Archive for June, 2010

30
Jun
10

Hurricane Alex threatens Mexico, Texas coasts

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Hurricane Alex threatens Mexico, Texas coasts

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Earth

••• U.S. President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Texas as Alex strengthened into a hurricane, disrupting oil cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama’s move allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to co-ordinate all disaster relief efforts, a White House statement says.

It came as Alex forced the suspension of oil skimming operations from the disastrous BP spill as visiting Vice President Joe Biden heard complaints about the pace of cleanup efforts in the disaster zone.

Ten weeks after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform exploded, setting off the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Biden was given an earful from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal about the slow response.

Some 413 miles of once-pristine shorelines have been oiled, as well as countless birds and other wildlife, since the rig sank on April 22.

Since then crude has gushed at an alarming rate into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving the region’s vital fishing and tourism industries in tatters.
Meanwhile, the State Department announced that the United States will accept offers from 12 foreign countries to help clean up and contain the spill.

Offers of booms have been accepted from Canada, Japan, Mexico and Norway; skimmers have been accepted from France, Japan, Mexico and Norway; and a sweeping arm system has been accepted from the Netherlands, a spokeswoman told AFP.

On his trip to the region, Biden was greeted by protesters holding signs reading ‘oil kills’ as he entered a command centre in New Orleans for an hour-long briefing before meeting with local fishermen.

He also travelled to the Florida panhandle, where the slick has forced authorities to close down some of the area’s fabled white sand beaches.

Jindal, a Republican who has been highly critical of the federal response, asked Biden for help cutting through red tape and deploying more resources to keep the oil from coating fragile coastal wetlands and fishing grounds.

‘The federal government needs to increase their sense of urgency,’ Jindal said in a statement after meeting with Biden.

‘They need to treat this spill like a war and get in it to win it. We’re here to defend our way of life.’

At the leak site 50 miles offshore, winds of up to 22 knots churned up large waves that made it too rough for crews to deploy a third vessel set to nearly double the capacity of BP’s containment system.

The now-delayed Helix Producer was set to increase the capacity to gather the gushing oil to between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels per day by early July, from the current 25,000 barrels.
The current containment system is capturing nearly 25,000 of the estimated 30,000 to 60,000 barrels of crude spewing out of the ruptured well every day.

That could all end up gushing directly into the sea if Alex – which is forecast to pass hundreds of kilometres from the site and strike land near the Texas-Mexico border late on Wednesday – changes path and threatens a more direct hit on the slick.

Forecasters are not predicting such a dramatic shift. But U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is overseeing the spill response, said that even the threat of gale force winds – upward of 45 mph – would be enough to force drilling and containment ships to withdraw.

Alex’s winds late on Tuesday had reached 75 mph, with higher gusts, and the storm was expected to strengthen before making landfall on Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Centre said.

Hurricane force winds extend outward only about 30km from the centre but tropical storm force winds extend up to 174 miles, according to the NHC.

In the event of an evacuation, operations will be shut down for about two weeks to ‘take down the equipment, move it off to a safe place, bring it back and re-establish drilling’, Allen said.

That would be another major setback for the ill-fated oil collection effort, and would probably delay until September the completion of relief wells designed to permanently plug the well.

An estimated 1.6 million to 3.6 million barrels of oil have already poured into the Gulf from the ruptured wellhead some 1 mile below the surface.

BP hopes a new mooring system will make the containment cap deep down on the sea floor easier to disconnect and reconnect in the case of bad weather – a vital contingency as hurricane season gets into full swing.

The rough seas have already shifted parts of the slick closer to sensitive areas in Florida and Louisiana and could also push the oil deeper into fragile coastal wetlands.

Waves at the site of the sunken BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig were up to two metres, a Coast Guard spokesman told AFP.
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• Source(s): NOAA / National Weather Service (NWS)
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30
Jun
10

Obama slams Republicans over BP ‘apology’ and economy

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Obama slams Republicans over BP ‘apology’ and economy

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

••• U.S. President Barack Obama lampooned Republicans over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on Wednesday, seeking to turn a disaster that has been a political liability for him into a political weapon.

Obama cited a gaffe by a leading Republican politician who said the US government’s hardline tactics were a ‘tragedy’ for BP, to lambast the opposition party as the pace heats up ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

He said some Republicans opposed raising the legal cap on liabilities BP must pay to clean-up America’s worst environmental disaster and a $20 billion BP escrow compensation fund for businesses victimised by it.

‘The top Republican on the energy committee even had the nerve to apologise to BP for the fact that we made them set up this fund,’ Obama said in remarks released by the White House prior to a presidential event in Wisconsin.

‘Apologise to BP! He actually called the fund a tragedy. A tragedy? A tragedy is what the people of the Gulf are going through right now.

‘That’s the tragedy. And our government has a responsibility to hold the corporations accountable that caused it. They want to take us backwards. We want to move forward.’

Democrats are mercilessly using comments by Republican Representative Joe Barton, who offered them a golden opening by apologising to BP for the escrow fund, which he called a $20 billion White House ‘shakedown’ of BP.

Barton has retracted the remarks, and his party leaders have condemned them, but the comments are bound to be seized upon often by Democrats in the run-up to November’s congressional polls, in which the party fears heavy losses.
Obama’s switch to full bore politicking mode over the oil spill reflects the way both political parties will try to use the disaster for political advantage. Republicans have accused Obama of being too passive in the crisis.

Recent polling give the president poor to moderate ratings on how he has handled the oil spill, though his management of the crisis is much preferred by Americans to the performance over BP during the disaster.

Forty-four per cent of those asked in a Gallup poll this month approved of Obama’s efforts, while 48 per cent disapproved.

BP and other oil firms are currently bound under U.S. law to pay all related clean-up costs from a spill, but the limit on liability for compensation and other claims is set at $75 million.

Democratic efforts to raise the cap took another step forward on Wednesday as the Senate Environment and Public Works committee approved a bill retroactively removing the cap for BP.

The bill now heads to the full chamber for debate.

