Archive for July, 2010

31
Jul
10

Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

NEWS
Engineers prepare to seal ruptured oil well

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Earth

••• Engineers are preparing a plan to permanently seal a damaged Gulf of Mexico well, despite delays to the process caused by debris left behind by a recent tropical storm.

As the work continues, incoming BP boss Bob Dudley has vowed his company will not abandon residents affected by the spill after the well is finally sealed.

BP hopes to drown the well in an operation dubbed a ‘static kill’ in which mud and cement will be injected down into the ruptured wellhead via a cap installed on July 15.

Dudley said on Friday the operation had been pushed back a day, saying ‘we are hopeful by Tuesday the static kill will have been performed’.

The U.S. pointman on the crisis, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, said on Friday the delay was needed to allow engineers to clear debris from the damaged wellhead caused by Tropical Storm Bonnie, which briefly halted spill operations.

But BP senior vice president Kent Wells said the company was confident the static kill would proceed successfully.

A cap in place for two weeks has shown no sign of leaks, ‘giving us more confidence that this well has integrity’, which is a positive sign for the operation, Wells said at a technical briefing on Friday.

Wells said BP hopes the static kill will be able to overcome the flow of oil, but that a second sealing method – via an intercept through a relief well – will go ahead afterwards regardless.

BP said the relief well is likely to intersect the existing well deep below the ocean floor within eight to 10 days, allowing the second sealing process – a bottom kill – by the end of August.

Making his first trip to the region since being named to replace outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward, Dudley said on Friday the firm’s focus will shift to long-term recovery for the region now the spill is being contained.

‘We’ve had some good news on the oil… but that doesn’t mean we’re done,’ Dudley told reporters in Mississippi, one of the five states hit by the massive oil spill.

‘We’ll be here for years,’ he said, as BP announced a $100 million charitable fund to aid unemployed rig workers who are experiencing economic hardship due to the US government’s ongoing moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Dudley will take over as BP’s chief executive on October 1, when Hayward, who was widely criticised for his handling of the crisis, hands over the reins.

With the focus now moving towards mitigating the long-term impact of the worst-ever US oil spill, Dudley said there will be signs that the operation is changing.
Miles of protective boom will be withdrawn from coastlines, and fewer clean-up crews in hazmat suits will be seen on beaches as oil stops washing ashore.

‘So you’ll probably see that kind of a pullback. But commitment, absolutely no pullback,’ he pledged.

It remains unknown just how much oil has spilled into the Gulf since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers. Best estimates put the amount at between three and 5.3 million barrels.

Allen said a team of experts is carrying out an ‘oil budget’ to calculate how much was released, how much was captured and how much has evaporated, adding he hopes the report will be released in the coming days.

‘It’s something we ultimately need to know,’ Allen said.

In another encouraging sign, the NOAA said southern Florida and the U.S. eastern seaboard is not likely to experience any effects from the remaining surface oil, as had been feared, as the ‘oil continues to degrade and is hundreds of miles away from the loop current’.

With the leak capped, ‘the light sheen remaining on the Gulf’s surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse but will not travel far’, said Jane Lubchenco, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief.
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31
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business

NEWS
Weekly Address: Good News on Autos, Obstruction on Small Business
President Obama Hails Successes of the Restructuring of the Auto Industry, Calls on GOP Leaders to Stop Blocking Aid for Small Businesses

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the successes of the auto industry restructuring. When his administration decided to invest in the American car companies, some said such a move was bound to fail. But since GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest growth in 10 years – and for the first time since 2004, all three companies are operating at a profit. The President also called on Republican leaders in the Senate to stop blocking a vote on a bill helping small businesses. Even though this bill will help the recovery, and has been endorsed by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, the Republican Senate leadership continues to hold it hostage to politics by denying an up-or-down vote on the bill.

Hello everyone. I’m speaking to you from the GM auto plant here in Detroit, Michigan, where a hopeful story is unfolding in a place that’s been one of the hardest hit in America.

In the twelve months before I took office, American auto companies lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Sales plunged 40 percent. Liquidation was a very real possibility. Years of papering over tough problems and failing to adapt to changing times – combined with a vicious economic crisis – brought an industry that’s been the symbol of our manufacturing might for a century to the brink of collapse.

