Posts Tagged ‘News



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

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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

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‘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

Clinton wedding extravaganza special!

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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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27
Jul
10

BP well-killing process scheduled to start in a week

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BP well-killing process scheduled to start in a week

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

••• U.S. officials laid out on Monday a detailed timeline of how BP plans to permanently plug the Gulf of Mexico oil well, saying the all-important ‘static kill’ would begin in one week’s time.

By Saturday or Sunday at the latest, a final 656 yards of casing will be inserted into the bottom of the relief well to strengthen it so it can withstand the long-awaited ‘static kill’ intact.

Some 12 hours after the cement has set, engineers will begin the crucial operation to pump mud and cement down through the cap on the damaged well, which finally cut off the flow of crude earlier this month.

‘That’s an attempt to fill the inside of the well from the top down and then cement to secure it and make it stable,’ explained Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral leading the U.S. response to the disaster.
While it is hoped this operation can effectively plug the well, the ‘static kill’ will be followed five days later by a ‘bottom kill’ operation just to make sure.

Engineers will drill through the relief well into the annulus at the bottom of the damaged well. The annulus is the area between the pipe and the outside of the well bore.

The ‘static kill’ can only plug the area inside the pipe, while the ‘bottom kill’ also aims to cement over the annulus to be certain the oil reservoir is permanently sealed.

‘So when we enter the well bore of the Macondo well we will first fill the annulus full of mud and then cement it in,’ said Allen.
‘When that cement dries then we will go back and drill through it again and into the pipe.

‘We will ascertain at that point whether or not the top kill or static kill have actually killed it or whether we have to do more. That’s when we will know absolutely that the well’s been killed.’

If all goes according to plan, the leaking well could be plugged once and for all during the second week of August.

If upper estimates above four million barrels are confirmed, the disaster that began on April 20 with an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig will be the biggest accidental spill ever.
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27
Jul
10

BP boss Hayward to get job in BP-Russian venture

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BP boss Hayward to get job in BP-Russian venture
BP boss Tony Hayward resigns

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BP says CEO Tony Hayward will step down on October 1.

He’ll be succeeded by American Robert Dudley.

It is understood he will be offered a job on the board of the companies Russian arm.

BP is jettisoning CEO Tony Hayward, whose verbal blunders have made the oil giant’s image even worse as it struggles to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and will assign him to a key job in Russia, a person familiar with the matter says.

Hayward is set to step down in October and take a post at TNK-BP, the company’s joint venture in Russia, a source told the Associated Press on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made by the British company’s board.

Other news reports said Hayward could be cut loose by the British energy giant as early as Tuesday, when BP announces its quarterly earnings and battles to rebuild its reputation amid the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Hayward could get a payoff and pension package worth about $18.67 million, The Times and the Financial Times newspapers reported in London.

His reported payoff would be the equivalent of one year’s salary plus a guaranteed pension for the 53-year-old who started his career with the firm 28 years ago and took over as chief executive in 2007.

According to the BBC, Hayward will get an immediate annual pension worth about $1.614 million when he leaves in October.

BP said, however, there was no decision on Hayward, whose string of public relations gaffes during the crisis include telling reporters ‘I want my life back’ and joining a yacht race as Gulf residents battled the massive oil spill.

‘BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters,’ a spokesman for the energy giant said on Monday.

‘Any decisions will be announced as appropriate.’

BP’s board met on Monday, and a statement was expected early Tuesday, when the company files its second quarter results – which are expected to reveal a $30 billion provision for funding the disaster.

Hayward is expected to be replaced by Bob Dudley, who grew up in Mississippi and is now in charge of the oil cleanup operation.

BP has said Dudley has a ‘deep appreciation and affinity for the Gulf Coast’.

Hayward left BP’s headquarters after Monday’s board meeting without speaking to reporters.

His silver Lexus was mobbed by photographers, who chased the car down the street in central London.

Hayward has drawn criticism in recent months from U.S. President Barack Obama – who said he would have fired him – and other senior U.S. figures and Gulf residents over his handling of the aftermath of the disaster.

The White House Monday warned BP that any decision to replace Hayward would not change its obligation to clean up the Gulf of Mexico and compensate victims.

In Washington, a key Democratic congressman called on BP to withhold any big payouts to the chief executive.

‘BP should be dedicating its resources to compensating the residents of the Gulf Coast who are the victims of this tragedy, not handing out multi-million-dollar golden parachutes,’ Representative Ed Markey said.

‘At a time when BP should be devoting every possible resource to ending the spill, cleaning up the Gulf and fully compensating the residents who have had their livelihoods impacted, I find it extremely troubling that BP’s board would consider providing such a large severance package to Mr Hayward,’ he added.

BP has already agreed to set up a $20 billion fund to pay for the Gulf clean-up and compensation, as it works to plug the BP well that ruptured in the April explosion and sinking of its leased Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers.

Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who is leading the U.S. government’s response to the oil spill, said on Monday that efforts to kill the damaged well for good would not likely start before next week.

Originally expected as early as Tuesday, Allen said BP had given a ‘refined and revised’ timeline as it redeployed vessels and personnel following a recent storm in the region.

Even if BP then manages to kill the well, Allen warned there was ‘the possibility that shore will be impacted I guess for the next four to six weeks.’

The ruptured wellhead was sealed on July 15 with a giant cap, which for the first time in three months halted the flow of oil into the sea. But up to four million barrels of crude is already estimated to have spewed into the Gulf.

Toxic crude has washed up on the shores of all five US states on the Gulf Coast and vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the region have been hit hard.

BP faces hundreds of pending lawsuits into the cause of the April 20 rig blast that should determine eventual liability.

It’s not yet clear what Hayward’s role will be with TNK-BP, but the job suggests BP still holds more faith in Hayward than much of the U.S. public and political establishment do.

Analysts consider the Russian venture one of BP’s crown jewels; it accounts for a quarter of the company’s production.

Repeated calls to TNK-BP‘s offices in Moscow went unanswered on Monday.
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26
Jul
10

High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

NEWS
High-Def Body Scanner Spots Heart Problems Early

HD Scanner Spots Flaws Before Heart Attacks: Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital Use GE Healthcare Device

Monday, July 26, 2010

••• A new high definition body scanner is giving U.K. doctors the clearest ever view inside the human body – helping them spot problems before people suffer heart attacks, Sky News reported Today.
The scanner generates pictures of diseased arteries in the heart that are twice as clear as older machines.

It means doctors at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital in the South West of England can identify problems at an early stage, long before patients suffer a heart attack or even develop any symptoms.


It’s brilliant. It’s a relief there is no structural problem for the chest pain, so I can get on with life now.
John Hughes, after a HD scan on his heart.

“When we started doing the heart research in 2002, we used to struggle to see the blood vessels, let alone see the narrowings within them,” Professor of radiology, Carl Roobottom, said. “Now, we have a technique that can see to within a fraction of a millimeter.”
In just five seconds, the scanner takes 220 X-rays, each of them a cross section of the heart. Computers then turn the raw snapshots into a 3D image.
Doctors can add color to distinguish between different types of tissue, strip away layers that obscure problem areas, and rotate or flip the image to get the best possible view.
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• Source(s): Sky News / BskyB / News Corporation
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26
Jul
10

‘No final decision’ made over Tony Hayward

NEWS
‘No final decision’ made over Tony Hayward
BP Boss Hayward ‘To Take Russian Role’

Monday, July 26, 2010

BP has said no decision has been taken over the future of beleaguered chief executive Tony Hayward, amid reports he is about to depart with a pension of almost $ 17.05 million.

Mr. Hayward’s fate looks set to be finalised at a board meeting in London, with a formal announcement on his future expected soon afterwards.

The oil firm’s current managing director, Bob Dudley, is the favourite to succeed him.

‘BP notes the press speculation over the weekend regarding potential changes to management and the charge for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill,’ the company said in a statement.

‘BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters.’

Mr. Hayward – who even very recently was told he had the ‘full support’ of the board and senior management – was reported to be discussing his severance package with senior management over the weekend.

His employment terms entitle him to a payout of at least $1.55 million, but The Daily Telegraph has reported the figure could reach as much as $16.73 million.

‘Tony Hayward’s departure as BP’s chief executive will, as I’ve reported several times during the last 36 hours, not be formally ratified until the oil company’s board meets,’ Kleinman said.

‘Even then, a number of factors could intervene to delay his resignation or conspire to manufacture another outcome altogether.’

A U.S. government official briefed by senior BP figures confirmed to the Associated Press news agency a change of leadership was under way.
BP chief executive Tony Hayward is to step down from the top job, but he will be put forward for the board of the oil firm’s Russian operations.

He exclusively revealed that along with details of his plans to step down, BP would also announce that Mr Hayward was likely to be proposed for a non-executive role on the board of Russian venture TNK-BP.

‘The role on the TNK-BP board is not about keeping Hayward sweet,’ said Kleinman.

‘Much more importantly, if it is confirmed as I expect in the next 12 hours or so, it would underline the streak of realpolitik that courses through the veins of all multinational companies.’

BP’s current managing director Bob Dudley is the favorite to succeed Mr Hayward following the crisis that has engulfed the company since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April.

But as the head of TNK-BP in 2008, Mr. Dudley had a huge falling-out with the Russian authorities and ended up fleeing the country in fear for his safety.

‘At a time when BP is already fighting one political fire on one international front, in the US, there has to be a risk that Dudley’s appointment as chief executive ignites another,’ commented Kleinman.

