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Today's programming highlights...
8:30 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony resumes in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.
Several "specific and preventable human and engineering failures were the immediate causes" of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster last year, the presidentially appointed Oil Spill Commission said in its much-awaited report Tuesday .
The event "was almost the inevitable result of years of industry and government complacency and lack of attention to safety. This was indisputably the case with BP, Transocean, and Halliburton, as well as the government agency charged with regulating offshore drilling - the former Minerals Management Service," said commission co-chairman William K. Reilly.
"As drilling pushes into ever deeper and riskier waters where more of America's oil lies, only systemic reforms of both government and industry will prevent a similar, future disaster."
The report, "Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling," proposed "comprehensive" government and industry actions "to overhaul the U.S. approach to drilling safety and greatly reduce the chances of a similar, large scale disaster in the future."
It has been an interesting week to say the least regarding the Gulf oil disaster. I watched the headlines respond to the decidedly rosy perspective of the feds and BP that only last week claimed that the worst was behind us and that most of the oil has been cleaned up or naturally dissipated.
As many of us warned, those predictions were premature at best, and this week, new science is emerging that suggests this is only the end of the beginning. The whole debacle reminds me of the Aesop's Fable of the tortoise and the hare. You know, the one where the arrogant hare who can easily outrun the tortoise ends up losing the race because, confident he will outrun the tortoise, he takes a nap, oversleeps and loses.
Attributed to a Greek slave who lived in the mid-sixth century BC in ancient Greece, this fable is one of hundreds that have stood the test of time. They have been translated throughout the millennia into countless languages and still hold true today.
On his fifth visit to the Gulf Coast since the start of the BP oil disaster, President Obama on Saturday reminded Americans that the cleanup effort has been successful and that the region's beaches "are clean, safe and open for business."
"That's one of the reasons Michelle, Sasha, and I are here," Obama said
in Panama City, Florida.
Missourians travel to Gulf Coast – While the worst oil spill in U.S. history is over, its effects will be felt for a long time. A caravan from Missouri will head south to boost businesses that the BP oil spill has hurt. The caravan raised money from donations across the nation and will spend the cash while traveling across the Gulf Coast.
Obama talks education - Monday afternoon in Austin, Texas, President Obama will outline his plan for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. America will need to increase graduates by more than 10 million over the next 10 years to make that happen, according to the administration.
Blood diamonds - Actress Mia Farrow's testimony has contradicted that of supermodel Naomi Campbell in the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor allegedly gave Campbell a diamond after a 1997 dinner party in South Africa at which Farrow, Taylor and the model were guests. Prosecutors say Taylor paid for a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone using blood diamonds, which are mined in war zones and used to fund rebels and warlords. The stones have fueled bloody conflicts in Africa for more than a decade. Farrow said Campbell told her Taylor gave her a diamond. But Campbell testified last week that she had no idea who had given her the diamond.
Here’s a quick glance at the collective consciousness of the Web on Monday:
Putting a ring on it: It was quite the celebrity wedding weekend, with former first daughter Chelsea Clinton marrying longtime beau Marc Mezvinsky in a lavish ceremony in Rhinebeck, New York. (After midnight, late-night munchies stole the show.) Recording artist Alicia Keys married hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz at a private residence overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Atlanta rapper T.I. married longtime fiancée Tiny Cottle in a glitzy soiree in Miami Beach, Florida.
Gulf oil disaster: The spill continued to make news Monday, with the dispersants used by BP coming under increased scrutiny. The Environmental Protection Agency said tests prove that the oil, not the dispersants, remain "the No. 1 enemy." The oil disaster seems to have leaked into the real estate market as well. For many residents, discovery of oil on their land used to mean guaranteed big bucks (Black gold? Texas tea?). But because of the spill, waterfront residents say home sales may be especially cruddy. In fact, the BP oil spill could cost homeowners $68 million in lost property value over the next year, according to a report released Monday.
