Friday, April 30, 2010

raising the prospect of an environmental disaster on the scale of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill

Workers using high-pressure, hot-water washing...Image via Wikipedia
There is little hope that near-term efforts by London-based BP Plc to choke off a leaking underwater oil well will succeed, experts said on Friday, raising the prospect of an environmental disaster on the scale of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

BP, the majority owner of an undersea well leaking 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons or 955,000 liters) a day of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, is hoping two relatively quick fixes bear fruit before a pair of relief wells that could take up to three months to drill allow the company to plug the leak.
In the interim, the coastal states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida could take a battering as oil flows unhindered.
"At 5,000 barrels a day, in two months' time it's going to be a bigger spill than the Exxon Valdez," said Tyler Priest, director of global studies at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business. "You're looking at a huge disaster."
At that rate, it will take about 50 days for the spill to eclipse the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, the worst U.S. oil spill on record, which sent 10.8 million gallons (49 million liters) of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
Underwater robots have so far failed to activate a cutoff valve at the seabed 5,000 feet below the ocean surface to stop the leak left when a blowout preventer failed.
BP has ordered three "containment chambers," or giant 73-ton box-shaped inverted funnels, to cover the well and two other leaks and channel the oil to a drillship. But it will take two to four weeks to fabricate the piping necessary to connect the funnel to the vessel.
The containment chambers are 14 feet wide and 40 feet tall. Once lowered over a leak site, the oil would flow up the tapered funnel-like opening into a pipe that leads to ship that can store and transport it.
BP aims to drill two relief wells a half-mile from the leaking well to stop the flow, but that will take 60 to 90 days. Unless the underwater robots find sudden success, the funnels are the main stopgaps at the seabed until a relief well can be drilled.
The seabed efforts are in addition to surface efforts that include containment booms at sea and at the shoreline, dispersants and controlled burns when weather conditions allow. The company also is using the robots to spray dispersants at the well on the seabed.
BP says it is spending $6 million a day.
But the funnel method is untested at such water depths, Priest said.
He said a similar containment chamber was used to try to stem the leak from a blowout in Mexico's Bay of Campeche in 1979, but that effort failed in 150 feet of water. The Ixtoc well leaked for nine months until two relief wells were drilled to relieve pressure so the spewing well could be capped.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said BP and other companies used similar containment systems on downed rigs in shallow Gulf waters after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
"Now we're going to take what we know and expand it and push the edges of the technology for this never-tried-before deepwater application," Beaudo said.
Walter Chapman, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University, said hope remained that the underwater robots could engage the blowout preventer, which failed last week when a Transocean drilling rig exploded and sank. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead after the rig exploded.




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Offshore credit card processing

World wide multi-currency credit card processing
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Gulf of Mexico could force the White House to rethink plans

Logo of the United States White House, especia...Image via Wikipedia
The spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico could force the White House to rethink plans to increase offshore oil drilling, an essential component of a climate change bill it is working to push through Congress. President Barack Obama could change his support for the plan, administration officials said on Thursday, depending on what was found to have caused the rig blast last week off Louisiana that left 11 workers missing, presumed dead, and led to the huge slick. "Could that possibly change his viewpoint? Well, of course," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "I think our focus right now is: one, the area, the spill; and two, also to ultimately determine the cause of it and see the impact that that ultimately may or may not have." The White House sharply stepped up its response to the slick, which cast a shadow on the plan Obama proposed a month ago to encourage more offshore drilling in hopes of wooing Republicans to support a bill to tackle climate change. Obama said on Thursday the administration would use every resource at its disposal, including the military, to stop the spill and help alleviate its impact. The rig, owned by Transocean Ltd, was finishing a well for BP Plc about 40 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River when it exploded. The spill fueled the anger of environmentalists who had criticized his administration's plan unveiled on March 31 to expand drilling after a decades-long moratorium on oil exploration in most of areas of the U.S. coast outside the Gulf of Mexico. "Today's images of burning oil on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the tragic loss of life in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon provide a grim reminder of the risks posed by oil and gas exploration to the environmental and economic well-being of coastal regions, including the Arctic," William Eichbaum, vice president for Arctic and marine policy at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a statement. Their reaction could add to pressure on many of Obama's fellow Democrats not to support the bill. Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said he was filing legislation to temporarily ban the administration from expanding drilling, citing the risk of a potential "environmental and economic disaster." The White House defended the program, promising to work closely with members of Congress and state governors in any process to open up new areas to offshore drilling and do everything possible to minimize risks. Administration officials said they would push ahead with efforts to get the climate bill passed. "Obviously this will become, I think, part of the debate; that goes without saying," said Carol Browner, Obama's top energy and climate adviser. "But I don't think it means that we can't get the kind of important energy legislation that we need." The climate change bill, one of Obama's top priorities and a centerpiece of his energy policy, had already suffered a severe setback in recent days, when a fight over immigration derailed plans to unveil a compromise measure.
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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Despite a trend toward going "green," most U.S. offices get low or average grades