We didn’t have many good options. On one hand, we could have continued the practice of handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to the auto industry with no real strings attached. On the other hand, we could have walked away and allowed two major auto companies to go out of business – which could have wiped out one million American jobs.

I refused to let that happen. So we came up with a third way. We said to the auto companies – if you’re willing to make the hard decisions necessary to adapt and compete in the 21st century, we’ll make a one-time investment in your future.

Of course, if some folks had their way, none of this would be happening at all. This plant might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington who argued that standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.” They said we should just walk away and let these jobs go.

Today, the men and women in this plant are proving these cynics wrong. Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, our auto industry has added 55,000 jobs – the strongest period of job growth in more than ten years. For the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit. Sales have begun to rebound. And plants like this that wouldn’t have existed if all of us didn’t act are now operating maximum capacity.

What’s more, thanks to our investments, a lot of these auto companies are reinventing themselves to meet the demands of a new age. At this plant, they’re hard at work building the high-quality, fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow – cars like the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt that can run 40 miles before taking a sip of gasoline. Throughout Michigan, an advanced battery industry is taking root that will power clean electric cars – an industry that produced only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries last year, but will now be able to produce as much as 40 percent in a little over five years. That’s real progress.

There’s no doubt that we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do before folks here and across the country can feel whole again. But what’s important is that we’re finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off. And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers – if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required – none of this progress would have happened.

Still, even as these icons of American industry are being reborn, we also need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America’s small businessmen and women, as well – particularly since they’re the ones who create most of the new jobs in this country.

As we work to rebuild our economy, I can’t imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire. That’s what we’re trying to do with the Small Business Jobs Act – a bill that has been praised as being good for small businesses by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. It’s a bill that includes provision after provision authored by both Democrats and Republicans. But yesterday, the Republican leaders in the Senate once again used parliamentary procedures to block it. Understand, a majority of Senators support the plan. It’s just that the Republican leaders in the Senate won’t even allow it to come up for a vote.

That isn’t right. And I’m calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America’s small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small business jobs bill.

At a time when America is just starting to move forward again, we can’t afford the do-nothing policies and partisan maneuvering that will only take us backward. I won’t stand here and pretend everything’s wonderful. I know that times are tough. But what I also know is that we’ve made it through tough times before. And we’ll make it through again. The men and women hard at work in this plant make me absolutely confident of that.

So to all the naysayers out there, I say this: Don’t ever bet against the American people. Because we don’t take the easy way out. That’s not how we deal with challenge. That’s not how we build this country into the greatest economic power the world has ever known. We did it by summoning the courage to persevere, and adapt, and push this country forward, inch by inch. That’s the spirit I see in this plant today, and as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I will keep fighting alongside you until we reach a better day.
Thanks.

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• Source(s): The White House
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30
Jul
10

President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers

NEWS
President Obama in Detroit: The Fight for America’s Workers
President Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today the President was in Detroit visiting workers at a Chrysler plant and a GM plant that have not only survived, but found success after critics looking to score political points claimed there was no hope for them. For those critics the President offered a lesson: “Don’t bet against the American worker.”

During the two years since the economy took its hard downward turn, millions of Americans have had to fight with everything they had to stay afloat, to keep food on the table, to keep their businesses in business – and nowhere has that been more true than in Detroit.

The President has also been fighting alongside America’s workers – from the Recovery Act that’s saved or created about 3 million jobs, to the fight today over small business lending – and of course for the workers in Detroit and across America who contribute to the decades-old craft of American cars. When political opponents said that helping the American auto industry survive was a lost cause, and tried to turn public frustration against the President, he stepped in and made the hard choices anyway. There couldn’t necessarily be a life raft for everybody, but he was not going to let a million American jobs fall by the wayside simply because it opened him up for cheap political attacks.
And as the report released yesterday made clear, that investment is paying off: “In the year before GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the auto industry shed 334,000 jobs. In the year since, auto industry employment has increased by 55,000 jobs. This is the fastest year-over-year growth in auto employment since 1999.” Not only that, but with a boost from the Recovery Act’s investments in the clean energy economy, the industry has turned toward the future in ways many thought they never could. A quick look at the interactive map released yesterday gives a glimpse of how America can move back to the front of the pack in the coming generation of fuel efficient and electric vehicles.

