Posts Tagged ‘White House



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

‘No final decision’ made over Tony Hayward

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‘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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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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20
Jul
10

Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

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Goldman Sachs’s Fabrice Tourre Disputes SEC’s Fraud Allegations in Filing

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabrice Tourre, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive and co-defendant in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s charges that the bank defrauded investors, on Monday asked the court to dismiss the case filed against him by the U.S. Regulators.

Tourre, whose emails about a collateralized debt obligation were at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC’s complaint, denied that he made any materially misleading statements or omissions, or behaved wrongly in connection to complex mortgage-linked securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York Tourre “specifically denies he made any materially misleading statements or omissions or otherwise engaged in any actionable or wrongful conduct” stemming from the CDO known as Abacus.
Tourre also argued that neither he nor his employer had a “duty to disclose any allegedly omitted information” in the marketing and sale of the CDO.

In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the investment bank that it did not reveal that one of its clients, Paulson & Co, played a significant role in the selection of securities contained in the Abacus mortgage portfolio and which was later sold to investors.

Following the collapse of the housing market, the securities in that mortgage portfolio – Abacus – lost more than $1 billion.
Goldman said it was a “mistake” to state that the loans contained in the CDO had been selected by a third party without mentioning the role of Paulson & Co, a hedge fund that bet against the security.

Last week, in a settlement, Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges brought in by the SEC. This is reportedly the largest ever for a financial institution and is less than the $1 billion fraud that the Commission alleged.

Tourre, who is the only Goldman Sachs executive named as a defendant in the SEC’s fraud lawsuit, has yet to settle with the regulator. Goldman also agreed to co-operate with the SEC in its case against Tourre.

Goldman Sachs declined $0.49 or 0.34 percent and closed Monday’s regular trading at $145.68. After hours, Goldman Sachs declined further $1.68 or 1.15 percent and traded at $144.00
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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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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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17
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress

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Weekly Address: Filibustering Recovery & Obstructing Progress
President Obama Says GOP Senate Leadership Choosing to “Filibuster Our Recovery and Obstruct Our Progress”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In this week’s address, the President criticized the Republican leadership in the Senate for opposing initiatives which that would create jobs and strengthen the economy like cutting taxes for small businesses and extending unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs during the recession. Aiding small businesses and renewing unemployment insurance are not just the right things to do for those hit hardest by the recession, they are steps that will help strengthen the recovery. When crises strike Main Street, the President believes it’s important to put aside politics and act in the best interests of American families and small businesses.

This week, many of our largest corporations reported robust earnings – a positive sign of growth.

But too many of our small business owners and those who aspire to start their own small businesses continue to struggle, in part because they can’t get the credit they need to start up, grow, and hire. And too many Americans whose livelihoods have fallen prey to the worst recession in our lifetimes – a recession that cost our economy eight million jobs – still wonder how they’ll make ends meet.

That’s why we need to take new, commonsense steps to help small businesses, grow our economy, and create jobs – and we need to take them now.

For months, that’s what we’ve been trying to do. But too often, the Republican leadership in the United States Senate chooses to filibuster our recovery and obstruct our progress. And that has very real consequences.

Consider what that obstruction means for our small businesses – the growth engines that create two of every three new jobs in this country. A lot of small businesses still have trouble getting the loans and capital they need to keep their doors open and hire new workers. So we proposed steps to get them that help: Eliminating capital gains taxes on investments. Establishing a fund for small lenders to help small businesses. Enhancing successful SBA programs that help them access the capital they need.

But again and again, a partisan minority in the Senate said “no,” and used procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote.

Think about what these stalling tactics mean for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the recession began. Over the past several weeks, more than two million of them have seen their unemployment insurance expire. For many, it was the only way to make ends meet while searching for work – the only way to cover rent, utilities, even food.

Three times, the Senate has tried to temporarily extend that emergency assistance. And three times, a minority of Senators – basically the same crowd who said “no” to small businesses – said “no” to folks looking for work, and blocked a straight up-or-down vote.