‘That’s where Hayward comes in.’

‘He may be damaged goods in Washington, but BP insiders say that one of his significant achievements during his three years as chief executive was helping to negotiate a new governance structure at TNK-BP.’

‘His relationships in Moscow are said to very strong.’

Mr. Hayward was reported to be discussing his severance package with senior management over the weekend.

His employment terms entitle him to a payout of at least $1.55 million, but his pension pot from a 28-year career with BP is around $16.73 million and he has also received impressive numbers of shares in recent years.
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• Source(s): Sky News / BskyB / News Corporation
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25
Jul
10

Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

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Families mark 10 years since Concorde crash

Sunday, July 25, 2010

••• Ten years to the day after Concorde plunged from the skies near Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, victims of the tragedy have been remembered.

Families of the 113 people killed gathered at Gonesse just outside the French capital where the supersonic jet crashed onto a hotel after take-off.
All of the mainly German passengers on board the New York-bound flight perished alongside its Air France crew and four people on the ground.

The Concorde programme itself never recovered. The mythical aircraft was finally retired in 2003.
Controversy still surrounds what went wrong. The verdict in a manslaughter case is due in December.

Continental Airlines and five men went on trial amid claims a small metal strip from a Continental DC10 punctured the Concorde’s tyres on the runway. They all deny the charges against them.

Some defence lawyers argue the supersonic was on fire before it ran over the titanium strip.
» Related: Ten years on, French court asks who’s to blame for Concorde crash
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25
Jul
10

BP to Discuss CEO Hayward’s Exit on Monday

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BP to Discuss CEO Hayward’s Exit on Monday
BP chief Tony Hayward ‘negotiating exit deal’

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The boss of troubled oil giant BP, Tony Hayward, is poised to quit within days, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reports.

Hayward, who has been heavily criticized over his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis, is set to step down before BP announces its half-year results on Tuesday, the paper said.

Reports have suggested for days that Hayward would resign at some point in the coming weeks as British-based BP battles to recover its reputation in the wake of the spill.

The Sunday Telegraph said that there could be wrangling over Hayward’s severance package, under which he is likely to be paid a minimum figure just over £1.045 million ($1.614 million).

BP has said that Hayward ‘has the support of the board and management’ but has declined to make further comment on media reports.
The Press Association learned that the BP board will meet ahead of Tuesday’s release of the oil giant’s latest interim results.

Meanwhile the BBC has claimed that Hayward is currently in talks over a compensation deal, with the outcome likely to be settled and made public by the close of tomorrow.

A spokesman for BP maintained that the chief executive continued to have the ‘full support of the board and senior management’ and that the company would not comment on ‘speculation.’
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• Source(s): Telegraph Media Group Ltd., Press Association, British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Television News
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24
Jul
10

Gulf oil clean-up resuming after storm

NEWS
Gulf oil clean-up resuming after storm

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Earth••• A drill rig working on a relief well is returning to the site of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill after an oncoming storm system weakened, a BP spokesman says.

‘The Development Driller 3 is on its way back,’ BP spokesman Bryan Ferguson said on Saturday. ‘It’s the one that’s drilling the first relief well and its the most critical one and it is turned around and is headed back right now.’

Officials are eager to return to work on operations that should finally seal the leaking well, months after the April 20 explosion aboard BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil platform, which killed 11 workers and sunk the rig.

The DD3 drill rig was disconnected from the spill site ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie, which has now weakened to a tropical depression.

‘The assessment was made that the storm intensity has decreased,’ Ferguson said. ‘So the decision was made overnight to return the DD3.’

The DD3 rig is drilling the first of two relief wells that will be used to definitively plug the devastating spill.

Locals and officials had feared that evacuating crews ahead of bad weather associated with the storm system could set back operations to finally seal off the well by up to 12 days.
But on Saturday morning, several ships, including some operating underwater surveillance robots, remained at the spill site.

Ferguson said it would take around 21 hours for the drill rig to reconnect to drilling operations some 5000 feet beneath the sea surface, after which a decision would be made on whether to restart drilling.

BP and U.S. officials currently plan two operations to kill the well.

The first, a ‘static kill,’ involves pumping heavy drilling fluids known as mud through the blowout preventer valve system that sits on top of the well, and then injecting cement to seal it.

The process is similar to the ‘top kill’ attempt that failed, but official say a cap placed over the leak that has sealed in the flow of oil since last Thursday will made the operation easier and more likely to succeed.

However, officials have always said the ultimate solution to the leak will be via a relief well, which will intersect the original well.