‘As we see the images and read the stories from the Gulf Coast night after night, it could not be clearer that coastal families and taxpayers are the ones who need protection, not oil companies,’ the bill’s sponsor Robert Menendez said.
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28
Jun
10

Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

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Gov’t plans to double available wireless spectrum

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Obama administration says it intends to nearly double the available amount of wireless communications spectrum over the next 10 years in an effort to keep up with the ever-growing demand for high-speed video and data transmission to cell phones, laptops and other mobile devices.

The White House said President Barack Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Monday committing the federal government to auctioning off 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum.

Revenue from the auctions would be spent on public safety, infrastructure investments and deficit reduction.

National Economic Council director Lawrence H Summers will explain the new policy in a speech on Monday at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.

In an excerpt released by the White House, Summers said, ‘This initiative will catalyse private sector investment, contribute to economic growth and help to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.’

The administration said it hopes to encourage the spread of wireless broadband across the country, including rural areas.

The auction is intended, in part, to counter fears of a potential ‘spectrum crunch’ as smart phones and laptop computers become more popular and new wireless devices hit the market.
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27
Jun
10

Prince Harry visits New York

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Prince Harry visits New York

Sunday, June 27, 2010

••• Prince Harry has abdicated the saddle.

The third in line for the British crown tumbled from his horse during a charity polo match at Governors Island today.

The thrown prince landed on his knees after falling from the left side of the horse, but quickly remounted and dusted himself off. Play resumed within 10 seconds.

The momentary clumsiness did nothing to diminish his royal dreaminess, spectators said.
Prince Harry says whatever the score in the World Cup clash with Germany, the country will be ‘hugely proud’ of the England team.

‘I just hope we beat Germany because there has been a bit of a past history between England and Germany,’ he told ABC television’s Good Morning America.

‘As long as our guys do their best the country will be hugely proud of them. I think we’ve already done fantastically well so let’s see how we go.’

Before sitting down for the interview the prince had thrown the ceremonial pitch at Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets baseball team.

Football, rugby and polo are more in Prince Harry’s comfort zone, so he approached the pitching mound with some trepidation.
Thousands of New York Mets fans watched as the 25-year-old started, then abandoned, one attempt before finally giving it his best shot.

As he pretended to wipe sweat from his brow, the crowd roared its approval. Later it emerged he’d received some last-minute coaching from the Mets’ so-called ‘knuckleballer’ R.A. Dickey.

He said the prince was throwing with a more straight-armed cricket throw so he told him to bend his elbow.

‘We didn’t talk about Parliament or anything,’ Dickey said. ‘We’re just two guys having a catch.’
Later on Saturday night, Harry drummed up support for his own charity Sentebale which helps disadvantaged children in Lesotho.
‘Over 100 children are orphaned every day and within a population of 1.8 million there are 400, 000 orphans and vulnerable children – in a country the same size as this state of Connecticut,’ he told the guests at an exclusive country club.
‘Everyone here tonight can help, don’t think that you can’t – believe you can, because I have seen it in the children’s eyes.’

On Sunday he’ll join a race with servicemen recently injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, like many of his grandmother’s subjects. he’ll find a television to watch the match.
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27
Jun
10

Tropical Storm Alex Heads Towards Gulf of Mexico

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Tropical Storm Alex Heads Towards Gulf of Mexico

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Earth

••• Tropical Storm Alex headed toward the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, but while it was not expected to hit the oil spill area, experts warned strong waves and winds could hamper clean-up efforts there.

With oil continually gushing into the fragile waters for the past 68 days, President Barack Obama’s pointsman on the disaster cautioned that volatile weather conditions could set back oil recovery operations for up to two weeks.

Meanwhile, Alex moved over Belize, dumping heavy rains over the Yucatan Peninsula before moving back into the Gulf after the weekend, meaning BP can continue its process without disruption, for now.

‘The storm is not an issue for the spill,’ said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Feltgen said forecasters did not expect Alex to head into the northeast Gulf, where the spill is located, ‘but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some wave impact.’

The storm, which packed sustained winds of 60 mph, entered Belize late on Saturday just 19 miles northwest of Belize City, dumping heavy rain on the affected area.

It was expected to weaken as it moved over Yucatan, but regain some punch as it moves over the Gulf of Mexico on Monday.

‘We are very pleased that there is no weather impact right now,’ BP spokesman Ron Rybarczyk told AFP on Saturday.

But while the latest forecasts had BP breathing a sigh of relief, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen sounded the alarm about the potential for a devastating impact to efforts to contain and siphon off the oil.

‘The weather is unpredictable, and we could have a sudden last-minute change,’ said Allen, telling reporters that oil recovery operations would have to be suspended for two weeks if Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, were to hit the area.
Such a stoppage would exacerbate the spill that has defiled the Gulf Coast’s once pristine shorelines, killed wildlife and put a big dent in the region’s multi-billion-dollar fishing industry.

It would also mean the estimated 30,000 to 65,000 barrels of oil gushing from a ruptured wellhead down on the seafloor would be billowing crude and gas unchecked for days.

An estimated 1.9 to 3.5 million barrels have poured into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20.

Allen said vessels currently recuperating some of the oil and gas would need up to 120 hours to evacuate the site if weather conditions were deemed dire enough.

‘If we get an indication that we have a chance for gale-force winds 120 hours before, we’ll make the decision,’ he added before noting that ‘right now, we haven’t met that threshold.’
BP said it recovered 24,550 barrels of oil on Friday, a 3.5 percent increase from its Thursday total, and collected approximately 413,000 barrels since May.

Still, hundreds of demonstrators came to Manatee County Florida beaches on Saturday to protest offshore oil drilling and support clean energy strategies advocated by President Obama.

About 350 people formed a human chain at Manatee Public Beach, according to local officials.

‘We grew up coming to these beaches, and we want to make sure future generations – like my daughter, here – have a place like this to come to,’ said local resident Joshua Spaid.

BP’s shares meanwhile plummeted to a 13-year low in London trading after BP ramped up the costs of the spill so far to $2.35 billion. The company’s share values have been cut by more than half since the disaster that killed 11 workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in US history.
The British energy giant said its plans to drill through 2.5 miles of rock were on track. No permanent solution to the spill is expected before the relief wells are due to be completed in August.

