July 27th, 2010
06:25 AM ET

World update: BP posts massive $17.2 billion loss

An update from London on some of the international stories we expect to develop on Tuesday:

BP losses - BP posted a massive quarterly loss of $17.2 billion Tuesday due to costs stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP said it took a pretax charge of $32.2 billion in the quarter related to the oil spill, the worst in U.S. history. That charge includes the $20 billion fund the company agreed to set up in June to cover damages related to the spill.

Serbia extradition - A London court is expected to decide Tuesday whether former Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic should be extradited to Belgrade after spending four months under house arrest in London. He is wanted in Serbia for conspiracy to murder in breach of the Geneva Conventions.

FULL POST

July 25th, 2010
10:54 AM ET

BP: We support Tony Hayward

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

July 23rd, 2010
06:23 PM ET

Louisiana's invisible shield: wind shear

Bonnie is currently making its way across the Florida peninsula, and is set to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Friday night. When it does so, it will encounter some of the warmest waters the Gulf has ever seen ‚Äď and in some places even warmer than the waters that Katrina crossed over in 2005. So what‚Äôs the difference between Bonnie and Katrina? It's all in the upper levels.

Over the past few days, CNN Hurricane Headquarters has been monitoring an area of low pressure at the top of the troposphere, which is the place where all the weather happens in Earth's atmosphere. Tropical cyclones (the generic term we use for tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) thrive in "low-wind" environmental conditions. This sounds counter-intuitive but it makes sense when you think about it. Strong winds in the environment where the tropical cyclone seed is trying to grow is going to rip it apart. We call this "wind shear," and it literally shears a storm apart. A tropical cyclone seed needs to plant its roots in weak winds and warm waters so it can build the vertical structure that it needs to churn into a hurricane.

The upper-level low that we have been monitoring is causing some strong wind shear over the Gulf of Mexico, and its why we didn’t see Bonnie strengthen when it was over the Bahamas, and it’s going to prevent strengthening over the Gulf of Mexico as well, assuming the wind shear sticks around. So even though the main ingredient for a strong hurricane is present (warm sea surface temperatures), we probably won’t see Bonnie strengthen much past 50 mph wind speeds.

The northern Gulf will still see relatively strong winds, especially over the Deepwater Horizon site, but it won’t be the worst case scenario: a major hurricane rolling into Louisiana with catastrophic impacts to the oil spill clean up effort.

And we shouldn’t take Louisiana’s Invisible Shield for granted though, because as the season rolls on, the wind shear tends to decrease. We can’t be sure the Gulf will be as lucky next time.

July 23rd, 2010
12:35 PM ET

Relief well on hold as Bonnie forces Gulf evacuations

As Tropical Storm Bonnie approaches the Gulf of Mexico, several response vessels at the site of BP's ruptured well are in the process of being moved out of harm's way Friday, leaving the sealed well cap unattended for about 48 hours, federal officials said.

"We're all in agreement that we need to put this equipment where it can be best maintained and safe for following use," retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday.

Allen, who is leading the federal response to the spill, is still "haunted by the specter of flying over New Orleans on the 6th of September as a federal official, looking down on New Orleans, to a parking lot of buses that were flooded and not used for evacuation because they were not moved in time," he said in reference to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

FULL STORY

July 23rd, 2010
10:49 AM ET

Gulf dispatch: Time to tap power of teens

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, he has visited the area and learned firsthand the impact the disaster has had on the ecosystem and on the people who have been affected by the catastrophe. Read more about Philippe's background.

If there is one consistent sentiment I have heard from people in the Gulf throughout the many trips I have made there, it is frustration.

As the greatest man-made environmental disaster in the country continues to wreak havoc on the Gulf, there is a sense of anger that the general populace has not been able to engage and be a meaningful part of the solution. Thousands of locals who feel a sense of ownership and love for these communities and are eager to act, are forced to watch helplessly as people with no real ties to the area are bused in to do the work. There is a rich tapestry of culture woven along the coast and a resilient people who have overcome some of the worst natural disasters in this country and emerged more determined than ever to rebuild their lives.

When Katrina, Gustav and other hurricanes ravaged the region, the storms passed in a few days and people could start restoring their lives. This oil spill keeps coming and coming and people are given little if anything to do and no group is being more neglected than youth.

I travel all over the country speaking to young people and I am always amazed at how engaged in environmental conservation they are. Of course they are the ones that will inherit the environmental disasters that we create now and thus one could argue that they have the most at stake.