Images, from top, left to right: Downtown Los ...Image via Wikipedia
Despite a trend toward going "green," most U.S. offices get low or average grades for being environmentally friendly and few use renewable energy sources, according to workers in a poll released on Thursday.

Fewer than a third of office workers said their buildings are environmentally friendly, according to the poll of 6,486 office workers conducted for IBM Corp.
Slightly more than a third cited their buildings as average in terms of being environmentally friendly, and a third gave their buildings high scores, it found.
Fourteen percent said their buildings use renewable energy sources, while 60 percent said they do not, and 26 percent did not know or were unsure, it said.
"While we're beginning to see some very good examples of green or energy efficient buildings around the world, around the country, there's still plenty of room for improvement," said Rich Lechner, IBM vice president, energy and environment.
Typically, half of the electricity going into commercial buildings is wasted, such as lights being left on, IBM said.
Roughly one-quarter of workers said their buildings adjust the office environment, such as lights and temperature, automatically, based on occupancy, the survey said.
Los Angeles scored highest for building efficiency among the 16 U.S. cities surveyed, with the most respondents saying their buildings automatically adjust lights and temperature and the most saying their buildings use renewable energy sources.
The IBM Smarter Buildings study, conducted by Survey Sampling International, surveyed 6,486 office workers online in 16 major U.S. cities on issues such as lights turning off automatically, presence of sensors that adjust lights and temperature, use of renewable energy sources, low-flow toilets and use of air-friendly products.
The survey was conducted from March 30 to April 12, and the overall statistical margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.




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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Obama administration approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm

Offshore wind turbines near Copenhagen.Image via Wikipedia
The Obama administration approved what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, delivering a major symbolic victory for a fledgling industry after years of litigation and lobbying over the project.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced his decision on Cape Wind at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The closely held firm developing the wind farm, Cape Wind LLC, will build 130 windmills across 25 square miles of federal waters off Cape Cod.
"With this decision, we are beginning a new direction in our nation's energy future," Mr. Salazar said.
Interior Department approval of Cape Wind marks the latest—and supporters hope, the last—major political hurdle needed for the project's developers to clear before proceeding with the project.
Supporters have said the wind farm will deliver annual reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road. Opponents—including members of the Kennedy family—warn it will industrialize Nantucket Sound, a popular summer playground, and interfere with fishing and recreation.
The conflict over Cape Wind has divided Massachusetts elected officials and highlighted a persistent problem for renewable power. Policy makers and environmentalists support generating clean power from the sun, wind, water and geothermal sources to displace imported oil. But in many communities, there is often opposition to the hardware needed to make renewable power work: big windmills, acres of solar panels and large-scale transmission lines.
Resolving such conflicts will be critical if Mr. Obama's administration is to achieve his goal of generating at least 25% of the nation's electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Wind, solar and geothermal energy have traditionally accounted for less than 1% of U.S. electricity supply.
The Energy Department concluded in 2008 that wind energy could generate 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030. But that would happen only if a "superhighway" transmission system is created to carry wind power from sparsely populated areas to states and cities that need the energy.


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gulf of Mexico spill may hit coast this weekend

States that border the Gulf of Mexico are show...Image via Wikipedia
Gulf of Mexico spill may hit coast this weekend


Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this handout photograph taken on April 21, 2010 and obtained on April 22.

