the federal government has in storage.’
» Related: Weekly Address: BP Spill Independent Commission
» Related: Obama forms commission to probe oil spill
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