We have countless youth across the country who understand the challenges we face and are just waiting to be empowered to participate. I have reported for news, filmed documentaries, written articles and blogs, testified to Congress on the need to invest in research and science as well as smart regulatory reform… but I argue that above all else we must also invest in education. FULL POST

July 22nd, 2010
03:20 PM ET

Web Pulse: Obama calls Sherrod, another (faked?) BP photo

Shirley Sherrod gets her phone conversation with President Obama.

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.

Speaking of Facebook, site CEO Mark Zuckerberg's ABC interview was getting tons of clicks. The 26-year-old talked about user privacy on the site which has reached half-a-billion users.

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.

July 22nd, 2010
01:36 PM ET

BP reportedly alters another photo

Gizmodo is reporting that BP has doctored another image.

Earlier this week, the oil company admitted that it had altered an official photo of its crisis command center. That photo was mocked for its Photoshop sloppiness.

The latest photo, this one of a helicopter cockpit and its outside view, is also getting tee-hees for what observers call obvious cut-and-paste maneuvers. Pay special attention to the seemingly out-of-place air traffic control tower in the upper left hand side of the image and, well, several other off-kilter things.

July 20th, 2010
10:18 AM ET

On the Radar: Racism and the USDA, Lohan goes to jail

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.

July 19th, 2010
02:11 PM ET

Web Pulse: A story, a seep, and Spencer

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2010/07/19/starr.pentagon.wash.post.cnn"]

"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.

July 19th, 2010
09:51 AM ET

On the Radar: An oil seep in Gulf, a "Top Secret America"

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.

July 16th, 2010
10:55 AM ET

Gulf Dispatch: Diving through oil at critical relief time

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, he has visited the area and learned first hand the impact the disaster has had on the ecosystem and on the people who have been affected by the catastrophe. Read more about Philippe's background.

It was 7:00 a.m. and the heat and humidity were already rising in the bayou as marsh grasses raced passed us.

On this trip to southern Louisiana, I was accompanied by a good friend and executive vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, Denny Kelso. I am on the board of the Ocean Conservancy and proud of the work we have done as the oldest nationally focused ocean conservation organization in the country.

Philippe Cousteau Jr. and Denny Kelso, executive vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, examine oiled marshes in Louisiana.

Getting the chance to work with Denny is always a privilege because, aside from being a longtime leader in the conservation field, he was also commissioner for the environment of the state of Alaska during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and he has a wealth of knowledge like no other.

As we entered the 85th day of the oil spill Denny‚Äôs familiar refrain was wringing true‚Ķ ‚ÄúWe have to start thinking about restoration now‚Ķwe can‚Äôt wait.‚ÄĚ

We had come with CNN International to film oil encroaching into the fragile marsh, dive through the oil and talk about the need for restoration now.

We slowed the boat as we reached our destination. Black oil coated the shoreline of these fragile marshes and already the grass was dying. As we gear up for the fall bird migration, this was a worrisome sight to say the least.

This oiled marsh was a perfect example of just how serious this oil spill is as it moves into a new stage, and it reminds us of how vigilant we have to be in our response and how critical it is to get it right the first time.

FULL POST

July 16th, 2010
09:53 AM ET

Rising pressure on BP well cap a positive sign

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.

FULL STORY

Scientists discover bizarre deep-sea creatures
July 15th, 2010
12:36 PM ET

Scientists discover bizarre deep sea creatures

Australian scientists have discovered never-seen-before prehistoric marine life in the depths of the ocean below the Great Barrier Reef, the University of Queensland said Wednesday.

Ancient ‚Äúsix-gilled‚ÄĚ sharks, giant oil fish, swarms of crustaceans and many unidentified fish ‚Äď all of which look worthy of a science-fiction film ‚Äď were among the astounding marine life caught on camera some 1,400 meters (4,593 feet) below sea level.

The team, led by Justin Marshall, also collected footage of the Nautilius, a relative of the octopus that still lives in a shell as they have done for millions of years. Team members used special light-sensitive, custom-designed remote controlled cameras that sat on the ocean floor below the Osprey Reef.

‚ÄúAs well as understanding life at the surface, we need to plunge off the walls of Osprey to describe the deep-sea life that lives down to 2,000 meters, beyond the reach of sunlight,‚ÄĚ Marshall said in a statement.