Some Republican leaders actually treat this unemployment insurance as if it’s a form of welfare. They say it discourages folks from looking for work. Well, I’ve met a lot of folks looking for work these past few years, and I can tell you, I haven’t met any Americans who would rather have an unemployment check than a meaningful job that lets you provide for your family. And we all have friends, neighbors, or family members who already knows how hard it is to land a job when five workers are competing for every opening.

Now in the past, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have treated unemployment insurance for what it is – an emergency expenditure. That’s because an economic disaster can devastate families and communities just as surely as a flood or tornado.

Suddenly, Republican leaders want to change that. They say we shouldn’t provide unemployment insurance because it costs money. So after years of championing policies that turned a record surplus into a massive deficit, including a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, they’ve finally decided to make their stand on the backs of the unemployed. They’ve got no problem spending money on tax breaks for folks at the top who don’t need them and didn’t even ask for them; but they object to helping folks laid off in this recession who really do need help. And every day this goes on, another 50,000 Americans lose that badly needed lifeline.

Well, I think these Senators are wrong. We can’t afford to go back to the same misguided policies that led us into this mess. We need to move forward with the policies that are leading us out of this mess.

The fact is, most economists agree that extending unemployment insurance is one of the single most cost-effective ways to help jumpstart the economy. It puts money into the pockets of folks who not only need it most, but who also are most likely to spend it quickly. That boosts local economies. And that means jobs.

Increasing loans to small business. Renewing unemployment insurance. These steps aren’t just the right thing to do for those hardest hit by the recession – they’re the right thing to do for all of us. And I’m calling on Congress once more to take these steps on behalf of America’s workers, and families, and small business owners – the people we were sent here to serve.

Because when storms strike Main Street, we don’t play politics with emergency aid. We don’t desert our fellow Americans when they fall on hard times. We come together. We do what we can to help. We rebuild stronger, and we move forward. That’s what we’re doing today. And I’m absolutely convinced that’s how we’re going to come through this storm to better days ahead.

Thanks.

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13
Jul
10

BP confirms placing new cap over oil leak in Gulf of Mexico

NEWS
BP confirms placing new cap over oil leak in Gulf of Mexico

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Earth

••• BP has confirmed it has successfully placed a new cap over the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, hoping the giant valve will seal the well or contain all the gushing crude.

BP officials said on Monday evening the cap was mounted on the well after two days of preparing the site and a day of slowly lowering it into place.
The company plans to run tests, starting on Tuesday, to see if the cap can withstand pressure.

‘It is expected, although cannot be assured, that no oil will be released to the ocean for the duration of the test,’ the oil giant said in a statement, adding however that it would not indicate if the flow had permanently stopped.
The old cap, removed on Saturday, did not have a tight fit and allowed crude to escape.

The new cap will enable BP to capture all the oil and funnel it up to ships.

BP is drilling two relief wells so it can pump mud and cement into the leaking well for a permanent fix.
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12
Jul
10

Oil spill hopes raise with BP’s latest effort to fix it

NEWS
Oil spill hopes raise with BP’s latest effort to fix it

Monday, July 12, 2010

Earth••• BP reported good progress on its high-stakes effort to fully contain the Gulf of Mexico oil leak by fixing a tighter cap over the giant gusher.

Operations have reached a critical phase as engineers race to take advantage of a stretch of fine weather in the midst of the Atlantic hurricane season to install a new system with the potential to capture all the leaking crude.

Expected to take between four and seven days, the round-the-clock work began at midday on Saturday when the old, less efficient cap was ripped off a fractured pipe 1.6km down on the sea floor by robotic submarines.

‘We are pleased with our progress,’ BP Vice President Kent Wells told journalists almost 24 hours in. ‘We have carefully planned and practised this whole procedure. We’ve tried to work out as many of the bugs as we can.’

Sunday’s operations saw a transition spool being lowered into place which must be bolted onto the leaking pipe before a gigantic funnel – weighing 68 tonnes and dubbed the ‘Top Hat 10’ – can be installed.

The old ‘Top Hat’ system collected roughly 25,000 barrels of crude every day, but estimates suggest that could be less than half the leak.