Heavy drilling fluids would then be pumped into the existing well to drown the oil flow, allowing it to be plugged for good with cement.

Vice President Joe Biden heads to the region on Tuesday and is due to visit the New Orleans-based National Incident Command Centre before travelling to the Florida panhandle.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Carol Browner, who heads the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, will also visit.

In Toronto, Canada, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held their first face-to-face talks ahead of a G20 leaders’ summit and agreed BP should ‘remain a strong and stable company,’ Downing Street said.
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• Source(s): NOAA / National Weather Service (NWS)
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26
Jun
10

Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform

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Weekly Address: Finishing the Job on Wall Street Reform
President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill

Saturday, June 26, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama asks Congress to pass historic Wall Street reform which will make the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression the law of the land. The Wall Street reform bill, which reflects 90 percent of what the President originally proposed, includes the strongest consumer financial protections in history with an independent agency to enforce them. It ensures that the trading of derivatives, which helped trigger the crisis, will be brought into the light of day, and enacts the “Volcker Rule,” which will make sure banks protected by safety nets like the FDIC cannot engage in risky trades. And, this bill will create a resolution authority to wind down firms whose collapse would threaten the entire financial system. Wall Street reform will end taxpayer funded bailouts and make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.

I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.

That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them.

Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.

Instead, we’ll make sure credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. And you’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms, and the clear and concise information you need to make the financial decisions that are best for you and your family.

Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex trades that helped trigger this crisis – trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market – finally into the light of day.

We’ll enact what’s called the Volcker Rule to make sure banks protected by a safety net like the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. We’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. Put simply, we’ll end the days of taxpayer-funded bailouts, and help make sure Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street’s mistakes.

Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.

Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.

But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again.

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• Source(s): The White House
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26
Jun
10

Apple iPhone 4 release plagued by signal issue: Quick Fix for iPhone 4 Antenna Problem

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Apple iPhone 4 release plagued by signal issue: Quick Fix for iPhone 4 Antenna Problem

Saturday, June 26, 2010

••• There is anger among new iPhone 4 owners after it emerged that the device loses signal when held in the user’s left hand.

Apple’s latest phone only went on sale on Thursday but already the company has been inundated with complaints from users who have found themselves unable to make calls.

One disgruntled customer emailed the company and received a response from the chief executive himself, Steve Jobs.

But Mr Jobs was not too sympathetic with his advice, he wrote: ‘Just avoid holding it in that way.’

The problem appears to occur when the phone is held in the left palm which then covers part of the stainless steel band that contains some of the antennae.

The loss of signal has been a hot topic on Twitter with many people tweeting on the issue.

‘Pretty amazing the way the signal degrades on the iPhone 4 when held in your left hand,’ wrote @StevenMatthews1.

‘So it sounds like the iphone 4 is rubbish for left handers with signal dropping. Will have to learn to be right-handed,’ @Lollipop26 said.

And @MattJWilliams39 has decided against investing in the phone altogether: ‘Style over substance – iPhone 4 has sensitive areas that when held cause signal strength to drop. Cancel my order…’

In a statement Apple said: ‘Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas.’

The American company now sells ‘bumpers’ that protect the stainless steel parts of the phone and stops the user’s skin from touching the sensitive antennae.

However, the good news is the problem is not affecting everyone and the majority of people who queued for hours to get their hands on the latest model are satisfied customers.

Ben Paton, 23, was first to buy the iPhone 4 from the flagship store on Regent Street on Thursday after queuing for 16 hours.

But a man who flew in from Dubai and had queued for double that amount of time thought he would be first through the store’s doors.

Alex Lee, 27, headed the 500-strong queue for 32 hours but had his hopes dashed when the store allowed internet pre-order customers ahead of him.

He said he will write to Steve Jobs to complain.

Here is The Video on how to do a Quick fix on your IPhone Antenna Reception Problem:

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• Source(s): Apple Inc. & Twitter
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26
Jun
10

Global tribute marks year since Michael Jackson’s death

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Global tribute marks year since Michael Jackson’s death

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Michael Jackson fans across the world have paused to remember the man they called the King of Pop today on the first anniversary of his death.
Thousands have filed silently through the gates of Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, where Jackson’s body is entombed in the mausoleum.
In Jackson’s hometown of Gary in Indiana Jackson’s mother Katherine has unveiled a monument in the front yard of the modest home where her children grew up, while in Japan hundreds of people have lit candles in Jackson’s memory.
Jackson died on June 25 2009 at age 50 just before he was to begin a comeback tour.

Dr Conrad Murray who allegedly provided Jackson with a powerful mix of sedatives has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in relation to the death.
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25
Jun
10

Toyota recalls Lexus HS250h hybrid for fuel spills

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Toyota recalls Lexus HS250h hybrid for fuel spills

Friday, June 25, 2010

••• Toyota said on Friday it will recall 17,000 Lexus luxury hybrids after testing showed that fuel can spill during a rear end crash.

The Japanese automaker said tests conducted for the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration found that fuel leaked during a rear impact crash at 50 miles per hour on a 2010 HS250h sedan. The test, conducted by a NHTSA contractor, showed that fuel spilled as the vehicle spun around after impact. (NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 10V285000)

Toyota’s own testing has not shown any spillage, but a spokesman said the company plans to issue a voluntary recall as it continues to try to replicate the government’s results. It is notifying dealers to stop selling the car.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, has attempted to rebound from a series of recalls tied to reports of unintended acceleration and other defects. The U.S. administration penalized Toyota with a record $16.4 million fine for acting too slowly on the recalls.

Dealers have repaired millions of vehicles, but the auto giant faces more than 200 lawsuits connected to accidents and the lower resale value of vehicles.

Earlier this week, Toyota Motor Corp president Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the automaker’s founder, apologized to shareholders for the trouble caused by the recalls. He said the company was doing its best to improve quality control.

Toyota said it has not identified a fix for the reported problems of fuel spillage.