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A giant oil slick from a deadly offshore drilling rig explosion could hit the fragile U.S. Gulf Coast shoreline this weekend as the White House and Congress launched separate probes into the worst offshore incident in nearly a decade.
The leaking well, 5,000 feet under the ocean surface off Louisiana's coast, has created an oil sheen and emulsified crude slick with a circumference of about 600 miles, covering about 28,600 square miles (74,070 sq. km), the Coast Guard said on Tuesday. That's slightly bigger than the U.S. state of West Virginia.
Swiss-based Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon sank on April 22, two days after it exploded and caught fire while finishing a well for BP Plc about 40 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River.
The Coast Guard is using eight underwater robots to try to activate a cutoff valve on the ocean floor to stop the oil flow. The Coast Guard is also weighing a plan to set the oil ablaze where it is bubbling to the surface above the well in an attempt to arrest the spread, starting as soon as Wednesday.
If unchecked, "this could be one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history," said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who is heading the federal cleanup effort.
However, the spill is not comparable with the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled about 11 million gallons (50 million liters) of oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska when it ran aground in 1989. BP's well is spewing about 42,000 gallons (190,900 liters) of oil a day into the ocean, the Coast Guard estimates.
It was the worst oil rig disaster since 2001, when a rig operated by Petrobras off the Brazilian coast exploded and killed 11 workers.
London-based BP Plc, which owns the well and is financially responsible for the cleanup, is spending $6 million a day on a massive on-sea clean-up effort that involves dozens of ships and aircraft.
BP announced a doubling of its quarterly profits on Tuesday but investor concern over cleanup costs weighed on the company's shares.
Both BP and Transocean fell under scrutiny from federal and congressional investigators, which on Tuesday announced separate probes.
The Homeland Security and Interior departments launched a joint investigation, with a separate probe unveiled by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"A striking feature of the incident is an apparent lack of an adequate plan to contain the spreading environmental damage," committee lawmakers said in a letter to BP and Transocean executives.
The spill moved toward shore on Tuesday and was 20 miles from the Louisiana coast. A shift in winds could push the spill inland to the Louisiana coast by this weekend, according to forecasters at AccuWeather.
"The wind will nudge the oil slick more to the north-northwest," said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather. "It might make it onshore over the southeast Louisiana coast first," and later threaten beaches in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, Kottlowski said.
Charlie Henry, an expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, discounted landfall predictions, because they are beyond the agency's 72-hour accuracy window.
However, Henry said "the Delta region is at risk," including key wildlife habitats in the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and Breton National Wildlife Refuge on the tip of the Louisiana coast, which are teeming with nesting birds.
As the oil spill grows, so does the chance that it will impact efforts by the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to open more offshore areas to limited oil and gas drilling.
Obama on March 31 called for a limited expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in an effort to win Republican support for new proposals to fight climate change.
But Obama's plan left the thorniest issues, such as how royalties that oil firms pay to drill on federal offshore waters will be shared with coastal states, for lawmakers to settle.
A bipartisan group of senators had aimed to unveil a climate change bill on Monday that would have included some offshore drilling expansions. But the plan was called off when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham raised 11th-hour objections related to immigration.


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Microsoft has re-issued a patch for a vulnerability affecting Windows 2000 Server

Windows 2000 logoImage via Wikipedia
Microsoft has re-issued a patch for a vulnerability affecting Windows 2000 Server after it was discovered the original fix was ineffective.


Microsoft has re-released a security update targeting a vulnerability on Windows 2000 Server.

The company pulled support for MS10-025 last week. According to Microsoft, the Windows security bulletin failed to properly fix a remote code execution issue tied to the way Windows Media Unicast Service handles specially-crafted transport information packets.


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Monday, April 26, 2010

Wal-Mart faces gender class-action case

A protest in Utah against Wal-MartImage via Wikipedia
Wal-Mart faces gender class-action case

Wal-Mart will face a class action claim by U.S. female workers, a U.S. court ruled. The women allege the retailer discriminated against them.
A sharply divided U.S. federal appeals court on Monday exposed Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to billions of dollars in legal damages when it ruled a massive class-action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination over pay for female workers can go to trial.
In its 6-5 ruling, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the world's largest private employer will have to face charges that it pays women less than men for the same jobs and that female employees receive fewer promotions and have to wait longer for those promotions than male counterparts.
The retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., has fiercely fought the lawsuit since it was first filed by six women in federal court in San Francisco in 2001, losing two previous rulings in the trial court and again in the appeals court in 2007.
Wal-Mart successfully persuaded the appeals court to revisit its 2007 ruling, made by a three-judge panel, with a larger, 11-judge panel, arguing that women who allege discrimination should file individual lawsuits.
The retailer argued that the number of litigants that the lawsuit purports to represent is too big to defend.
"Although the size of this class action is large, mere size does not render a case unmanageable," Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote for the majority court, which didn't address the merits of the lawsuit, leaving that for the trial court.
Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote a blistering dissent, joined by four of her colleagues.
"No court has ever certified a class like this one, until now. And with good reason," Ikuta wrote. "In this case, six women who have worked in 13 of Wal-Mart's 3,400 stores seek to represent every woman who has worked in those stores over the course of the last decade — a class estimated in 2001 to include more than 1.5 million women."
A Wal-Mart representative said the retailer was preparing a statement.
The lawsuit was filed in 2001 and includes more than one million current and former workers.


