Archive for June, 2010

30
Jun
10

Hurricane Alex threatens Mexico, Texas coasts

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

NEWS
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

NEWS
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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