Using the same process as the static kill, drilling fluid, which is denser than oil, will then be pumped via the relief well until the flow of crude is overcome and the well and be sealed with cement.
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24
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward

NEWS
Weekly Address: Moving Forward on the Economy vs. Moving Backward
President Obama Praises New Wall Street Reform Law; Says GOP Plan Will Take Us Backward

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In this week’s address, President Obama praised the Wall Street reform bill that he signed into law on Wednesday and explained how it fits into the greater strategy to bring the country out of recession and build an economy for the long run. The president’s plan is aimed at strengthening the middle class and gives tax breaks to small businesses that creates jobs here, invests in homegrown, clean energy, and cuts taxes for working families. Unfortunately, when the Republican leader in the House offered his plan to create jobs this week, he presented the same policy ideas that led to this recession – ideas that will kill jobs instead of create them, and will add $1 trillion to the deficit, not reduce it.

This week, I signed into law a Wall Street reform bill that will protect consumers and our entire economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the worst recession of our lifetime. It’s reform that will help put a stop to the abusive practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies. It will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street firms. And it will finally bring the shadowy deals that caused the financial crisis into the light of day.

Wall Street reform is a key pillar of an overall economic plan we’ve put in place to dig ourselves out of this recession and build an economy for the long run – an economy that makes America more competitive and our middle-class more secure. It’s a plan based on the Main Street values of hard work and responsibility – and one that demands new accountability from Wall Street to Washington.

Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to small business owners who are creating jobs right here in America. Already, we’ve given small businesses eight new tax cuts, and have expanded lending to more than 60,000 small business owners.

We’re also investing in a homegrown, clean energy industry – because I don’t want to see new solar panels and wind turbines and electric cars manufactured in some other country. I want to see them made in America, by American workers. So far, we’ve provided new tax credits, loan guarantees, and investments that will lead to more than 800,000 clean energy jobs by 2012. And throughout America, communities are being rebuilt by people working in hundreds of thousands of new private sector jobs repairing our roads, bridges, and railways.

Our economic plan is also aimed at strengthening the middle-class. That’s why we’ve cut taxes for 95% of working families. That’s why we’ve offered tax credits that have made college more affordable for millions of students, and why we’re making a new commitment to our community colleges. And that’s why we passed health insurance reform that will stop insurance companies from dropping or denying coverage based on an illness or pre-existing condition.

This is our economic plan – smart investments in America’s small businesses, America’s clean energy industry, and America’s middle-class. Now, I can’t tell you that this plan will bring back all the jobs we lost and restore our economy to full strength overnight. The truth is, it took nearly a decade of failed economic policies to create this mess, and it will take years to fully repair the damage. But I am confident that we are finally headed in the right direction. We are moving forward. And what we can’t afford right now is to go back to the same ideas that created this mess in the first place.

Unfortunately, those are the ideas we keep hearing from our friends in the other party. This week, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives offered his plan to create jobs. It’s a plan that’s surprisingly short, and sadly familiar.

First, he would repeal health insurance reform, which would take away tax credits from millions of small business owners, and take us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to drop coverage and jack up premiums. Second, he would say no to new investments in clean energy, after his party already voted against the clean energy tax credits and loans that are creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses. And third, even though his party voted against tax cuts for middle-class families, he would permanently keep in place the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans – the same tax cuts that have added hundreds of billions to our debt.

These are not new ideas. They are the same policies that led us into this recession. They will not create jobs, they will kill them. They will not reduce our deficit, they will add $1 trillion to our deficit. They will take us backward at a time when we need to keep America moving forward.

I know times are tough. I know that the progress we’ve made isn’t good enough for the millions of Americans who are still out of work or struggling to pay the bills. But I also know the character of this nation. I know that in times of great challenge and difficulty, we don’t fear the future – we shape the future. We harness the skills and ingenuity of the most dynamic country on Earth to reach a better day. We do it with optimism, and we do it with confidence. That’s the spirit we need right now, and that’s the future I know we can build together.
Thank you.

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

Storm puts Gulf spill work on hold

NEWS
Storm puts Gulf spill work on hold
BP Oil Spill: Ships Head to Shore as Bonnie Barrels Toward Spill Site

Friday, July 23, 2010

Earth

••• A tropical storm barrelling towards the Gulf of Mexico oil spill site has forced crews to suspend operations and halt work to permanently plug the BP well.

Admiral Thad Allen, the U.S. official overseeing the spill response, said crews aboard two drilling rigs and a container ship were drawing up thousands of metres of pipes from beneath the sea, while non-essential personnel were being evacuated as Tropical Storm Bonnie took aim at the area.

Officials said a cap that has kept oil from escaping the well since Thursday last week would stay in place, after a week of tests suggested pressure would not force oil out through new leaks.

With Bonnie expected to hit the area on Saturday, Allen said the evacuation would set back efforts to finally ‘kill’ the leaking well by up to 12 days.

But with the safety of workers at the well site a top concern, Allen said the weather had forced crews to collect boom and return ships to shore and some of the 2,000-strong crew responding to the spill headed back to land.