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Quebec school sex abuse settlement threatened

Quebec school sex abuse settlement threatened

Bishop's College School deal would be rejected if 3 or more victims opt out
The future of the settlement between Bishop's College School and alleged sex abuse victims hinges on the number of claimants who opt out. (CBC)A compensation deal for the alleged victims of a sexual abuse scandal at Bishop's College School in Quebec's Eastern Townships is at risk of collapsing, CBC News has learned.
At least 30 former students have joined a $58-million class action lawsuit against the school, alleging they were molested by an Anglican minister who was a teacher and housemaster at the school in Lennoxville, Que., in the 1950s and 1960s.
An out of court settlement between the school and the lawyer representing some claimants is to be presented to a Quebec Superior Court judge on April 30.
But, under the terms of the settlement, the deal becomes null and void if three or more of the alleged victims opt out of the agreement.
CBC News has reached at least three claimants who are calling the monetary terms of the settlement unacceptable.Rev. Harold Forster, the man at the centre of the allegations, is shown in this 1958 yearbook photo. (Bishop's College School/CBC)
The details of the agreement are confidential, but sources close to the case confirm it is substantially less than the $5 million the Selwyn House school in Montreal offered victims of the sexual abuse scandal at that school, which was approved by the court in January 2009.
Culture of abuse
"It is totally unacceptable. That's a slap in the face," said one alleged victim who now lives in British Columbia.
A second claimant, who lives in Alberta, described the deal as "dead on arrival."
The claimants identities are protected under a court order.
"Our youth has been robbed," said another alleged victim, who lives in Montreal and said he will also reject the settlement. "It is only fair that in our old age we are compensated for what was done to us."
The lawsuit alleges a culture of abuse reigned at the school that involved former housemaster the late Rev. Harold Forster, some teachers and senior students .
In an interview with CBC News, the Montreal-based claimant described how Forster made him come to his room in the early hours of the morning and ordered him to take off his clothes.
"I was terrified," said the man. "I didn't know what was expected. He put me over his lap."
Bishop's College School is seeking dialogue and resolution, says Kurt Johnson, chairman of the school's board of directors. (CBC)The man said the minister then struck him on the backside with a hairbrush. The punishment was followed by sexual touching.
As a result of the abuse, the man said he suffered from panic attacks.
Other victims tell similar stories. Affidavits filed in court detail lifelong struggles with depression, severe anxiety and substance abuse.
Officials at Bishop's College School said they are doing their best to close a difficult chapter for the boarding school.
"From the beginning we've been seeking dialogue, reconciliation and resolution, and the settlement will allow us to redouble those efforts," said Kurt Johnson, chairman of the board.
"It has been a trying time for the school, dealing with issues and allegations that arose nearly a half a century ago," said Johnson.
"The challenge for the school has been to balance the interests of the students who are at the school now and future students of BCS with those who were at the school in the past and who claim to have been aggrieved."
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/04/23/mtl-bcs-settlement-problems.html#ixzz0mGKNK7SC


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California law banning the sale and rental of violent video games to minors violated constitutional free-speech rights

Logo of the Entertainment Software Association.Image via Wikipedia
The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether a California law banning the sale and rental of violent video games to minors violated constitutional free-speech rights, the first time it will rule on a video game case.
The justices agreed to hear the state's appeal after a U.S. appeals court in California struck down the law, which also imposes strict video-game labeling requirements, as unconstitutional.
The high court is expected to hear arguments in the case and then issue a ruling during its upcoming term, which begins in October. It will be one of the most important cases the court has thus far decided to hear in the upcoming term.
The law has been challenged by video game publishers, distributors and sellers, including the Entertainment Software Association. Its members include Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Microsoft Corp and Sony Computer Entertainment America.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, the state argued the free-speech guarantees of the First Amendment do not bar a state from prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors under 18.
The state also argued that the appeals court was wrong to require it to show a direct link between violent video games and physical and psychological harm to minors.
The law, adopted in 2005, has never taken effect because of the legal challenge.
"It is time to allow California's common-sense law to go into effect and help parents protect their children from violent video games," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said.