#jailbreak: The iPhone 4 “jailbreak,” finally legal, is getting a lot of clicks. The hack - available at jailbreakme.com - installs a program that lets iPhone 4 owners and others purchase apps from stores other than Apple's. But be careful! It's still a risky proposition.
Lindsay's out: Speaking of jail, Lindsay Lohan has been released from prison after 13 days in the pokey. It’s on to rehab for the actress and singer.
End of the oil? We might be at the end of a chapter in the long saga of the BP oil spill, which began April 20. Officials say that on Monday night they'll begin the first of two efforts to seal the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico. The "static kill" will happen first, followed five to seven days later by a "bottom kill." BP's CEO Doug Suttles says he's "confident" these techniques will do the trick, but federal officials caution that nothing is guaranteed.
"We should not be writing any obituary for this event," said Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who heads the government's response to the spill.
U.S. Iraq drawdown - According to a prepared speech President Obama is expected to give in Georgia, U.S. troops in Iraq will be reduced by 50,000 by the end of August. The U.S. military mission in Iraq will switch from combat to a support role in Iraq, including training of Iraqi national security forces, the speech says. Want to see a breakdown of U.S. resources in Iraq? Read CNN's Security Brief.
The U.S. and Iraq disagree on the level of violence in the war-torn country. While the U.S. military reports that bloodshed has decreased, data Iraq released Saturday indicates that July was the deadliest month for civilians since May 2008. Specifically, Iraq says 396 civilians, 50 Iraqi soldiers and 89 police officers were killed last month.
In July, there were 81,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 87,000 in Afghanistan.
Pakistan disaster - Flooding in Pakistan has killed more than 1,100 people, government officials tell CNN. At least 30,000 people were stuck on rooftops and other higher areas as they tried to escape rushing floodwaters. "We've got the government sending boats and helicopters to try to reach people and bring them to safety at the same time as trying to deliver emergency relief," said Nicki Bennett, a senior humanitarian affairs officer for the U.N.
C'mon, get happy! - After all that seriousness for your Monday morning, how about some good news? Yes, we said good news – or at least several websites that will make you feel better this week. Try a site that compiles happy news, or todaysbigthing.com, which today features a kid who wasn't thrilled with his trip to the zoo.
It's been 100 days since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, resulting in an oil spill that has become the nation's worst environmental disaster. Here's how the numbers stack up so far.
BP Sunday refused to confirm reports that its embattled chief executive Tony Hayward is on the verge of leaving the oil giant.
"Tony Hayward remains our chief executive and has the full support of the board and senior management," company spokesman Mark Salt told CNN.
British media reported Sunday that Hayward could be out as soon as Monday. He has been under fire over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill BP's alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber. See the FULL STORY
Didn't you get my texts? - President Obama talked to Shirley Sherrod, the ex-USDA employee who was forced to resign this week based on misleading reports that she made racist remarks. Sherrod received a text message Thursday telling her that Obama had been trying to reach her since Wednesday night. Sherrod called the White House and was asked to call back in 10 minutes, and then she was patched to the president for a seven minute unrecorded chat. The conversation went well, Sherrod said. So what happens now? Is this all shaping up to be a teachable moment, or is that too irritating a term? Give Shirley Her Job Back Now! Facebook page is all over that and every other conceivable angle.
The employees at Facebook seem to be hanging in there while jobless claims jumped higher than expected, underscoring that the economic recovery may not be happening as fast as some thought. Meanwhile, a bill that restores unemployment benefits to 2.5 million Americans passed the Senate and headed to the House where it's expected to pass.
Jobs are a huge issue in the Gulf right now as the Coast Guard and BP struggle to put fix the oil disaster. But BP is again making headlines for allegedly faking another photo. On Wednesday the company admitted to doctoring an official image of its command control center. Thursday Gizmodo reported that BP had faked an image of a helicopter.
500 million – Facebook has reached its half-billion member mark, with an online population larger than the combined population of the U.S., Mexico and France. CNN.com asks who isn't on Facebook while the site's 26-year-old creator and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is talking about the member milestone. He also tackles the many criticisms leveled over how Facebook handles user privacy.