Detailed information about this recall is available through Lexus Customer Satisfaction at 1-800-25 LEXUS or 1-800-255-3987 or at www.lexus.com/recall.
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24
Jun
10

After Earlier Troubles, BP Says It Restored Cap

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After Earlier Troubles, BP Says It Restored Cap
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Earth••• BP on Wednesday reinstalled an oil containment system sucking up crude from a ruptured pipe in the Gulf of Mexico, which had been removed following a collision with a robotic submarine.

The oil cap ‘was successfully reinstalled on the Deepwater Horizon’s failed blow-out preventer’ at 6.30 pm Wednesday, BP said in a statement, adding that ‘the system resumed collecting oil and gas’ a half hour later.

Oil spewed unhindered into the Gulf of Mexico when BP detached the “top hat” cap, which traps leaking oil and then siphons it up to a container ship, and made repairs after a remote-controlled submarine crashed into it.

The setback marked a terrible start for American Bob Dudley in his first day as BP’s disaster coordinator, brought in by the firm to replace gaffe-prone British CEO Tony Hayward.

Admiral Thad Allen, leading the U.S. government effort to confront the nation’s worst ever environmental disaster, said earlier the cap had been removed for inspection after crews detected gas.

“Out of an abundance of caution … they moved the containment cap with the riser pipe and moved away so they can assess the condition,” Allen told reporters earlier on Wednesday, before the cap was reattached.

“They indicated the problem was a remotely-operated vehicle had bumped into one of the vents,” Allen said, adding that the vent had then closed, creating pressure that had forced up gas and other materials.

The cap is siphoning away some 25,000 barrels of oil each day, and keeping it off would have exacerbated the dire effects of the massive leak that has allowed between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels of crude to gush into the sea, according to the latest U.S. government estimates.

Completing a disastrous start for Dudley, Allen said two people involved in the clean-up efforts had been reported dead in separate incidents.
One was killed in what he described as “an accident regarding a swimming pool,” and the second individual died of a likely self-inflicted gunshot to the head, according to the local Alabama coroner who treated the body.

Dudley assumes command from Hayward, who faced massive criticism of his handling of the spill, including accusations of insensitivity, and was ridiculed as out of touch.

Unlike Hayward, Dudley is an American citizen who spent much of his childhood in Mississippi, one of the four southern U.S. states whose coastlines face an environmental catastrophe.

The news came as administration officials pledged to redouble efforts to freeze new deepwater oil drilling while they assessed safety regulations.

On Tuesday, Judge Martin Feldman overturned a drilling moratorium authorised by President Barack Obama in the spill’s aftermath, saying it was ‘arbitrary and capricious’.

But the White House pledged to appeal the decision and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told lawmakers at a hearing on Wednesday that he would soon issue a new order to ensure the freeze sticks.

“We will move forward with the executive authority which I have to make sure that the moratorium stays in place,” Salazar said.

The Obama administration believes the decision flies in the face of mounting evidence that there are serious safety risks with the 33 deepwater wells in question.

But oil workers and executives argue the freeze is driving away business, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, said the moratorium hurt the same people already being negatively impacted by the spill.

An internal BP document released by a U.S. lawmaker this week showed the firm contemplated a worst-case scenario of up to 100,000 barrels, or 4.2 million gallons, a day leaking.

America’s worst previous oil spill, the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, dumped nearly 11 million gallons off the Alaskan coast, but even under the low end of current estimates, more than 90 million gallons have entered the Gulf.

BP has spent $2 billion so far on cleaning up the spill and compensating residents and businesses facing ruin.
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24
Jun
10

Gulf oil spill has new face: BP replaces Tony Hayward with Bob Dudley as head of cleanup effort

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Gulf oil spill has new face: BP replaces Tony Hayward with Bob Dudley as head of cleanup effort
Thursday, June 24, 2010

••• BP put Mississippi native Bob Dudley in charge of handling the Gulf oil spill in an effort to take the spotlight off chief executive Tony Hayward.

BP PLC confirmed that Dudley, who grew up in Hattiesburg, an easy drive from the coast, is now the point man in the mission to stop the oil gusher and deal with the economic damage it has caused.

Dudley, who had led BP’s operations in the Americas and Asia, is no stranger to tough situations, having protected his company’s interests in rough dealing in Russia even after he was barred from the country.

The 54-year-old spent two decades climbing the ranks at Amoco Corp., which merged with BP, and lost out to Hayward on the CEO’s slot three years ago.

Perhaps most importantly, he is a fresh face for the oil company as it attempts to fix the spill and protect its future. Hayward shocked Gulf residents last month when he said “I’d like my life back” and weeks later went yachting.

Dudley was appointed president and chief executive of the newly created Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, effective immediately, and will report to Hayward.

“In the near term, my focus will be on listening to stakeholders, so we can address concerns and remove obstacles that get in the way of our effectiveness. And we’ll build an organisation that over the longer term fulfils BP’s commitments to the restore the livelihoods and the environment of the Gulf Coast,” Dudley said.

The reorganisation followed a series of humiliations in recent days for BP. Last week it bowed to President Barack Obama’s demand that it set up a $20 billion escrow fund to cover damages and to suspend dividend payments, followed a day later by a public thrashing for Hayward before a Congressional committee.

Hayward repeatedly apologised and expressed sorrow for the oil leak caused by a fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig on April 20. Eleven workers on the rig died.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee were infuriated when Hayward denied direct responsibility for operational decisions which may have led to the disaster.

“You’re really insulting our intelligence,” Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, said at Thursday’s hearing. “I am thoroughly disgusted.”
Hayward had a further public relations gaffe over the weekend when he was photographed at a yacht race, and on Tuesday he ducked out of a previously announced commitment to speak at an oil industry conference in London.

A defining moment in BP’s response to the disaster came on May 30 with Hayward’s unguarded remark that “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

Prime Minister David Cameron intends to press Obama this weekend at the G8 summit for more clarity on the ultimate financial cost that BP will face, the British leader’s office said.

Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the company is prepared to meet its obligations to fund the clean up and compensate those whose businesses have been blighted by the spill.

“But we do want to make sure that this remains a strong and stable company, for our benefit but also for the benefit of the United States,” Cameron said.