‘The intention right now is to put the vessels in a safe place so they can return as quickly as possible to resume their operations,’ he told reporters.
He said officials estimated ‘if we abandon the scene, it would be 48 hours before we would be back on’.

The oncoming storm has forced a halt to the process of concreting the casing on the first of two relief wells.

Once concrete can be placed and set, a process expected to take up to a week, officials hope to perform a ‘static kill’ to plug the well by injecting heavy drilling mud and cement through the cap at the top.

The final operation to cement the reservoir through a relief well would be expected five to seven days after that.

First Lady Michelle Obama, visiting Pascagoula, Mississippi, promised the U.S. government would not forget those affected.

‘This isn’t over yet. And this administration is going to stand with the people of the Gulf until folks are made whole again,’ she said.

Officials ordered crews to begin preparing for Bonnie on Thursday, after forecasters said the system would affect Florida’s Gulf Coast and parts of Louisiana.
Bonnie struck south Florida on Friday. Allen said the storm might be mild enough to allow some vessels on remain at the site of the ruptured well.

‘The seismic survey vessels, the acoustic vessels and the vessels operating the ROV’s (underwater robots) will stay as long as possible, and if conditions allow it they will remain through the passage of the storm,’ he said.

But if the ships are forced to depart, engineers will have no real-time information about the state of the wellbore below the sealing cap.

Hydrophones will take recordings, but Allen said the information could be analysed only after the fact.

‘Our only real-time feedback will be aerial surveillance and satellite imagery,’ he said.

Oil has washed up on the shores of all five U.S. states in the Gulf of Mexico since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

Separately, a former rig worker told federal investigators an alarm that should have alerted Deepwater Horizon workers to a deadly build-up of gas had been muted months before the April 20 blast.

The system, which uses lights and alarms to warn of fire or high-levels of toxic or explosive gases, had been ‘inhibited’, Mike Williams, the chief electronics technician on the rig, told a hearing looking into the disaster.
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22
Jul
10

Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

NEWS
Storm forces Gulf oil spill ships back to port

Oil cap in Gulf to remain despite approaching storm

Thursday, July 22, 2010

••• The U.S. government has ordered certain ships working on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back to port amid fears that a brewing storm could force a mass evacuation and derail efforts to plug BP’s runaway well.

A full-scale evacuation could delay by up to two weeks the final operation to plug BP’s runaway well, which has unleashed millions of barrels of crude on Gulf Coast shorelines in one of America’s worst ever environmental disasters.

‘Activities that are under way for storm preparedness include evacuating specialized vessels from the path of any severe weather to prevent damage and ensure that oil recovery operations can resume as soon as possible after a storm,’ a Coast Guard statement said on Thursday.

With no crews on site to monitor pressure inside the well, top U.S. official Admiral Thad Allen has warned that the cap that has prevented any toxic crude from entering the sea for the past week may have to be opened up again or even removed.

Storm warnings have been extended from the Caribbean around the Florida Keys to the Gulf Coast, but there has been no immediate order from BP or the U.S. government to suspend operations entirely and pull staff back to shore.

If the depression developing near the Bahamas, expected to become Tropical Storm Bonnie lateron Thursday, takes aim at Louisiana it will delay a so-called ‘static kill’ to seal the well with cement originally planned for this weekend.

Officials have warned it will take up to five days to get some of the biggest vessels, in particular the massive drilling platforms working on relief wells, back to port.

‘We’ve always said we need 120 hours in advance to be able to start redeploying them and then the total time off-scene would be anywhere between 10 and 14 days,’ Allen said on Wednesday.

As for what to do with the cap, this would be ‘a judgment call based on the risks,’ he said.

The first relief well was expected to intercept the damaged well as early as next week but if the storm hits that could be more like mid-August and any final operation to seal the well with cement might be delayed until September.

The storm threat was already delaying progress as work on the final casing of the relief well was suspended so a ‘storm packer’ plug could be fitted to stabilize it.

A full evacuation would be a huge blow for local residents. Tourism is in tatters and a vast swath of the Gulf has been closed to commercial and sport fishing since the BP-leased Deep water Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers.

As millions of barrels of crude spewed into the sea, the region was further hit by President Barack Obama’s decision to impose a moratorium on new deep sea drilling – a move fiercely opposed by local leaders and the oil industry.

Four of the world’s oil giants say they will create a $1 billion system to capture oil in case of another catastrophic spill.

Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Royal Dutch Shell will each contribute $250 million to create a non-profit group, the Marine Well Containment Company.

The new venture would design, build and operate a flexible system that could mobilise within 24 hours to siphon and contain 100,000 barrels of oil per day in depths of up to 1.86 miles, the companies said.