Going beyond Sherrod – The spotlight has not dimmed on Shirley Sherrod, the ex-USDA worker who was pressured to resign from her job Monday after a conservative blogger posted a misleading video of her discussing a white farmer. Sherrod, it turns out, has had quite an interesting life before all the brouhaha about her this week (here's a recap).
The story is still all about race, but Sherrod now appears to be saying the USDA has a history of widespread discrimination. Asked whether she would go back to working for the department, which is reportedly offering her a civil rights-related job, Sherrod said: "I would not want to be the one person at USDA that's responsible for issues of discrimination within the agency. ... There's a lawsuit by black farmers, there's a lawsuit by Hispanic and Native American and women farmers. ... There are changes that would need to happen in order to once and for all really deal with discrimination." She appears to be, in part, referring to a years-long legal battle between black farmers and the USDA.
Sherrod is considering filing a lawsuit, too, against the blogger who posted the video clip.
Bad weather, oil spill – Poor weather could jeopardize efforts to contain the Gulf oil spill. A tropical depression or tropical storm that formed near the Bahamas on Thursday morning could head into the Gulf, forecasters are saying, and the National Hurricane Center reported that it would probably initiate tropical storm warnings and watches for portions of the Bahamas and southern Florida at 11 a.m. ET.
Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who's leading the federal response to the spill, said a tropical storm could disrupt capping operations for 10 to 14 days.
Barefoot in court - Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "barefoot bandit" suspect, will appear before a U.S. magistrate in Washington state at about 2:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET). Jesse James to some, a simple criminal to others, the teenager is famous for allegedly stealing cars, burglarizing homes and stealing and crash landing airplanes. He eluded police and the FBI for two years. A CNN story later Thursday will delve into Harris-Moore's turbulent upbringing.
It's not exactly a new word, but when's the last time you heard it – "snooker"?
According to Merriam-Webster, it means "to dupe."
NAACP "snookered" – On Wednesday, the president of the NAACP said his organization had been snookered into thinking that ex-U.S. Department of Agriculture worker Shirley Sherrod had made racist remarks at a NAACP dinner in March. In a headline-dominating drama that began Tuesday morning and continued Wednesday, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said he regretted first-blush criticism of Sherrod.
Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart was the first to post a video clip of Sherrod over the weekend, which Fox then picked up. CNN devoted all day and night Tuesday on the developing story, which has sparked reaction everywhere. The Dallas Morning News is mad about the whole thing. And so are Facebookers who created a page called "Give Shirley Sherrod Her Job Back Now!" Thing is, she might not want it.
Bad photoshop, bad! – BP admitted to altering an image of the company's oil spill control center. A staff photographer manipulated pictures of engineers looking at three blank screens at the control center, making the screens appear as if they were displaying underwater shots, to "enhance the quality of the photo," BP said. The photographer had no intention of misleading anyone, the company stressed. Tweets abounded about what seemed like a poor paste job. Let's hope BP has better command of stopping the oil spill than it does with Photoshop.
"Jersey Shore" connection? – Oh, this transition could not have been more convenient for Web Pulse. "Snooki'" and the spray-tanned gang from the MTV show "Jersey Shore" will be back for season three, the network said. Jenni "J-Woww" Farley told Steppin' Out magazine that the rumblings of a strike were "very untrue." Reports had been circulating that kids were angling for $30,000 per episode.
Resignation amid racism charges – There's much controversy swirling around the resignation of a black U.S. Agriculture Department employee. A recent video clip shows Shirley Sherrod discussing how she treated a white farmer who was in danger of losing his property. Some interpreted her comments as racist. But Sherrod contends that's not true, and that the video has been taken out of context. Until her resignation, she was the USDA's state director of rural development for Georgia. The incident described in the video occurred in 1986, when she was working for a nonprofit, she said Tuesday.
"I was telling the story of how working with him helped me to see the issue is not about race," Sherrod explained to CNN's "American Morning." "It's about those who have versus those who do not have."