BP said the newly formed organisation will manage all aspects of the response to the Deepwater Horizon incident and the oil and gas spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That includes clean-up operations, coordinating with the U.S. government and local officials, and managing the $20 billion escrow account.

“Having grown up in Mississippi, Bob has a deep appreciation and affinity for the Gulf Coast, and believes deeply in BP’s commitment to restore the region,” Hayward said.

“Our commitment to the Gulf States is for the long-term. And that requires a more permanent sustainable organisation to see it through,” Hayward added.

BP had said on Tuesday that Dudley would be taking the lead in the United States while Hayward retreated to his chief executive role.

Dudley’s oil industry career began in 1979 with Amoco, which merged with BP in 1998.

Between 1994 and 1997 Dudley was based in Moscow, working on developing Amoco’s business in Russia. From 2003 to 2008, he was president and chief executive of TNK-BP, a joint venture in Russia with a consortium of billionaires.

In that job, he steered the firm through a series of politically explosive disputes that saw one employee charged with espionage, the company’s offices raided by Russian intelligence, an investor boycott and a barrage of tax and labour investigations.
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23
Jun
10

President Obama on Afghanistan, General McChrystal & General Petraeus

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President Obama on Afghanistan, General McChrystal & General Petraeus

Obama relieves McChrystal of command
Gen. David Petraeus named to take over troubled Afghan war

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The White House says the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan made an ‘enormous mistake’ in an unflattering magazine article, and ‘all options are on the table’ with regard to General Stanley McChrystal’s job.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly refused on Tuesday to say that McChrystal is safe in his post or could be considered by President Barack Obama to continue as an effective commander in Afghanistan.

The president summoned McChrystal to Washington to attend, in person, on Wednesday a meeting on the war and explain the comments in the story.
“We’ll have more to say after that meeting,” Gibbs said of McChrystal’s future.

In one part of the story, McChrystal complained about Obama’s preparedness in one of their first meetings. Gibbs responded tartly to that: “He’ll have his undivided attention tomorrow.”

This afternoon the President spoke on new leadership for the mission in Afghanistan, full remarks below:

Good afternoon. Today I accepted General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military, and for our country.

I’m also pleased to nominate General David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan, which will allow us to maintain the momentum and leadership that we need to succeed.

I don’t make this decision based on any difference in policy with General McChrystal, as we are in full agreement about our strategy. Nor do I make this decision out of any sense of personal insult. Stan McChrystal has always shown great courtesy and carried out my orders faithfully. I’ve got great admiration for him and for his long record of service in uniform.

Over the last nine years, with America fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has earned a reputation as one of our nation’s finest soldiers. That reputation is founded upon his extraordinary dedication, his deep intelligence, and his love of country. I relied on his service, particularly in helping to design and lead our new strategy in Afghanistan. So all Americans should be grateful for General McChrystal’s remarkable career in uniform.

But war is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president. And as difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe that it is the right decision for our national security.

The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that’s necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan.

My multiple responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief led me to this decision. First, I have a responsibility to the extraordinary men and women who are fighting this war, and to the democratic institutions that I’ve been elected to lead. I’ve got no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of our men and women in uniform, and it is my duty to ensure that no diversion complicates the vital mission that they are carrying out.

That includes adherence to a strict code of conduct. The strength and greatness of our military is rooted in the fact that this code applies equally to newly enlisted privates and to the general officer who commands them. That allows us to come together as one. That is part of the reason why America has the finest fighting force in the history of the world.

It is also true that our democracy depends upon institutions that are stronger than individuals. That includes strict adherence to the military chain of command, and respect for civilian control over that chain of command. And that’s why, as Commander-in-Chief, I believe this decision is necessary to hold ourselves accountable to standards that are at the core of our democracy.

Second, I have a responsibility to do what is – whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. I believe that this mission demands unity of effort across our alliance and across my national security team. And I don’t think that we can sustain that unity of effort and achieve our objectives in Afghanistan without making this change. That, too, has guided my decision.I’ve just told my national security team that now is the time for all of us to come together. Doing so is not an option, but an obligation. I welcome debate among my team, but I won’t tolerate division. All of us have personal interests; all of us have opinions. Our politics often fuels conflict, but we have to renew our sense of common purpose and meet our responsibilities to one another, and to our troops who are in harm’s way, and to our country.

We need to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere. We will not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists who want to destroy Afghan security from within, and launch attacks against innocent men, women, and children in our country and around the world.

So make no mistake: We have a clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure on al Qaeda and its leadership, strengthening the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to do the same.

That’s the strategy that we agreed to last fall; that is the policy that we are carrying out, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In that effort, we are honored to be joined by allies and partners who have stood by us and paid the ultimate price through the loss of their young people at war. They are with us because the interests and values that we share, and because this mission is fundamental to the ability of free people to live in peace and security in the 21st century.

General Petraeus and I were able to spend some time this morning discussing the way forward. I’m extraordinarily grateful that he has agreed to serve in this new capacity. It should be clear to everybody, he does so at great personal sacrifice to himself and to his family. And he is setting an extraordinary example of service and patriotism by assuming this difficult post.

Let me say to the American people, this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in policy. General Petraeus fully participated in our review last fall, and he both supported and helped design the strategy that we have in place. In his current post at Central Command, he has worked closely with our forces in Afghanistan. He has worked closely with Congress. He has worked closely with the Afghan and Pakistan governments and with all our partners in the region. He has my full confidence, and I am urging the Senate to confirm him for this new assignment as swiftly as possible.

Let me conclude by saying that it was a difficult decision to come to the conclusion that I’ve made today. Indeed, it saddens me to lose the service of a soldier who I’ve come to respect and admire. But the reasons that led me to this decision are the same principles that have supported the strength of our military and our nation since the founding.

So, once again, I thank General McChrystal for his enormous contributions to the security of this nation and to the success of our mission in Afghanistan. I look forward to working with General Petraeus and my entire national security team to succeed in our mission. And I reaffirm that America stands as one in our support for the men and women who defend it.

Thank you very much.