It’s main goal would be to prevent a spill as large as the one unleashed by BP’s busted Macondo well, which sits 1 mile below the surface and was estimated to have spewed up to 60,000 bpd into the sea.

The companies said the system could be up and running within 18 months.

If an upper estimate of over four million barrels is confirmed, the BP disaster would be the biggest accidental oil spill ever.
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21
Jul
10

Obama signs historic finance reform bill

NEWS
Obama signs historic finance reform bill
Historic financial overhaul signed to law by Obama

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping reform of the U.S. finance industry since the 1930s, promising U.S. taxpayers would no longer get the bill for Wall Street excess.

The legislation, which some Republicans have pledged to repeal, introduces new consumer protections, checks the power of big banks and cracks down on deceptive practices by credit card firms.

“Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes. There will be no more tax-funded bailouts,” Obama promised.

Seeking to restore public confidence in his economic leadership as unemployment flirts with double digits, Obama said the bill would repair the fractures and abuses of which the financial meltdown was born.

“It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington,” said Obama, before adding the legacy-boosting law to his huge health care reform passed earlier this year.

“These reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history,” Obama said, before signing the new law, passed by Congress last week.

“These protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people – not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses.”

The financial reform bill finally squeezed through Congress with just a handful of Republican votes, as the opposition party continued with its policy of trying to block Obama’s ambitious reform program at all costs.

Republican leaders on Wednesday condemned the new law, saying it would crimp growth, and handcuff the might of America’s financial titans.

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Obama of trying to convince “sceptical Americans that he is doing everything he can to lower unemployment.”

“President Obama has signed into law a 2300 page behemoth that will saddle the business community with innumerable unintended consequences, tighter credit, and countless job-killing regulations,” Steele said.

Obama, facing record low approval ratings in some polls, hopes the financial reforms will eventually become popular, but much of the bill, like the health care bill, is so complicated that it will not come into force for months.

For instance, it will be up to a year before a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set up to protect American consumers from hidden fees and deceptive lending practices when they get a new mortgage or credit card.

It could be 18 months before new regulations emerge to stop banks from engaging in impermissible proprietary trading and investment in hedge funds – under the Volcker rule, named after former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker.

In a bid to highlight the help the bill will grant to the middle classes, Obama was joined at the signing ceremony by several Americans who suffered unfair treatment at the hands of credit card firms and banks.

The legislation closes loopholes in regulations and requires greater transparency and accountability for hedge funds, mortgage brokers and payday lenders, as well as arcane financial instruments called derivatives.

The measure has drawn praise but also skepticism from economists and analysts.

The bill “addresses a number of key weaknesses in the U.S. financial regulatory structure that led to the financial meltdown in 2008 and early 2009,” said Brian Bethune at IHS Global Insight.

But Diane Swonk at Mesirow Financial warned that much of the impact is not known.

“We will have more regulators overseeing – but not necessarily averting – risk, and with a bill so large and undefined, we are likely to get more, in terms of unintended than intended consequences, going forward,” she said.

The law is likely to generate heated debate ahead of congressional elections in November as Republicans call for its reversal.

House Republican leader John Boehner said recently the law “ought to be repealed” and replaced with “common-sense things that we should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system.”
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• Source(s): The White House
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20
Jul
10

“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

NEWS
“Microneedle” Skin Patch May Replace Flu Shot

Disappearing Needles: Vaccine-Delivery Patch with Dissolving Microneedles Eliminates “Sharps” Waste and Improves Protection

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Traditional flu jabs may be rendered obsolete by a hi-tech skin patch which delivers vaccine painlessly through scores of tiny needles.

The patch could revolutionize pandemic control by allowing vaccines to be self-administered, scientists in the U.S. say.

The patch can be easily used at home by someone with no medical training.

When the patch is applied to the skin, its hundred ‘microneedles’ – each measuring just over half a millimetre – deliver the vaccine and simply dissolve away.

The needle arrays are made from a plastic-like polymer that is known to be safe for use in the body. What remains is a water-soluble backing that can safely be discarded.

The head of the research team, professor Mark Prausnitz, from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta said: ‘We have shown that a dissolving microneedle patch can vaccinate against influenza at least as well, and probably better than, a traditional hypodermic needle.’

Tests on mice showed that vaccination with the microneedles caused a stronger immune response than an injection by syringe.

The patch could aid mass-immunization in poor parts of the world. It could help to avoid infections such as HIV and hepatitis B that are often spread by re-use of dirty hypodermic needles.

‘We envision people getting the patch in the mail or at a pharmacy and then self-administering it at home,’ said Dr Sean Sullivan, another member of the Georgia team.

‘Because the microneedles on the patch dissolve away into the skin, there would be no dangerous sharp needles left over.’

Other vaccines could be applied with the same technique, the scientists believe.