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Louisiana disaster is leaking 1000 barrels a day into the Gulf

Title: Offshore Description: Offshore platform...Image via Wikipedia
U.S. agencies on Sunday approved a plan to use remote-controlled underwater vehicles to seal a leaking oil well beneath a drilling rig that exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last week. The well, 5,000 feet under the ocean surface off Louisiana's coast, is leaking about 1,000 barrels of oil a day. The spill, which the U.S. Coast Guard has called "very serious," could threaten the Gulf Coast's fragile ecosystem if not contained. Four underwater vehicles have been deployed under the plan outlined by the Coast Guard and U.S. Minerals Management Service. They will dive unmanned to the ocean floor to activate a blowout preventer, a giant series of pipes and valves that could staunch the leak. Swiss-based Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon sank on Thursday, two days after it exploded and caught fire while finishing a well for BP Plc 42 miles off the Louisiana coast. Eleven workers from the rig are missing and presumed dead in what is the worst oil rig disaster in almost a decade. The Coast Guard on Friday suspended a search for the workers. London-based BP, which is financially responsible for the cleanup, has deployed an armada of ships and aircraft to contain the oil slick. Weather models predict it will remain about 30 miles off shore for the next three days, said Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry. "We have no shoreline impacts at this time," Landry told reporters at a briefing. The oily sheen covered about 400 square miles (1,036 sq km) as of Saturday. Activating the blowout preventer is a "highly complex task" and "it may not be successful," said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production unit. The blowout preventer -- which weighs about 450 tons and sits on the sea floor next to the well -- could take 24-36 hours to activate, Suttles said. As a backup, BP is sending two floating drilling rigs to the scene that could drill a series of relief wells to stop the leak. That operation, if needed, could take months, Suttles said. The spill currently is not comparable with the infamous Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled about 11 million gallons (50 million liters) of oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska when it ran aground in 1989. The well, which is owned by BP, is spewing about 42,000 gallons (190,900 liters) of oil a day into the ocean, the Coast Guard estimates. The explosion came almost three weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling. It has not affected U.S. oil markets. The explosion occurred as the rig was capping a discovery well pending production, company officials said. Some 115 of the 126 workers on board at the time of the explosion were rescued.
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Opponents of nuclear power formed a 120-km (75-mile) human chain

Opponents of nuclear power formed a 120-km (75-mile) human chain between reactor sites in Germany Saturday to protest against government plans to extend the power plants' operation.

Around 120,000 peaceful demonstrators, according to police and organizers, linked arms in a chain running between the northern towns of Brunsbuettel and Kruemmel that passed through the city of Hamburg.
"Today will spark a countrywide chain reaction of protests and resistance if the government does not reverse its atomic policy," organizers said in a statement.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government has said it wants to extend the lives of nuclear plants, although politicians differ over how many years to add to the plants' lives beyond 32 years. Between eight and 20 years are suggested.
The government is aiming to agree in October on a wider national energy plan, which will assign nuclear a role alongside other fuels and favored renewables.
Protesters hope to draw attention to the issue before a May 9 regional election, after which they fear Merkel's coalition will move to extend the reactors' lifespan.




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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Well beneath sunken US rig has serious oil leak

The Exxon ValdezImage via Wikipedia
Well beneath sunken US rig has serious oil leak