In his visit to the Chrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant, speaking to workers who have had to fight just to keep working, it was clear the President felt in a bit of a fighting mood himself:

The President: Investments like those mean jobs for American workers to do what they’ve always done: build great products and sell them around the world.

So the bottom line is this – we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re beginning to see some of these tough decisions pay off. We are moving forward.

I want you to remember, though, if some folks had their way, none of this would have been happening. I just want to point that out. Right? I mean this – this plant – this plant and your jobs might not exist. There were leaders of the “just say no” crowd in Washington – they were saying – oh, standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One of them called it “the worst investment you could possibly make.”

Audience: Boo!

The President: They said – they said we should just walk way and let those jobs go.

Audience: Boo!

The President: I wish they were standing here today. (Applause.) I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I don’t think they’d be willing to look you in the eye and say that you were a bad investment. They might just come around if they were standing here and admit that by standing by a great American industry and the good people who work for it, that we did the right thing. It’s hard for them to say that. You know, they like admitting when I do the right thing. (Laughter.) But they might have had to admit it. And I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week! (Applause.)

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• Source(s): The White House
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30
Jul
10

Ellen DeGeneres Out at ‘American Idol,’ Jennifer Lopez Could Replace Her

NEWS
‘Ellen DeGeneres Out at ‘American Idol,’ Jennifer Lopez Could Replace Her

Ellen DeGeneres’ Exit From ‘American Idol’ Divides Fans
‘She makes the show a lot better, and I don’t think she should leave,’ one fan says.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Entertainment

••• Ellen DeGeneres is leaving American Idol after just one season as a judge.

‘A couple months ago, I let Fox and the American Idol producers know that this didn’t feel like the right fit for me,’ DeGeneres said in a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter.

‘I told them I wouldn’t leave them in a bind and that I would hold off on doing anything until they were able to figure out where they wanted to take the panel next.
‘It was a difficult decision to make, but my work schedule became more than I bargained for. I also realised this season that while I love discovering, supporting and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.

‘I loved the experience working on Idol and I am very grateful for the year I had. I am a huge fan of the show and will continue to be.’
The move means there are now two vacancies on the hit show’s judging panel for the 10th season, which returns in January.

Fox has yet to announce a replacement for Simon Cowell, who left at the end of last season to start a new talent show for the network.

With American Idol facing ratings erosion, DeGeneres’s exit gives Fox the chance to make a fresh start with a revamped judging panel.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox has been looking to shake up the Idol format including possibly ditching its current judging panel altogether.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez is poised to take DeGeneres’ place, according to multiple reports.
• » American Idol, Season 10 » Judges: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler » Presenter: Ryan Seacrest
• Source(s): The Hollywood Reporter & Fox / News Corporation
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30
Jul
10

Fishermen fear for livelihoods as Gulf focus shifts

NEWS
Fishermen fear for livelihoods as Gulf focus shifts

Friday, July 30, 2010

••• U.S. officials sought on Thursday to reassure fishermen they will not lose out in the next phase of the Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up, while legal wranglings began for the BP trial of the decade.

As final preparations were put in place for operations next week to permanently kill the well, U.S. spill chief Thad Allen convened a meeting of parish presidents in New Orleans to discuss how best to safeguard local jobs going forward.

With less oil floating in the Gulf, there are fears BP might scrap its ‘Vessels of Opportunity’ program which employs more than 1500 boats, providing desperate fishermen with vital skimming and boom-laying work.

‘If BP uses the capping of the well as an excuse to minimize its clean-up operations, then shame on them,’ said Captain Mike Frenette, whose five boats in Venice, Louisiana missed an entire summer’s fishing due to the disaster.

Frenette had to apply four times before getting two of his five boats onto the program, which pays between $600 and $3500 a day, depending on the size of the boat.
‘The paperwork kept getting lost,’ he said. ‘And all that our Vessels of Opportunity work is doing is counting against our compensation claim. We’re not making any money, here, we’re just trying to keep our heads above water.’