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• Source(s): The White House
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23
Jun
10

Michael Jackson’s boyhood hometown plans anniversary vigil

NEWS
Michael Jackson’s boyhood hometown plans anniversary vigil

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The childhood hometown of Michael Jackson is planning a tribute on Friday at his former house to mark the one-year anniversary of his death, and the mayor says his mother is among the people expected to attend.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay says Katherine Jackson will attend the event along with her granddaughter, Genevieve Jackson, the daughter of Randy Jackson. The event will include speeches, performances and a candlelight vigil.

“We expect thousands to show up,” said city spokeswoman LaLosa Burns.

Workers at the house on Tuesday said Katherine Jackson wanted the house spruced up for the event. She was in the city 48km southeast of Chicago for several days recently and planned the renovation, Clay said.

The flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and signs that covered the front lawn for weeks after Jackson’s death from an overdose of sedatives are gone.

The tiny house already has a new roof, a fresh coat of white paint, newly poured concrete along the walkway and driveway and is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence.

New sod was being installed and some bushes were awaiting planting.

“She wanted all of this done,” worker Nathaniel Donald said. “People from all over the world come here and she wanted it fixed up.”

“It looks nice,” said Arthur Houser, an 81-year-old retired trucker who lives several blocks away.
The house – and its address – are widely known because The Jacksons released the album 2300 Jackson Street in 1989.

The family moved to the West Coast after the Jackson 5 struck it big with the release of their first album. The Jackson 5 played two concerts at West Side High School in Gary in 1971.

The only other time Jackson returned to his hometown was in 2003, when plans for a Michael Jackson Performing Arts Centre in the city’s downtown were announced.

It was never built.

Jackson’s father and city officials announced plans earlier this month to move ahead with plans to build the performing arts centre and a museum, but many in the city have their doubts whether it will ever be built.

Chuck Hughes, executive director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce was a member of City Council in 1995 when talk about the performing arts centre was first discussed with the Jackson family.

“It was politics that squashed it,” he said.

Clay said the city hopes to make the memorial an annual event.

“This is where it all started,” he said. “Our love for the Jackson family and Michael began before they were famous and it is still entrenched.”
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22
Jun
10

U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

NEWS
U.K. police probing alleged Google privacy breach

U.K. Police Investigating Alleged Google Privacy Breach Through Public Wi-Fi Networks

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• Britain has become the latest country to open an investigation into whether Google violated communication and privacy laws by mistakenly gathering data over public Wi-Fi networks.

London’s Metropolitan Police says it is looking into complaints that the search engine’s ‘Street View’ project picked up people’s online activities through unprotected networks.

It says it is determining what offences, if any, were committed.

Privacy International, a London-based privacy watchdog that filed the case with police, says it had received complaints from members of the public who feared their personal data could be at risk.

The French independent privacy watchdog CNIL said last week that Google, following a complaint, had handed over personal data sucked up by its technicians.

The attorney general of the U.S. state of Connecticut is also looking into whether Google broke the law.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multi-state probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy.”

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.
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22
Jun
10

Times Square car bomber details his chilling plot

NEWS
Times Square car bomber details his chilling plot

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• Admitted terrorist Faisal Shahzad was so eager to tell how he plotted to kill Americans in Times Square, he went to court with a prepared statement.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum refused to hear him read it on Monday, instead challenging the Pakistan-born American citizen to just say “what happened.”

In an unapologetic, matter-of-fact courtroom colloquy that followed, Shahzad offered chilling details about how he trained with the Pakistani Taliban to build bombs, then returned to the US to launch an attack that would avenge attacks on Muslims by U.S. forces overseas.

“One has to understand where I’m coming from,’ he said in an unusual departure from tightly scripted guilty pleas, with his defence lawyer and prosecutors sitting in silence in federal court in Manhattan. ‘I consider myself … a Muslim soldier.”

Shahzad, 30, admitted leaving a sport utility vehicle rigged with a homemade bomb in bustling Times Squares on a warm night on May 1.

The bomb failed to go off, and the Bridgeport, Connecticut, resident was arrested trying to leave the country on a Dubai-bound flight two days later.

Authorities say following his capture, Shahzad voluntarily started talking about the botched bombing right away – a pattern that continued in open court, where he agreed to plead guilty to 10 terrorism and weapons counts without the benefit of a plea deal and with certainty he’d face life in prison.

“I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over,” he said.

Until U.S. forces leave Muslim territory, he added, “we will be attacking U.S.”

Sentencing was set for October 5, and prosecutors say that at least one of the counts to which Shahzad pleaded guilty carries a mandatory life term. With no parole in the federal system, that means he would die behind bars.
Widely circulated snapshots of Shahzad – a U.S.-trained financial analyst and married father of two – show him with a neatly trimmed beard, all smiles and looking carefree behind sunglasses driving a car, or standing next to his American wife. When led into court on Monday, he had on a white skull cap and prisoner’s uniform, his beard shaggy and his demeanor full of pride and absent of remorse.

Shahzad traced his plot to a 2009 trip to Pakistan that began only three months after he received his U.S. citizenship.

While staying with his parents, he ventured into the lawless Waziristan region in December with “a couple of friends … to join the (Pakistani) Taliban.” He didn’t describe the friends any further.

But an intelligence official in Pakistan told The Associated Press that CIA investigators have been given access to two Pakistani men who helped Shahzad reach Mir Ali town in North Waziristan, as well as to three other suspects being held by Pakistani authorities.

The official insisted on anonymity because Pakistan’s intelligence agency does not allow its operatives to be identified.

Shahzad said he sought and received five days’ training in explosives before returning to the United States in February to pursue a one-man scheme to bring death and destruction to New York with funding from the militant group.

The indictment said he received $5,000 in cash on February 25 from an unnamed coconspirator in Pakistan and $7,000 more on April 10, sent at the coconspirator’s direction.

Authorities say the bomb malfunctioned, emitting smoke that attracted the attention of an alert street vendor, who notified police, setting in motion a rapid evacuation of several city blocks.