An oil well on the ocean floor beneath a drilling rig that exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico began spewing oil on Saturday, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The well, 5,000 feet beneath the ocean surface, was leaking about 1,000 barrels per day of oil, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said, in what the agency called a "very serious spill." Remote underwater vehicles detected oil leaking from the riser and drill pipe, the spokeswoman said.
"We are classifying this as a very serious spill and we are using all our resources to help contain it," Coast Guard Petty Officer Connie Terrell said.
Transocean Ltd's Deepwater Horizon sank on Thursday after burning since Tuesday following an explosion while finishing a well for BP Plc 42 miles off the Louisiana coast. The Coast Guard on Friday suspended a search for 11 missing workers from the rig, who are presumed dead.
BP has deployed an armada of ships and aircraft to contain the oil slick, which could threaten Louisiana's fragile coastline if it is not contained. Cleanup operations are currently on hold due to stormy seas, Terrell said.
So far, the spill is not comparable with the Exxon Valdez disaster, which spilled about 11 million gallons (50 million liters) of oil into the Prince William Sound in Alaska when it ran aground in 1989. The Transocean well is spewing about 42,000 gallons (190,900 liters) of oil a day into the ocean, the Coast Guard estimates.
The explosion came almost three weeks after President Barack Obama unveiled plans for a limited expansion of U.S. offshore oil and gas drilling. The explosion did not affect U.S. oil markets.
The blast occurred about 10 p.m. CDT on Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) as the rig was capping a discovery well pending production, company officials said. Some 115 of the 126 workers on board at the time of the explosion were rescued.
It was the worst oil rig disaster since 2001, when a rig operated by Petrobras off the Brazilian coast exploded and killed 11 workers. The Piper Alpha rig in the North Sea off Scotland exploded in 1988, killing 167.




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Syncrude spending millions to reduce toxic waste

This is a picture of Syncrude's base mine. The...Image via Wikipedia
Syncrude Canada Ltd, the country's largest oil sands producer, will spend hundreds of millions of dollars Building two plants to reduce toxic waste under recently tightened regulations, it said on Friday.

The plants, which will employ new technology to process tailings from oil sands production, are conditions of approvals by the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board, the first under a directive issued in February 2009.
Syncrude and the ERCB said the new rules are tough, but at least one environmental group said the approvals impose weaker targets than what were spelled out in the directive.
The board approved tailings ponds -- expansive man-made lakes that hold water, leftover bitumen, clay and heavy metals from the oil sands production process -- for both Syncrude and the yet-to-be-built Fort Hills project. The nods came with several conditions.
"This is the first time we've laid down specific criteria that the companies had to meet with respect to managing their tailings ponds," ERCB Chairman Dan McFadyen said in an interview.
"They were performance criteria. It didn't say how to do it. It said here's what you have to do to meet the management of tailings ponds to get them toward what we call a trafficable surface so they can then be reclaimed."
Under the new rules, operators must report on the ponds annually, cut the accumulation of fluid tailings and specify dates for construction, use and closure.
The ponds came to symbolize the battle between environmental groups and the oil sands industry in 2008, when 1,600 ducks were killed when they landed on a tailings pond at Syncrude's operation in northern Alberta. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to federal and provincial charges over the incident and the case is now being tried.
For its ERCB approvals, it will build one commercial scale tailings plant by August 2012 at its Mildred Lake site, and another at its Aurora North mine, the board said.
Syncrude must also meet annual targets for capturing tiny particles, called fines, in the tailings.
The cost of the compliance, including building the plants, is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, said Syncrude spokeswoman Cheryl Robb.
"They're holding us to the plan that we submitted, which we considered an aggressive plan," Robb said.
Simon Dyer, oil sands director for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, said the approval conditions do not go far enough.
"Despite the tough talk about tailings, Alberta has accepted a plan from Syncrude that doesn't comply with its own rules to clean up tailings waste," Dyer said.
He said the targets for capturing fines, 9.3 percent next year, climbing to 34.6 percent by 2014, are lower than what the directive requires.
ERCB executive manager Terry Abel said the board insisted on tougher measures than what Syncrude initially proposed.
For its approval, Fort Hills, a consortium that includes Suncor Energy Inc, Teck Resources and UTS Energy, must apply to use new technologies six months before testing them and have no fluid-like deposits of tailings left when it closes the mine.
Last week, environmental groups launched a complaint against Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying the country has failed to enforce rules governing tailings ponds and their safety.
Critics charge that the ponds are being allowed to leak and contaminate ground water, damaging the environment and endangering the health of local residents.
Even the province's government has said it wants to see the ponds eliminated altogether.
The board said it is reviewing applications Albian Sands Energy Inc, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, Imperial Oil Ltd, Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor.


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Friday, April 23, 2010

iPhone hacked by Android

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Programmer David Wong posted an April 21 video on the "Linux on the iPhone" blog demonstrating how Google Android can be booted onto a first-generation iPhone. Wong suggested that Android could be ported onto all versions of Apple’s popular smartphone, a move that was greeted positively by many of the blog’s commenters. At some point this summer, Apple will release the iPhone OS 4, which will include features such as multitasking and an "iAd" mobile-application advertising platform. Lack of multitasking has been one of the traditional complaints lodged against the iPhone, and used as a selling point for smartphones running the multitasking-capable Google Android.