A large portion of the Gulf waters remain closed to commercial and recreational fishing and with lingering doubts about seafood safety, fishermen could effectively end up losing their jobs for a second time.

‘The fishermen have missed a year, and we don’t know what the impact is going to be next year, or the year after that,’ said Marty O’Connell, an environmental scientist at the University of New Orleans.

Clean-up crews are collecting samples of fish and shrimp at depths of between 30 and 360 feet to test them for contaminants, but it will take years to fully know the impact of the oil disaster on Gulf fisheries.

Allen pledged earlier this week to keep as many ‘Vessels of Opportunity’ as possible, hoping they could be redeployed to test for any underwater plumes.
A massive task also lies ahead in picking up some 3 797 miles of protective boom laid to protect Gulf shores from the once-giant slick that has now diminished to just a few patches of light sheen.

Ahead of the meeting with Allen, Saint Tammany parish president Kevin Davis, said he was against reducing any oil-fighting resources for the time being.

‘Although the well is capped, we cannot let down our guard until we are absolutely certain that no oil lingers under our waters,’ he said.

Meanwhile, BP lawyers were set to come face-to-face on Thursday with victims of the spill during a first court hearing into the case, which is likely to become the trial of the decade.

The hearings in Boise, Idaho, will examine whether complaints submitted by some 200 plaintiffs can be consolidated.

A decision is expected around two weeks after the hearing, but the session will give trial lawyers a test run for the arguments they will make during what could be years-long legal proceedings.
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29
Jul
10

Adult industry sees iPorn potential in new iPhone

NEWS
Adult industry sees iPorn potential in new iPhone

Porn just got interactive: Now Apple iPhone 4 users can make video calls to X-rated stars with Face Time

Thursday, July 29, 2010

••• The adult industry is moving on the new iPhone, seeking models specifically for video sex chat on FaceTime.

So when Apple launched the iPhone 4 and its FaceTime video conference feature, it didn’t take long for adult-entertainment companies to develop video-sex chat services and start hiring workers through Craigslist.

With more than 3 million of the phones sold, the adult industry stands to make big money on this new way to reach out and touch someone – even if it puts Apple, which has always taken pains to keep its iPhone apps squeaky clean, in an awkward spot.

In at least five cities, Craigslist ads seek models specifically for video sex chat on FaceTime. Many of the ads even offer to throw in a free iPhone 4 for the new employees.

FaceTime lets people call another iPhone 4 user and have live video conversations over a Wi-Fi connection using the front-facing camera on the new model. In one TV ad, a soldier uses it to get a look at his faraway wife’s ultrasound pictures.

The adult industry wants its customers to share moments of an entirely different kind with its stars. And while the technology may be new, the idea is not. Porn providers have always been early adopters.

In the 1970s, the demand for explicit videos at home helped VCRs become widespread, and the industry was the first to embrace DVDs, too. Internet porn peddlers were some of the first to make wide use of streaming video and online credit card payments.
‘The first time someone created a camera there was someone who said, ‘Wouldn’t it be good for someone to take off their clothes in front of this camera? said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president at Interpret, a media research company.

And for years, cameras mounted on computers have helped connect people for racy online video sessions. But the portability and privacy of a cell phone makes FaceTime a new frontier for the industry.

‘A phone is such an intimate thing, you usually don’t lend it out or have someone else use it,’ said Quentin Boyer, a spokesman for Pink Visual, an adult production company.

Boyer said his company began planning for iPhone 4 video services almost as soon as the device hit stores. They should be ready in a matter of weeks. Boyer said the company will offer FaceTime sessions with some of the same women who appear in its videos – likely charging $5 or $6 a minute, payable by credit card.

‘It has a very personal feel – your mobile phone to hers,’ he said.

Online exhibitionism is only growing. Take Chatroulette, which randomly connects strangers for video chats. While the service isn’t explicitly sexual, it’s common for users to stumble upon people looking for more than just conversation.

So far, most online video sex chat services have let the customer see the performer, but not the other way around. FaceTime may change that.

‘We are seeing more and more that customers want to be watched as much as they want to watch,’ said Dan Hogue, owner of an adult chat company called CamWorld, which is planning FaceTime services.
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29
Jul
10

Clinton wedding extravaganza special!