‚ÄúWe simply do not know what life is down there, and our cameras can now record the behavior and life in Australia‚Äôs largest biosphere, the deep-sea.‚ÄĚ FULL POST

July 13th, 2010
09:07 AM ET

On the Radar: Gulf oil, ground zero mosque, 'barefoot bandit'

Gulf oil disaster - BP plans to begin testing the new cap on its ruptured deepwater well Tuesday - a move that officials hope will be a step on the way to stopping oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The process could take anywhere from six hours to two days, or longer if BP extends it.

Officials say several scenarios are possible:  The cap could contain all the oil; the cap could contain some of the crude while ships on the water's surface collect the rest; or, under a worst-case scenario, there could be more damage to the well's casing, meaning that capping the well would not stop the oil from flowing.

FULL POST

July 6th, 2010
12:52 PM ET

Despite choppy Gulf weather, optimism for oil cleanup efforts

[Updated at 5:43 p.m.] Crews are in the process of connecting a vessel to the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, said newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. The hookup has been partially completed.

The vessel Helix Producer could draw up to 53,000 barrels of oil a day when it becomes operational, Allen said in Houston, where he traveled to meet with BP
officials.

[Posted at 12:52 p.m.] Despite rough weather, the man leading the federal response to the oil disaster believes that the placement of a new containment cap and the deployment of key air and sea resources will eventually stop the massive amounts of oil now gushing from a ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.

Newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen told CNN on Tuesday that over the next seven to 10 days, officials will be monitoring weather patterns to determine when to try to install the cap, a process that will involve unbolting the jagged edge that exists on the structure now. Once completed, the new containment cap, he said, will achieve a perfect seal and keep oil from escaping.

Allen said the new cap "would let us get to a capture rate of 80,000 barrels a day," and said he was planning a trip to Houston, Texas, to talk to BP officials about the plan.

Read the full CNN.com story

July 5th, 2010
04:28 PM ET

Authorities: Tar balls near Galveston linked to Gulf spill

Texas authorities have traced a small number of tar balls that reached the shore near Galveston to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a state government spokesman said Monday.

Also Monday, a foundation that monitors Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain said tar balls believed to be from the undersea gusher in the Gulf have reached the shores of that lake.

Researchers have estimated that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels (1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons) of oil have been gushing from a BP oil well into the Gulf daily since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana.

Read the full CNN.com story

July 5th, 2010
03:51 PM ET

Tar balls hit Lake Pontchartrain shores

Tar balls believed to be from the undersea gusher in the Gulf of Mexico have reached the shores of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain, a foundation that monitors the watershed reported Monday.

The affected area covers a stretch of up to five miles near the city of Slidell, east of New Orleans, said Anne Rheams, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. She estimated the amount of oil that has reached the lake at less than 100 barrels, and there was no sign of impact to wildlife as of Monday.

"They are about the size of a silver dollar, maybe a little bigger, kind of dispersed in long intervals. It's not as dense as it could be, so we're thankful for that," Rheams said.

Researchers have estimated that between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels (1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons) of oil have been gushing from a BP oil well into the Gulf daily since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank off the coast of Louisiana.

Read the full CNN.com story

July 4th, 2010
08:47 PM ET

More Gulf waters closed to fishing

Federal authorities closed a new section of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing on Sunday due to the worst oil spill in U.S. history, extending the restricted zone westward along the Louisiana coast.

The latest order from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration adds nearly 1,100 square miles of federal waters off Louisiana's Vermilion Bay to the off-limits zone. The new closure brings the portion of the Gulf closed to fishing due to the massive BP spill off Louisiana to 33.2 percent, NOAA reported.

A ruptured BP well has been spewing tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf every day since late April. The Coast Guard reported earlier Sunday that a shift in weather patterns could send more oil toward sensitive shores in Mississippi and Louisiana.

FULL STORY

July 2nd, 2010
01:11 PM ET

Dispersants flow into Gulf in 'science experiment'

Chemical dispersants keep flowing into the Gulf of Mexico at virtually unchanged levels despite the Environmental Protection Agency's order to BP to "significantly" scale back, according to a CNN analysis of daily dispersant reports provided by the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command.

When the May 26 directive was issued, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said dispersant use should be cut by 75 percent.

FULL POST

July 1st, 2010
12:48 PM ET

Gulf Dispatch: Gulf oil disaster proves reform is needed now

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.

FULL POST

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