BP says the new cap and the deployment of a third containment ship called the Helix Producer will raise the system’s capacity to between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels a day, enough to capture all the leaking oil.

The new system has also been designed so it can be disconnected and reconnected more easily in the case of a hurricane and has a built-in device that should give the first precise estimate of the overall flow.
No permanent solution is expected until mid-August at the earliest when the first of two relief wells is due to be completed – allowing drilling fluids to be injected into the well, which would then be sealed with cement.

The decision to remove the old cap and allow most of the oil to pour unchecked into the sea was approved by Admiral Thad Allen, the former Coast Guard chief leading the US government’s response to the disaster.

Although the removal of the cap forced the suspension of the main containment operation, a separate siphoning system is taking a smaller proportion of the oil to be flared off on a surface vessel.

Wells said two more ships would join a fleet of 46 skimming vessels scooping up oil off the sea and said 15 controlled burns of the surface crude had been carried out on Saturday.

Oil has washed up on beaches in all five Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida – forcing fishing grounds to be closed and threatening scores of coastal communities with financial ruin.

The man charged with doling out compensation to victims of the spill said he could not estimate whether the initial $20 billion fund set up by BP would be enough to pay compensation claims.

‘If they are eligible, we will give them up to six months emergency (compensation),’ Kenneth Feinberg told CNN, adding: ‘I can’t help people if they don’t file.’

Many fishermen and others who work in the Gulf get paid in cash and do not have paperwork to back up their claims. Some are also worried that if they ask for compensation, the government will seek taxes for previous income.
While the containment effort and the claims process continued apace, the attorney general said the Justice Department was also still considering whether to bring criminal charges against the culprit or culprits.

‘The investigation is ongoing. We are in the process of accumulating documents, talking to witnesses on both the criminal side and the civil side,’ Eric Holder told CBS’s Face the Nation program.

Holder was quick to stress that when he announced the probe on June 1, he had been careful not to mention BP by name as it was not the only party involved with the Deepwater Horizon rig.

At congressional hearings back in May, BP, rig owner Transocean and oil services provider Halliburton blamed each other for the spill as executives from all three oil titans were grilled by U.S. lawmakers.

The man charged with doling out BP’s compensation to victims of the Gulf oil spill said on Sunday he is prepared to pay up to six months of expenses in advance, but getting people to file claims is a struggle.

Kenneth Feinberg told CNN he wanted to provide ‘some degree of financial certainty’, to people who have found their livelihoods hurt by the massive oil spill. ‘If they are eligible, we will give them up to six months emergency (compensation).’

But, he lamented, ‘I can’t help people if they don’t file.’

Many of the fishermen and others who work in the Gulf region regularly get paid in cash and do not have paperwork to back up their claims of lost income. They are also worried that if they ask for compensation, the government will seek taxes for previous income.

The BP-leased rig exploded on April 20 killing 11 workers. It sank two days later, unleashing the nation’s worst ever environmental disaster.
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10
Jul
10

Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD

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Weekly Address: Help for Vets with PTSD
President Obama Announces Changes to Help Veterans with PTSD Receive the Benefits They Need

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama announced that on Monday the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Shinseki, will begin to make it easier for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to receive the benefits they need. For many years, veterans with PTSD have been stymied in receiving benefits by requirements they produce evidence proving a specific event caused the PTSD. Streamlining this process will help not just the veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of veterans who have served and sacrificed for the country.

Last weekend, on the Fourth of July, Michelle and I welcomed some of our extraordinary military men and women and their families to the White House.

They were just like the thousands of active duty personnel and veterans I’ve met across this country and around the globe. Proud. Strong. Determined. Men and women with the courage to answer their country’s call, and the character to serve the United States of America.

Because of that service; because of the honor and heroism of our troops around the world; our people are safer, our nation is more secure, and we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq by the end of August, completing a drawdown of more than 90,000 troops since last January.

Still, we are a nation at war. For the better part of a decade, our men and women in uniform have endured tour after tour in distant and dangerous places. Many have risked their lives. Many have given their lives. And as a grateful nation, humbled by their service, we can never honor these American heroes or their families enough.