NEWS
Clinton wedding extravaganza special!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

••• Wedding bells aren’t ringing yet, but the cash tills are, as the countdown begins in tiny Rhinebeck to Chelsea Clinton’s celebrity wedding on Saturday.

‘It’s like having the Olympics in your town,’ exclaimed Alex Batkin, manager of the up-market Wing and Clover arts-and-craft boutique.

Like the rest of the world, locals can only guess at details of the secrecy-shrouded marriage between Chelsea, daughter of former president Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and her investment banker beau Marc Mezvinsky.

The guest list remains under wraps, with names as varied as Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey thrown around on gossip websites, but President Barack Obama apparently is not showing.

The location is assumed to be the posh Astor Courts estate just outside Rhinebeck, almost a three hours drive from New York City, though even this has never been confirmed.

In any case, Rhinebeck, population less than 8000, is laying out the welcome mat.

‘Congratulations to Marc and Chelsea!’ a poster in the window of Pete’s Famous Restaurant, an old style diner, says.

‘Mazel tov,’ reads a sign in Samuel’s sweets shop, using the Hebrew for ‘good luck’ in a nod to the Jewish Mezvinsky.
Mixed with goodwill is hunger for good business in a sleepy town shifting from rural roots to the glitzier role of retreat for New York’s wealthy.

Echoing the Clinton family news blackout, no one here will openly discuss their share in the bonanza brought by the expected 400 guests at a no-expenses-spared party. But, clearly, no one wants to be left out.

One of the big winners is believed to be the picturesque Beekman Arms inn, which claims to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States.

Workers were adding a lick of white paint under the roof on Tuesday as staff lugged in suitcases to fully booked rooms.

Asked who was staying, the normally polite front desk clerks became stony faced.

‘No comment,’ one told a reporter. Another conveyed the same message by raising her hands to make an X with two fingers.

Batkin’s store revealed at least one success: a painting bought as a gift for the betrothed.

The picture is emblazoned ‘Chelsea and Marc’ over a naive-style depiction of a wedding cake surrounded by trees, squirrels and a fish-filled river.
Of course, Batkin wouldn’t say how much the painting went for – or to whom.

‘I just can’t,’ he said apologetically.

Across the road at Liquors and Wines, Mike Haley said the supplier for white wine at the party would be Clinton Vineyards from the happily named nearby town of Clinton.

‘It’s light and dry. It goes good with fish or chicken,’ he said.

Haley looked wistfully at his huge selection of bottles. ‘I’d love to supply. I haven’t had a call from them yet, though,’ he said.

Hoping to get at least a few financial crumbs from the wedding table, he did put some bottles of Clinton Vineyards Tribute 2009 in his storefront window.’

Another entrepreneur seeking wedding joy is Rhinebeck Deli, where the menu features the Hillary Clinton-themed ‘Secretary of Steak’.’

Even the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league baseball team, wants to get in on the act.’
Their mascot, a man dressed as a raccoon, stood at Rhinebeck’s main crossroads on Tuesday with a sign reading: ‘Chelsea Will U Marry Me?’ Locals and bemused tourists grinned at the sight.’

‘We’re trying to get a little buzz going for the team, so people come down to the park and check us out,’ explained teammate A.J. Tomeny.’

All the excitement would implode spectacularly if it turned out Rhinebeck was not the real wedding location, but an elaborate diversion in the Clinton information war – as a few conspiracy minded locals suspect.’

The Hudson Valley News, a local weekly that has become a must-read for the growing international press corps in the town, says not to worry.’

Without citing sources, the latest edition reports that the wedding will indeed take place at Astor Courts, starting at 6 pm on Saturday and that police will shut down roads in the vicinity.’

‘Congratulations Chelsea and Marc’ the slightly premature front page banner headline reads.’

Drinking coffee in Pete’s Famous Restaurant, 79-year-old Ed Hammond called the hoopla ‘insane’.’

‘I think they’ve lost track of the two people at the centre, the ones actually getting married,’ he said.’

‘Myself, I’ll get the hell out. I’m not much of one for crowds.’
» Related: It’s Official: Chelsea Clinton Ties the Knot!
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