The cost of mass-produced patches are estimated to be about the same as conventional jabs. But the reduced need for personnel may bring the overall cost of immunization programmes down.

The patch will still have to undergo patient trials to assure its safety and effectiveness before being made generally available.
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• Source(s): Georgia Institute of Technology
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20
Jul
10

Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

NEWS
Oil’s not well in Gulf as BP shares sink again

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

••• Shares of BP fell after it said the tab for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is nearing $4.05 billion while it monitors oil seeping near the ruptured well.

BP PLC’s shares lost $1.61, or 4.3 percent, at $35.49 in midday trading.

Investors remain worried about the mounting costs and whether the latest fix will hold until a relief well is in place, Argus Research analyst Phil Weiss said.

“If the well integrity is compromised, it makes the process more complicated,” he said.

The cost of dealing with the oil spill – almost $4 billion – equals about two-thirds of BP’s profit in the first three months of the year.
BP placed a cap on the well on Thursday, shutting off oil that had been gushing from it since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20 and then sank.

A seep detected in the sea floor near the well prompted new concern about whether the fix would hold.

The government is allowing BP to continue monitoring the site for new leaks, at least for now.

Key questions remain about BP’s liability, Credit Suisse analyst Kim Fustier said.

In a research note to clients on Monday, Fustier said yet to be determined is the total cost for liability and compensatory claims and how the liability costs will be distributed between BP and its partners.

If negligence is proven, another issue could be punitive damages, the analyst said.
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19
Jul
10

Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now

NEWS
Obama to GOP: Restore unemployment benefits now
President Obama Pushes for Up-or-Down Vote on Help for Our Laid Off Friends & Neighbors

Monday, July 19, 2010

President Barack Obama tore into congressional Republicans on Monday for blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, arguing that a “partisan minority” had allowed short-term political calculations to trump genuine economic need.

The Senate is set to consider a bill Tuesday that would extend the deadline to file for unemployment benefits through the end of November. The bill would cost $33 billion in additional deficit spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“It’s time to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work and extend unemployment insurance,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.

He accused Senate Republicans for “holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics.”

The bill, formally known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation, is a U.S. federal government program which assists states in providing additional weeks of unemployment benefits to workers who have been laid off due to no fault of their own.

The legislation, which has already cleared the House of Representatives on July 1, would retroactively restore benefits to recipients who as early as the end of May may have started losing their benefits. The Senate is scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.

Republicans have successfully blocked the bill from clearing the Senate for three times, quoting the additional budgetary burden as their main concern.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed Sunday that Republicans are “all for extending unemployment insurance” but not in favor of deficit spending.

“They’ve taken the deficit as a percentage of GDP from 3.2 percent to almost 10 percent in a year and a half,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Somewhere in the course of spending a trillion dollars, we ought to be able to find enough to pay for a program for the unemployed.”

Obama also urged the Senate to act this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, the two other legislative priorities Obama and Democrats agreed to last week following the passage of the financial regulation bill.

Good morning, everybody. Right now, across this country, many Americans are sitting at the kitchen table, they’re scanning the classifieds, they’re updating their resumes or sending out another job application, hoping that this time they’ll hear back from a potential employer. And they’re filled with a sense of uncertainty about where their next paycheck will come from. And I know the only thing that will entirely free them of those worries – the only thing that will fully lift that sense of uncertainty – is the security of a new job.

To that end, we all have to continue our efforts to do everything in our power to spur growth and hiring. And I hope the Senate acts this week on a package of tax cuts and expanded lending for small businesses, where most of America’s jobs are created.

So we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that we are digging ourselves out of this tough economic hole that we’ve been in. But even as we work to jumpstart job growth in the private sector, even as we work to get businesses hiring again, we also have another responsibility: to offer emergency assistance to people who desperately need it – to Americans who’ve been laid off in this recession. We’ve got a responsibility to help them make ends meet and support their families even as they’re looking for another job.

That’s why it’s so essential to pass the unemployment insurance extension that comes up for a vote tomorrow. We need to pass it for men like Jim Chukalas, who’s with me here today. Jim worked as a parts manager at a Honda dealership until about two years ago. He’s posted resumes everywhere. He’s gone door-to-door looking for jobs. But he hasn’t gotten a single interview. He’s trying to be strong for his two young kids, but now that he’s exhausted his unemployment benefits, that’s getting harder to do.

We need to pass it for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year and has been looking for work ever since. Because she’s eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she’s doing what she never thought she’d have to do – not at this point, anyway. She’s turning to her father for financial support.

And we need to pass it for Americans like Denise Gibson, who was laid off from a real estate agency earlier this year. Denise has been interviewing for jobs – but so far nothing has turned up. Meanwhile, she’s fallen further and further behind on her rent. And with her unemployment benefits set to expire, she’s worried about what the future holds.