One enterprising programmer has accomplished something likely capable of sending a certain Cupertino, Calif.,-based CEO’s teeth on edge: run Google Android on a first-generation iPhone.
David Wong, who also operates as “planetbeing,” even posted an April 21 video on the “Linux on the iPhone” blog showing the Android boot. “It should be pretty simple to port forward to the iPhone 3G,” Wong wrote in the posting accompanying the video. “The 3GS will take more work. Hopefully with all this groundwork laid out, we can make Android a real alternative or supplement for iPhone users.”
Wong added a joke: “Maybe we can finally get Flash.”


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Thursday, April 22, 2010

launch a broad antitrust action against Google

Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a broad antitrust action against Google and suggested the government agency could break up Google into several companies as a remedy to alleged monopolistic practices. The problem with the monopoly argument is that Google doesn’t force what is roughly 65 percent of the U.S. search market to use its search service. If a court could not see fit to break up Microsoft a decade ago, how can a court break up Google, which has not been formally accused of anticompetitive practices?

News Analysis: In its most aggressive position against Google yet, Consumer Watchdog April 21 asked the U.S. Department of Justice to sue the search engine and suggested the government agency could break up Google into several companies.
Consumer Watchdog advocate John M. Simpson argued that the government must go beyond opposing Google’s attempts to grow its search and advertising businesses with services such as Google Book Search and by subjecting Google’s $750 million bid for mobile ad provider AdMob to intense scrutiny.
“Google exerts monopoly power over Internet searches, controlling 70 percent of the U.S. market,” Simpson wrote in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his team at the DOJ. “For most Americans – indeed, for most people in the world – Google is the gateway to the Internet. How it tweaks its proprietary search algorithms can ensure a business’s success or doom it to failure.”


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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

U.S. Muslim group has issued a dire Internet "warning" to creators

A U.S. Muslim group has issued a dire Internet "warning" to creators of the satirical animated TV show "South Park" over a depiction of the Prophet Mohammad in a bear outfit.

"We have to warn Matt (Stone) and Trey (Parker) that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," said a posting on website RevolutionMuslim.com.
The website posted a graphic photo of slain Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was killed in 2004 by an Islamic militant over a movie he made that accused Islam of condoning violence against women.
It also posted link to a news article with details of a mansion in Colorado that Parker and Stone apparently own, suggesting the Web posters know where to find the South Park creators.
The episode in question aired last week on cable channel Comedy Central of the 200th episode of "South Park", in which the Prophet Mohammad was depicted in a bear outfit.
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McAfee Update Shutting Down Windows XP Computers

Image representing McAfee as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
McAfee Update Shutting Down Windows XP Computers

Confirmed: a bad McAfee update for Windows XP has shut down thousands, possibly millions, of computers around the world. That's big trouble. UPDATED:
Twitter has been buzzing with the news this afternoon that McAfee updates were shutting down XP PCs, and we've heard that California sent out an email to state workers a little while ago warning them of the problem. Also apparently affected: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, over 100,000 computers serviced by a UK IT firm, and presumably countless others based on the reports that keep coming in.


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Microsoft's survey reports IT spending up

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase
Microsoft examining the IT spending trends of cost-conscious businesses finds virtualization and IT consolidation high on the list of priorities.

Microsoft released the results of its 2010 SMB/Partner Insight Report, which focuses on small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) and their IT spending plans for the year. In the study, based on a survey of Microsoft Small Business Specialist partners, 63 percent of respondents predicted their SMB customers will spend more on IT in 2010, up from just 25 percent in 2009, with overall SMB IT spending anticipated to rise by an average of 16 percent over 2009 levels. Results from more than 500 partners in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Brazil and India indicated SMBs view virtualization, IT consolidation, software as a service, customer relationship management (CRM) and support of remote workers as their most important technology investments.
The study indicated although SMBs remain concerned about the business climate, most will increase technology spending in 2010, highlighting the role of IT as a strategic business tool in this crucial sector of the global economy. The survey found SMBs are most likely to invest in IT that directly benefits their bottom line -- either by reducing operating costs, improving employee productivity, or acquiring and retaining customers.


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How FCC Plans to Reverse Title II Action in December

How FCC Plans to Reverse Title II Action in December By:  Wayne Rash  |  November 21,2017 The FCC plans regarding net neutrality, set ...