"Static kill" – July 20 marks the three-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. As tests continued on BP's ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant and the Coast Guard announced that yet another method might be used to stop the gusher for good. "Static kill" involves pumping mud into the well to force oil back into the reservoir below. But that won't happen Tuesday, said BP Senior Vice President Kent Wells, who cautioned that the idea is "very much in its infancy." Relief wells, Wells said, are "still the ultimate solution."
Kagan vote – It's a big day for Elena Kagan. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nomination requries approval by the full Senate, and a vote is expected before the chamber goes on its August recess. Kagan would become the fourth female justice in the history of the nation's highest court.
Just In, 12:35 p.m. ET: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Kagan.
Lohan to jail – Ninety days. That's the sentence Lindsay Lohan will begin serving Tuesday. The troubled movie star is expected to appear in court in Los Angeles, California, at 8:45 a.m. (11:45 a.m. ET). TMZ and the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Lohan's lawyer Robert Shapiro had quit. He is expected to appear in court with her anyway.
"Hidden world" – A controversial investigative story about America's intelligence community has been generating major buzz since it went live on the Washington Post's site. The story, the culmination of two years of reporting, says that in the years after the 9/11 attacks, intelligence gathering has become unmanageable and inefficient. Critics say that the Post article discloses sensitive information.
The seep – Everyone is searching the Web to find the exact definition of the word "seep" after news this past weekend that there is a leak from the oil containment cap in the Gulf of Mexico.
The question now is whether the seep is significant enough to require opening valves to relieve pressure and in turn release more oil into the Gulf. Is this the end of the months-long Deepwater Horizon oil leak?
The federal on-scene coordinator warned Monday that it's too soon to make that call. "With an operation like this, your biggest enemy is complacency," said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft.
Spencer Pratt - Alleged problems with America's intelligence community, the oil spill and ... that guy who everyone hates from MTV's show "The Hills." Last week, the long-running drama about rich 20-somethings in Los Angeles ended with a shocker - the reality show was not really reality but scripted. What? No! This week, (can we call him an actor?) Spencer Pratt tried to keep his name in the news by admitting that he's a "famewhore." His words, not ours. But he's getting clicks. Lots of 'em.
Oil seep – Testing on a capped oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will continue for another day as the federal government says BP has addressed questions about a seep near the well. Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's reponse manager to the oil spill, said that a federal science team and BP representatives discussed the seep during a Sunday night conference call, including the "possible observation of methane over the well." Allen will give an update at 11 a.m. ET Monday. CNN's full coverage page takes you from the beginning of the April 20 disaster to the latest updates.
The Washington Post: "Top Secret America" – The 9/11 attacks have created an intelligence community so large and unwieldy that it's unmanageable and inefficient – and no one knows how much it costs, according to a two-year-long Washington Post investigation.
Many in the intelligence community reportedly worried that the Post articles would disclose too much information about contractors and the classified tasks they handle. The Post said its report uncovered "a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine."
Aid for Pakistan – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a major new aid package for Pakistan with hundreds of millions of dollars for projects to address water and energy shortages in the country. She made the announcement at the beginning of a daylong "strategic dialogue" in Islamabad between American and Pakistani officials.
India train crash – At least 60 people died and 92 were injured when a moving train rammed into a stationary train in eastern India. The collision at the Sainthia station hurtled the roof of one of the wrecked compartments onto an overpass, according to TV footage.
Pressure was rising Friday as BP continued testing its breached Gulf of Mexico well with no evidence so far that other leaks exist, said BP's Senior Vice President Kent Wells.
Wells said pressure was up to 6,700 psi (pounds per square inch) inside the well's capping stack. BP was looking for an optimal 8,000 psi, which would indicate that no oil was being forced out through a leak and that the well was undamaged and able to withstand the pressure of the cap.
The "well integrity test" began Thursday after two days of delays, first as government scientists scrutinized testing procedures and then as BP replaced a leaking piece of equipment known as a choke line.