Just as we have a solemn responsibility to train and equip our troops before we send them into harm’s way, we have a solemn responsibility to provide our veterans and wounded warriors with the care and benefits they’ve earned when they come home.

That is our sacred trust with all who serve – and it doesn’t end when their tour of duty does.

To keep that trust, we’re building a 21st century VA, increasing its budget, and ensuring the steady stream of funding it needs to support medical care for our veterans.

To help our veterans and their families pursue a college education, we’re funding and implementing the post-9/11 GI Bill.

To deliver better care in more places, we’re expanding and increasing VA health care, building new wounded warrior facilities, and adapting care to better meet the needs of female veterans.

To stand with those who sacrifice, we’ve dedicated new support for wounded warriors and the caregivers who put their lives on hold for a loved one’s long recovery.

And to do right by our vets, we’re working to prevent and end veteran homelessness – because in the United States of America, no one who served in our uniform should sleep on our streets.

We also know that for many of today’s troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home.

Too many suffer from the signature injuries of today’s wars: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. And too few receive the screening and treatment they need.

Now, in past wars, this wasn’t something America always talked about. And as a result, our troops and their families often felt stigmatized or embarrassed when it came to seeking help.

Today, we’ve made it clear up and down the chain of command that folks should seek help if they need it. In fact, we’ve expanded mental health counseling and services for our vets.

But for years, many veterans with PTSD who have tried to seek benefits – veterans of today’s wars and earlier wars – have often found themselves stymied. They’ve been required to produce evidence proving that a specific event caused their PTSD. And that practice has kept the vast majority of those with PTSD who served in non-combat roles, but who still waged war, from getting the care they need.

Well, I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application. And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.

So we’re changing the way things are done.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs, led by Secretary Ric Shinseki, will begin making it easier for a veteran with PTSD to get the benefits he or she needs.

This is a long-overdue step that will help veterans not just of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but generations of their brave predecessors who proudly served and sacrificed in all our wars.

It’s a step that proves America will always be here for our veterans, just as they’ve been there for us. We won’t let them down. We take care of our own. And as long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, that’s what we’re going to keep doing. Thank you.

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07
Jul
10

Oil comes ashore in Texas as BP dismisses money fears

NEWS
Oil comes ashore in Texas as BP dismisses money fears

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Earth••• Clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill extended Tuesday to Texas and Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, as BP dismissed reports of deeper financial woes.

Officials said crews collected tar balls and waste from Lake Pontchartrain, the vast estuary near New Orleans, as rough weather continued to hamper the containment and skimming effort near the spill site in the Gulf.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said the huge spill was now threatening all the states along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas and that rough seas since the passage of Hurricane Alex had hurt the effort.

The first Atlantic hurricane of the year passed through the Gulf of Mexico last week without too much alarm for the oil containment efforts, but Allen said two nearby storm systems were being closely watched.

‘We’re watching very, very closely the swells and waves that might be generated by this current storm system,’ he said.

‘Sometime in the seven to 10 days we’ll look for a window of opportunity to put the containment cap on at the same time we will go on and continue with the drilling of the relief well.’
A BP spokeswoman in London denied the firm was planning to sell new stock to a strategic investor to raise money, amid reports the British government is working on a crisis plan if the company is sunk by the disaster.

‘We are not issuing any new equity,’ she said. ‘We welcome new shareholders to come onto the shareholder register and we welcome existing shareholders who want to take a bigger amount of shares.’

The Times newspaper in London reported that officials at the Department of Business and the Treasury were already considering contingencies for BP’s potential collapse.

‘It is not clear how bad this will get, but the government needs to be prepared for any eventuality,’ an anonymous source said to be familiar with the talks was quoted as saying.

BP has forked out some $3.12 billion in spill-related costs and has promised to pay another $20 billion into an escrow fund to compensate Americans affected by the spill.

The BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig sank on April 22, two days after an explosion that killed 11 workers, unleashing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
On Sunday, tar balls from the spill arrived on beaches in Texas, more than 310 miles away, though it was unclear how the crude got there.

