[Updated at 10:16 p.m.] Here are the latest developments on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began when the oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20:
– BP on Thursday night was positioning a cap over the top of the blowout preventer, which may dramatically slow the oil leak. Earlier Thursday, BP said it had reached an important milestone in its effort to cap the spill by cutting away the damaged riser pipe atop its ruptured undersea well.
– Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has asked BP for an additional $50 million to cover the costs of preparing to protect the state's coastline from the oil spill. BP granted $25 million to Florida last month. In a letter to the president of BP America, Crist writes that Florida already has spent $50 million in protective measures and other preparedness costs.
- The Obama administration has sent a $69 million bill to BP for the U.S. government's efforts to help deal with the energy company's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, giving the company until July 1 to pay the bill in full. The bill was also sent to Transocean, Anadarko, Moex Offshore and QBE Underwriting.
- BP has spent more than $40 million so far to pay 15,000 of the nearly 32,000 loss-of-income claims filed by area business owners and their workers.
- U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who is managing the government's response, called Thursday's cut of the damaged riser pipe a "significant step forward." But even if the well is capped, it remains unclear how much oil will continue leaking through August when a relief well will be in place. BP was unable to make a more precise cut of the pipe that would have assured a tighter seal.
- The beleaguered company began airing national television ads Thursday apologizing for the spill. Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward appears in the ad, saying he is "deeply sorry" and that BP "will make this right."
- In Louisiana, where oily sludge has been fouling coastal marshes for two weeks, state officials said the White House has given its blessing to a plan to dredge up walls of sand offshore.
- The U.S. government has closed fishing in 37 percent of the Gulf because of the massive spill.
- President Obama told CNN's Larry King on Thursday that he is "furious" about the spill but said his job is to fix things instead of just yelling at people.
- President Obama will return to the Louisiana Gulf Coast on Friday "to assess the latest efforts to counter the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill," according to a White House statement.
- A grass-roots campaign dubbed Seize BP planned demonstrations in more than 50 cities starting Thursday.
- BP has hired a Washington-based, bipartisan political consulting firm to produce its new aggressive national advertising push, including a national TV spot released Thursday. Purple Strategies includes veteran political consultants Steve McMahon, a Democrat, and Alex Castellanos, a Republican.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote a letter to Obama on Wednesday expressing his concern about the government's moratorium on offshore drilling. The new measure could cause thousands of people to lose their jobs, Jindal said.
- With the help of $25 million from BP, Florida has been running ads trying to emphasize that its beaches and resorts have stayed open and oil-free. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said some of those ads will be re-edited if necessary.