Gulf oil disaster – Interfaith leaders prayed for restoration and renewal of the Gulf of Mexico as they prepared Wednesday for a tour of the oil-soaked marshes, wetlands and rookeries of the Louisiana coast. Out at sea, crews are in the process of connecting the vessel Helix Producer to the ruptured oil well in the Gulf, said the man leading the federal response to the oil disaster. The hookup has been partially completed despite rough seas. The vessel should draw up to 53,000 barrels of oil a day when it becomes operational, newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said.
As the attempts continue at sea, a nearly 40-year-old board game is getting a lot of renewed attention because of eerie similarities between the scenarios of its play and the Gulf oil disaster. The game BP Offshore Oil Strike, which came out in the 1970s and is adorned with an old BP logo, revolves around four players exploring for oil, building platforms and constructing pipelines – all in the name of being the first to make $120 million.
Editor's note: Philippe Cousteau Jr. is the grandson of legendary ocean explorer and filmmaker Jacques Yves Cousteau. Philippe heads the nonprofit organization EarthEcho International (www.earthecho.org). Philippe, who has been working in this field for years, is an advocate for the people and the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico during the oil crisis, visiting the area and learning first hand the impact the disaster has had not only on the ecosystem but on the people who suffer as a result of the catastrophe. Read more about Philippe's background.
I remember my first trip to see the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A few weeks after the rig exploded I traveled to survey the spill both above and below the surface. Seeing the impact from the shore as well as being the first one to dive and film the oil spill from beneath the waves was a horrifying experience. Wave after wave of oil/chemical dispersant mix washed over us - a chemical soup that is toxic to countless creatures and still spreading through the Gulf, wreaking havoc on the lives of animals and the livelihoods of people.
It was made all the worse because less than 18 months earlier, in partnership with the Ocean Conservancy, I had testified in front of the House Natural Resources Committee to address the deficiencies of the laws that govern oil and gas development in the oceans. The echo of that testimony is still haunting me as I have watched the devastation unfold first-hand over the past 70 days.
One of my favorite writers Mark Twain once wrote, "A man's first duty is to his conscience and his honor." There is no honor in this catastrophe, and its consequences are unconscionable. Nor is there honor in the circumstances that created it.
There is a lot of talk in the media about the moratorium the Obama administration recently put in place; but the truth is that a moratorium would not have prevented this tragedy. What I testified about more than a year ago and what is still needed today is to reform and strengthen the existing laws to ensure that they protect ocean health and coastal economies, and that science - not profit - should guide any oil and gas development.
This spill reminds us we are in desperate need of a policy that recognizes that in our ocean environment, everything is connected - from industrial uses to the health of our ocean and the health of the coastal economy. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster exposes a fundamental flaw in our nation's approach to oil and gas activities in the ocean.
It is day 70 of the Gulf oil crisis. Millions of words and thousands of hours of video have been devoted to the explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig and the gushing of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
And yet the organizers of a conference in Washington Monday think that there's actually a shortage of information about the disaster. The two technology entrepreneurs behind the conference, TEDx OilSpill, are hoping the event will start to fix that problem.
“There’s sort of this void right now with information coming out of the Gulf,” says Nate Mook. “Something catastrophic has happened. Most people don’t understand the underlying issues that led to this happening. They’re really not aware of the all of the complexities behind their getting into their car and driving … it’s brought to the forefront a lot of things that have been on the sidelines for a long time – with our oceans, with how important the marine eco-system is, with where we are getting our energy, what are we putting at risk, and … new technologies being developed.”
To answer those questions an array of speakers, from ocean explorer Sylvia Earle to energy expert Amory Lovins to “Leroy Stick,” the anonymous creator of the fake BP Twitter (@BPGlobalPR) account with more than179,000 followers, will speak onstage at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington from 9 am to about 7 pm. The event will be streamed at: http://tedxoilspill.com/live/. And people will gather to watch the stream or discuss the issues in 125 meetups around the nation and world.