The judge kept up a steady back-and-forth with Shahzad, questioning how it was possible he pulled off the near-bombing solo.

“You built the bomb all by yourself?” she asked.

“Yes. … Nobody helped me,” he replied.

She also pressed him on how he could target U.S. civilians if his goal was to retaliate against U.S. forces, asking of the potential in Times Square that night, “Did you look around to see who they were?”

“Well, the people select the government,” Shahzad said. “We consider them all the same. The drones, when they hit …”

Cedarbaum interrupted again: “Including the children?”

Shahzad answered: “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people.

They’re killing all Muslims.”

Later, he added: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorising the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack.

Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”
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• Source(s): Department of Justice
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22
Jun
10

U.S. slaps BP with new bill

NEWS
U.S. slaps BP with new bill
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

••• The White House has slapped BP with a new $51 million bill, the third sent to the British energy giant.

Officials have stressed that they would keep billing the British energy giant for all associated costs from America’s biggest-ever environmental disaster, under a U.S. law requiring oil firms to pay for cleanups.

“As a responsible party, BP is financially responsible for all costs associated with the response to the spill,” the administration said.

That includes “efforts to stop the leak at its source, reduce the spread of oil, protect the shoreline and mitigate damages, as well as long term recovery efforts to ensure that all individuals and communities impacted by the spill are made whole.”

Two earlier bills to BP and other responsible parties this month amounting to $70.89 million were paid in full, it said in a statement.
The invoice charges the firms for ‘specific federal government expenses’ including response costs for more than 24 federal entities and agencies from three U.S. states, as well as for reimbursing the trust fund set up by BP and the government to reimburse local individuals and businesses affected by the massive spill.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, enacted after the Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, made oil giants liable for cleanup costs resulting from spills and is being used by the administration to hold BP’s feet to the fire.

Obama has also vowed to hold BP responsible if it is found that the company broke any laws before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in April.

BP said on Monday it has so far spent $2 billion on the spill, including ongoing efforts at containment, relief well drilling, grants to Gulf states, claims paid to thousands of affected individuals and businesses, and costs incurred by the U.S. government.
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22
Jun
10

U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

NEWS
U.S. States step up ante against Google over wireless data

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• The attorney general of a U.S. state is looking into whether Google broke the law by capturing people’s personal data from wireless networks.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced on Monday that his office will lead a multistate probe of “Google’s deeply disturbing invasion of personal privacy,” which has drawn ire and scrutiny in an array of countries.

“Street View cannot mean Complete View – invading home and business computer networks and vacuuming up personal information and communications,” Blumenthal said.

Similar probes have begun in U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand, where police are investigating Google and some of the internet giant’s employees for collecting private information while they photographed streets for the Google Maps website.

Blumenthal said people had a right to know what information Google gleaned, how it was done and why.

He also wanted the internet giant to detail what safeguards are in place to fix the situation.

“While we hope Google will continue to cooperate, its response so far raises as many questions as it answers,” Blumenthal said.

“Our investigation will consider whether laws may have been broken and whether changes to state and federal statutes may be necessary.”

Blumenthal has asked Google to explain how and when it learned its Street View bicycles and cars were capturing data from unencrypted wireless networks and why they recorded the quality of wireless networks they passed.
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22
Jun
10

Times Square bomb accused Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty

NEWS
Times Square bomb accused Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

••• Pakistani-born American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty on Monday to the Times Square car bomb bid “100 times”, defiantly warning of more attacks on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands.

Reading out a combative statement in court, Shahzad portrayed himself as a Muslim warrior and showed no remorse as he pleaded guilty to all 10 charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and terrorism.

“I want to plead guilty 100 times because unless the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq, until they stop drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen, and stop attacking Muslim lands, we will attack the U.S. and be out to get them,” he said, speaking in perfect English.

Asked by judge Miriam Cedarbaum why he tried to kill innocent Americans, 30-year-old Shahzad, who wore a white Muslim skullcap during the 90-minute proceedings, was unrepentant.

“Listen, you are attacking children with your drones in Afghanistan,” he said. “I would not consider what I did was a crime. I’m aware it’s a violation of the United States laws, but I don’t care for the laws of the United States.”

Shahzad was pulled off a flight to Dubai on May 3, two days after he parked a car containing a rudimentary explosive device in New York’s Broadway entertainment district.

The attempted bombing on a busy Saturday night was foiled when street vendors spotted smoke emanating from the back of a Nissan Pathfinder and alerted the authorities.

A 53-hour manhunt ensued, ending with Shahzad’s arrest as his plane was about to taxi for take-off from John F Kennedy Airport to Dubai.

“Americans only care about their people but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”
– Failed bomber Faisal Shahzad

U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said there was no plea agreement between Shahzad and the U.S. government.

Shahzad was assured and determined as he spoke in detail in court, describing eerily how he plotted the attack to cause maximum casualties and waited for a bomb to go off that never did.

“I walked to Grand Central station. I was waiting to hear a sound, but I did not hear any sound so I went home,” he said.

“I didn’t choose a specific building, but I chose the center of Times Square, and obviously, the time, 6.30 pm, and obviously, a Saturday, May 1st.”

Shahzad told the judge he had undergone bomb-making training during a 40-day stay with the Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan, between December 9 and January 25.

The five days of bomb-making training involved “the whole thing – how to make a bomb, how to detonate it,” he said.

On returning to the U.S., Shahzad said he planned the bombing alone and acted all by himself, telling the judge: “Nobody helped me.”‘
A 10-count indictment handed down on Thursday alleged that Shahzad received two payments totalling $12,000 from an unidentified co-conspirator in Pakistan.

He used the money to buy a semi-automatic nine millimetre Kel-Tec (Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc.) rifle in March and the Nissan Pathfinder, for which he paid $1,300 cash in a supermarket parking lot on April 24, it alleged.

He then bought components for ‘improvised explosive and incendiary devices’, loaded them in the Pathfinder, and on May 1 drove the sport utility vehicle to Times Square, the complaint said.

Shahzad pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, attempted use of a destructive device in a terrorist conspiracy and a string of other conspiracy, explosives and weapons related charges.