We need to pass it for all the Americans who haven’t been able to find work in an economy where there are five applicants for every opening; who need emergency relief to help them pay the rent and cover their utilities and put food on the table while they’re looking for another job.

And for a long time, there’s been a tradition – under both Democratic and Republican Presidents – to offer relief to the unemployed. That was certainly the case under my predecessor, when Republican senators voted several times to extend emergency unemployment benefits. But right now, these benefits – benefits that are often the person’s sole source of income while they’re looking for work – are in jeopardy.

And I have to say, after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, the same people who didn’t have any problem spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are now saying we shouldn’t offer relief to middle-class Americans like Jim or Leslie or Denise, who really need help.

Over the past few weeks, a majority of senators have tried – not once, not twice, but three times – to extend emergency relief on a temporary basis. Each time, a partisan minority in the Senate has used parliamentary maneuvers to block a vote, denying millions of people who are out of work much-needed relief. These leaders in the Senate who are advancing a misguided notion that emergency relief somehow discourages people from looking for a job should talk to these folks.

That attitude I think reflects a lack of faith in the American people, because the Americans I hear from in letters and meet in town hall meetings – Americans like Leslie and Jim and Denise – they’re not looking for a handout. They desperately want to work. Just right now they can’t find a job. These are honest, decent, hardworking folks who’ve fallen on hard times through no fault of their own, and who have nowhere else to turn except unemployment benefits and who need emergency relief to help them weather this economic storm.

Now, tomorrow we will have another chance to offer them that relief, to do right by not just Jim and Leslie and Denise, but all the Americans who need a helping hand right now – and I hope we seize it. It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics. It’s time to do what’s right – not for the next election but for the middle class. We’ve got to stop blocking emergency relief for Americans who are out of work. We’ve got to extend unemployment insurance. We need to pass those tax cuts for small businesses and the lending for small businesses.

Times are hard right now. We are moving in the right direction. I know it’s getting close to an election, but there are times where you put elections aside. This is one of those times. And that’s what I hope members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will do tomorrow.

Thanks very much.

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• Source(s): The White House
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19
Jul
10

Engineers detect seepage near BP oil well

NEWS
Engineers detect seepage near BP oil well

Monday, July 19, 2010

Earth

••• The U.S. government has raised concern over seepage near the Gulf of Mexico oil well but stopped short of asking BP to remove the cap which has halted the gushing crude for the first time since April.

BP had earlier acknowledged some bubbles appeared near the wellhead but expressed optimism that the cap could stay on, saying tests were ‘encouraging’ after three days and that a final solution was in sight.

But tensions emerged as the government’s pointman on the worst environmental disaster in US history ordered the energy giant to report swiftly on a ‘detected seep’ and ‘anomalies’ near the well head as experts monitored the seabed for cracks.

‘Given the current observations from the test, including the detected seep a distance from the well and undetermined anomalies at the well head, monitoring of the seabed is of paramount importance during the test period,’ Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said in a letter to BP chief managing director Bob Dudley.
Allen ordered BP to report to the government in no more than four hours when seeps are detected, and said BP must lay out its next steps in writing for ‘opening the choke valve as quickly as possible without damaging the well should hydrocarbon seepage near the well head be confirmed’.

Hydrocarbons occur naturally in crude oil, and their detection could mean that oil is seeping out from the area around the well, which began gushing oil after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and capsized two days later, killing 11 workers.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, BP’s chief operating officer Doug Suttles said pressure was rising slowly in the well, as expected, and touted ‘encouraging signs’ that would allow the newly placed cap to remain on the well until a permanent ‘kill’ operation takes place in August.

‘In two different locations we’ve seen a few bubbles. This is not uncommon but clearly it’s important that we check everything very closely so we’re monitoring that,’ Suttles said.
The U.S. government was granting extensions to exhaustive well tests on a 24-hour basis, while BP said the valves on the containment cap that is staunching the flow would remain shut as long as no leaks are discovered.

‘Clearly we don’t want to reinitiate flow into the Gulf if we don’t have to,’ said Suttles.

Three days of respite from the unsettling images of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico raised hopes among residents that this could mark the beginning of the end of what estimates suggest is the biggest oil spill ever.

The start of the two-week operation to plug the well permanently by pumping in heavy drilling fluids and then cement is now less than two weeks away as engineers have only 98 feet left vertically to drill.

Gulf residents, who have seen the relentless flow of crude tarnish their shorelines and cripple the local economy, reacted cautiously to news that the cap was holding back the crude, wary of being given false hope after weeks of botched BP operations.

‘I don’t know if it’s going help. It’s still a short-term fix,’ New Orleans resident and medical researcher Ashok Pullikuth told AFP. ‘The permanent fix is the relief wells. This cap has saved a month’s worth of spill damage.’
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