Tests showed they did come from the BP Deepwater Horizon well but scientists and officials were working to determine if they arrived in Texas by currents or via ships operating in the vicinity of the well head.

The tar balls in Lake Pontchartrain were also being tested.

Some 492 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline has been oiled, and fishing ground closures and tourist cancellations threaten financial ruin for residents who have reacted angrily to BP’s failure to cap the spill.

Up to 60,000 barrels of oil a day is believed to be leaking into the Gulf of Mexico, far outpacing the collection efforts of a system that is capturing around 25,000 barrels a day.

Officials hope to more than double that capacity to some 53,000 barrels a day by hooking up a third containment vessel, the Helix Producer, to the system that captures and siphons away the crude.

‘There is a partial hookup right now and they can sustain that unless they have really severe sea states,’ said Allen, the U.S. official coordinating the spill response.

‘We won’t know for several hours whether they’re able to do it. It currently is a work in progress.’
Officials were also testing a mega-tanker, A Whale, which could boost efforts to skim spilled crude from the sea surface.

The ship is believed to be able to suck up to 500,000 barrels of oily water a day through its ‘jaws’, a series of vents on the side of the ship.

By comparison, more than 500 smaller vessels in 10 weeks have only managed to collect some 31.3 million gallons of oil-water mix between them and high waves forced most of the boats to halt operations on Tuesday.

It will likely be mid-August at the earliest before the ruptured well is permanently capped by injecting mud and cement with the aid of relief wells.

The high end of the oil leak estimates means it has now surpassed the 1979 Ixtoc blowout, which took nine months to cap and dumped an estimated 3.3 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico.

It is topped only by the deliberate release of six to eight million barrels of crude by Iraqi troops who destroyed tankers and oil terminals and set wells ablaze in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.
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05
Jul
10

2010 Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular

NEWS
2010 Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks in New York City

Monday, July 5, 2010

Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks 2010 turned out to be a spectacular and star studded event. On Sunday night as the whole of the United States joined hands to celebrate the Independence Day,Macy’s Fireworks only made the occasion all the more special. The community took care to bring some of the most well known singers on board as the fireworks lit up the sky above the Hudson River. Live on the deck of the Norwegian Epic cruise liner were teen singing sensation Justin Bieber who headlined this year’s Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks spectacle. Along with him were other singing sensations like Enrique Iglesias and LeAnn Rimes. Some of the star-casts of the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” also made it to the deck.
If people jived to the singing of Justin Bieber and Enrique Iglesias along the Manhattan West Side then, there were millions more who enjoyed the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks 2010 on television as it was aired live by the NBC Networks on Sunday night. Although there were many who celebrated the occasion at home with family members and friends many came out witness the spectacle with their own eyes with hope that it would be “even better” to see it live.
There is no doubt about the fact that the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks 2010 lived up to the expectation of the thousands who came up all the way to the bank of the Hudson river to mark the occasion. The red, blue yellow and white fireworks with each different from the other and gigantic in size made it a thing of beauty.
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04
Jul
10

July 4, Independence Day

NEWS
July 4, Independence Day

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Americans across the United States are attending barbecues, parades, fireworks displays and other events as the nation marks its birth 234 years ago.

The July 4 Independence Day holiday marks the occasion in 1776 when the 13 original U.S. colonies declared independence from Britain during a revolutionary war.

In Washington, DC, thousands of people are expected to converge on the National Mall for an annual festival featuring displays and events celebrating American heritage, and an Independence Day parade. Other activities in the nation’s capital include re-enactments of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by actors portraying the nation’s founders.
A few miles away at Mount Vernon, the home of the nation’s first president, George Washington, organizers are hosting a wreath-laying at Washington’s tomb and a naturalization ceremony for about 100 new U.S. citizens.

Later Sunday, there will be a televised concert and fireworks display over the National Mall. Similar events are planned in cities across the country.
President Barack Obama issued an Independence Day statement saying the tenacity, resolve and courage of the nation’s founders, in the face of seemingly impossible odds, became the bedrock of the country.

The president also paid tribute to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who are serving around the world or have given their lives in the line of duty.
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• Source(s): The White House
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