Shahzad has co-operated fully in custody, waiving Miranda rights that protect detainees from incriminating themselves, U.S. justice officials say.

“Faisal Shahzad plotted and launched an attack that could have led to serious loss of life, and today the American criminal justice system ensured that he will pay the price for his actions,” Attorney General Eric Holder said, reacting to the guilty plea.

The son of a respected Pakistani air force officer, Shahzad attended an elite Pakistan Air Force college before coming to the United States to study at the age of 18 and eventually becoming a naturalized American citizen.

The botched car bombing left residents, visitors and authorities in Times Square jittery, with several ‘suspicious packages’ that later turned out to be harmless sparking false alarms.

U.S. aviation officials also changed security regulations, shortening the amount of time for airlines to check updated “no-fly” lists, after Shahzad was able to board his flight despite having been added to the list.
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• Source(s): Department of Justice
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22
Jun
10

Lakers victory parade 2010: Lakers crowned NBA kings again

NEWS
Lakers victory parade 2010: Lakers crowned NBA kings again

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The LA Lakers are the NBA Champions after taking out game seven of their finals series against the Boston Celtics 83-79 in Los Angeles.

It’s the Lakers’ fifth championship in 11 years and their second in as many seasons, with Kobe Bryant taking out the Finals MVP award in back-to-back seasons.

It was also sweet revenge for LA, who were beaten by the Celtics in the NBA finals two years ago.

The Lakers’ star-studded fan base were suitably happy with the win although several fans took the celebrations a bit too far, starting fires, throwing rocks and bottles at police and jumping on cars in the street.

The plan was to have the Lakers players discuss the season while riding atop a flat-bed truck during Monday’s championship parade. Their answers would then be broadcast to the adoring throng of fans that lined a two-mile route along Figueroa Street.

But whatever Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of the players said Monday afternoon was lost amid the constant cheering and chanting that greeted the Lakers as the city celebrated the team’s latest NBA championship.

“When you’re playing, you don’t really get a chance to see those who are at home or at a local bar watching the game, supporting and screaming and cheering,” Kobe Bryant said before the parade. “Now you get a chance to put a face to it.”

And there certainly were plenty of faces see – many painted in Lakers colors. The crowd, estimated at more than 1 million, created a purple-and-gold sea on both sides of the street, on top of bus stops, fences and restaurants from Staples Center to USC.

The crowd, many of whom had stood there for five hours, cheered hysterically as the truck holding the Lakers players rolled by. Some fans were even brought to tears by the sight of their heroes.

For more than an hour, the noise was deafening as fans, including a construction crew that had stopped working, chanted “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe! and “MVP! MVP!” Some begged Gasol “look over here” for a picture, while others just wanted Lamar to smile.

There were some who yelled for Sasha Vujacic to marry them, while others simply held up signs with the same request. Vujacic seemed to enjoy the attention, screaming back at the fans and applauding them. Bryant said one woman nearly fainted when she saw the Slovenian guard.

On the other side of the street, one young girl made a sign asking guard Shannon Brown to call her and had included her phone number.

Still other fans simply saluted the 2010 NBA champions with Lakers flags, banners and home-made signs. One promoted Derek Fisher for President (in Spanish), another said “Back to Back without Shaq” and yet another read “This is Kobe’s Town.”

By the reaction Bryant received as the truck rolled by the sign was right.

No other player received as much attention as Bryant, who stood alongside his wife, Vanessa, and his two young daughters during the parade. This is Bryant’s fifth such celebration and he seemed to be enjoying it as much as the first one in 2000.

Still, he said that this title was “the best one by far because it was the hardest one to get.” The Lakers defeated their longtime nemesis, the Boston Celtics, in a decisive seventh game to win their 16th championship.

The two-mile celebration was largely peaceful as thousands of LAPD officers lined the street. The parade included a fire truck that carried the Laker Girls and a rig carrying former Lakers greats such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and A.C. Green.

Unlike last year’s celebration, there wasn’t a rally at the end.

“The energy was so crazy, it almost made me go insane,” said Ron Artest, who hoisted his young daughter onto his shoulders for much of the parade. “I almost wanted to jump into the crowd. Maybe I will do that next year.”

Phil Jackson missed the celebration because of medical appointments he had scheduled and could not be changed, according to Lakers spokesman John Black. Jackson has said his decision to return as coach depends largely on his health.

But the Lakers coach was there in spirit. Lakers executive and Jackson’s girlfriend Jeanie Buss wore a yellow cap with the Roman numeral “X” on it, along with a note that read “+1” – signifying Jackson’s 11 NBA titles he has won as coach.
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• Source(s): NBA Media Ventures, LLC, Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital Network & Los Angeles Times
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21
Jun
10

Gulf Paymaster Pledges to Speed Up Compensation Claims, Says Residents ‘Desperate’

NEWS
Gulf Paymaster Pledges to Speed Up Compensation Claims, Says Residents ‘Desperate’

Monday, June 21, 2010

••• The administrator of a $20 billion compensation fund set up by British oil giant BP said on Monday he will speed up payment of compensation to those affected by the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kenneth Feinberg, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to run the third party fund, said on U.S. television that Obama has conveyed to him a message that “we want to get these claims out quicker. We want to get these claims out with more transparency.”

He said when it comes to emergency payments, “you’ve got to allow those payments to go out with less corroboration than you would if you’re giving a lump-sum payment that is the total compensation.”

“For the emergency payments, we’ve got to err on the side of the claimant,” he said.
The White House and BP has worked out an agreement last week that BP would fund the $20 billion fund, managed independently by White House tapped Feinberg. Feinberg on Monday appeared on several TV networks’ news programs, explaining how he intends to run the compensation fund.

Feinberg said people can file electronically for relief, and can do so without the help of a lawyer. “When a person comes in and asks for emergency assistance, they shouldn’t have to keep coming back,” said he.

The oil spill, which is now two months old, has hurt fishing, tourism, oil and other businesses. The fund is set up to compensate lost wages, business interruption, lost profits, personal injuries and even deaths.

BP said on Monday it has spent $2 billion so far on cleaning up the spill.
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