The U.S. ambassador to Malta and former legal aide to President Ronald Reagan resigned Saturday following a State Department report that his devotion to his religion was hindering his ability to do his job. In 2008, Kmiec, a devout Catholic, was publicly denied communion from his own priest for his support of Barack Obama in the2008 presidential election. Kmiec told CNN that he resigned, and was not pushed out of his position.
The Rand, Louisiana, mother of six, who is married to a Gulf oil worker, will protest at BP's Washington offices today to call attention to unresolved cleanup and compensation issues in that region from the 2010 oil spill. Foytlin walked 34 days and 1,243 miles from New Orleans to the capital last week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported. She claims that oil continues to wash ashore and Gulf residents are suffering from breathing in fumes from oil and dispersants. Her family took blood tests which she says show high levels toxins also found in crude, the New Orleans newspaper said. The compensation fund is not providing fair settlements to many Gulf residents, Foytlin said, and her family is in financial ruin. See CNN's coverage of the Gulf oil spill, one year later.
The former New York Times columnist shocked many when he resigned earlier this year from the newspaper. The Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank, as well as New York Magazine, report that Rich has launched a second career as producer of the upcoming HBO comedy series "Veep." The program about the first female vice president will star Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Seinfeld" fame.
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.
BP says it has agreed to pay a $50.6 million fine to settle some of the
citations related to the 2005 explosion at the Texas City, Texas,
refinery that killed 15 people.
End of the oil? We might be at the end of a chapter in the long saga of the BP oil spill,Â which began April 20. Officials say that on Monday night they'll beginÂ the firstÂ of two efforts to seal the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico.Â The "static kill" will happen first, followed five to seven days later by a "bottom kill."Â Â BP's CEO Doug Suttles says he's "confident" theseÂ techniques will do the trick, but federal officialsÂ caution thatÂ nothing is guaranteed.
"We should not be writing any obituary for this event," said Thad Allen,Â the retired Coast GuardÂ 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.Â Want to seeÂ a breakdown of U.S. resources in Iraq?Â Â Read CNN's Security Brief.
The U.S. and Iraq disagree on the level of violence in the war-torn country. WhileÂ the U.S. militaryÂ reports thatÂ bloodshed has decreased,Â dataÂ Iraq released Saturday indicates that JulyÂ 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.Â At leastÂ 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 newsÂ - 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.
Didn't you get my texts? - President Obama talked to Shirley Sherrod, the ex-USDA employee who was forced to resign this weekÂ based on misleading reportsÂ 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 mayÂ not beÂ happening as fast as some thought.Â Meanwhile,Â 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 makingÂ headlines for allegedly faking another photo. On Wednesday the company admitted to doctoring an official image of its command control center. Thursday GizmodoÂ 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). Â 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.
ResignationÂ amid racism charges - There's much controversy swirling around the resignation of a black U.S. Agriculture Department employee.Â A recentÂ video clip shows Shirley Sherrod discussing how she treated a white farmer who was inÂ 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'sÂ 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.Â "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 expectedÂ before the chamber goes on its August recess. Kagan would become the fourthÂ female justiceÂ 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,Â atÂ 8:45 a.m. (11:45 a.m. ET). TMZ and the Los Angeles Times reported Monday thatÂ Lohan's lawyer Robert Shapiro had quit. He is expected to appear in court with her anyway.
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 aboutÂ a seep near the well.Â Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's reponse manager to the oil spill,Â said that a federal science team and BP representativesÂ 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 youÂ from the beginning of theÂ 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 PostÂ said itsÂ 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 inÂ 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 trainÂ 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 - 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:Â 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.
BP said Sunday that it is "pleased" with how the operation to place a new cap on its ruptured undersea well is proceeding.
Officials hope the containment cap will stop oil from gushing into the Gulf. But while robots replace the old cap, crude is flowing freely.
The procedure - expected to take four to seven days - continued to progress Sunday as crews worked to position a transition spool over the gushing well to prepare for the new connection, according to BP's Senior Vice President Kent Wells.
[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
[Posted at 12:52 p.m.] Despite rough weather, the man leading the federal response to the oil disasterÂ believes thatÂ theÂ placement of aÂ new containment cap and the deployment of key air and sea resources will eventually stop the massive amounts of oil now gushing fromÂ a ruptured well in theÂ Gulf of Mexico.
Newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad AllenÂ told CNN on TuesdayÂ that over the next seven to 10 days,Â officials will be monitoring weather patterns to determine when to try toÂ 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.
The X Prize Foundation announced today that it is developing a multimillion-dollar â€śoil spill cleanup X challengeâ€ť to come up with solutions to cleaning up shorelines and open water fouled by oil leaking from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Speaking at the TEDxOilSpill conference in Washington, Frances Beland of the X Prize Foundation asked the audience of 300, and many more watching the conferenceâ€™s videostream, â€śWhat do you prize?â€ť Beland told CNN after his appearance that the oil-related challenge will probably offer about $3 million in prize money for a cleanup solution.
The X Prize Foundation gained public attention for its X Prize of $10 million awarded for the development of private spacecraft, and the nonprofit foundation has created other prize challenges.
[Updated at 10:35 p.m.] BP has successfully repositioned a containment cap over the underwater gusher in the Gulf of Mexico after it removed the device earlier in the day when an undersea robot struck it.
[Published at 7:04 p.m.] BP has begun efforts to reinstall a containment cap over the underwater oil gusher after it was removed out of caution when a remote-operated vehicle bumped into one of the cap's vents, a BP spokesman said Wednesday.
The cap had been removed earlier Wednesday.
[Updated at 9:30 p.m.]
Here are the latest developments on the oil disaster in the
Gulf of Mexico, which unfolded after an explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20:
- The chief of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said Friday that the oil spill in the Gulf was the "the direct result of BP's reckless decisions and actions" and, as such, BP should continue to pay all legitimate claims. BP was the company's partner in the drilling of the well.
BP is clarifying comments Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg made Friday in a broadcast interview, saying BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward will relinquish control over the company's daily operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP spokesman Andrew Gowers says Svanberg was just reflecting a June 4 announcement about BP Managing Director Bob Dudley taking over the long-term disaster response. He said Hayward's current role has not changed.
BP spokesman Robert Wine says Dudley's duties involve political and community relationships. Dudley is from Mississippi, a state whose coast has been greatly affected by the oil spewing through the Gulf since the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off shore almost two months ago.
Actor and director Kevin Costner told a Senate subcommittee onÂ Thursday that he feels somewhatÂ vindicated now that BP has purchased a machine he helped develop years ago that separates oil from seawater.
The Senate Small Business Committee is evaluating proposals to clean up the Gulf Coast oil disaster.
Costner told committee members thatÂ the burden of cleaning up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico rests solely with the oil industry.
"For them to get over the bar of safety and pay the price is not too much to ask," he said.Â "It is not too much to ask for them to have to put in place the safeguards, the redundancies and muster the sheer will to throw an overwhelming response to the problem now."
Earlier this month, he told CNN's Anderson Cooper that BP ordered 32 machines from Costner's company. The devices use a centrifuge mechanism to separate oil from water and recycle the crude at the same time.
We arrived at the docks in Venice, Louisiana, after a 90-minute drive from the closest hotel we could find. When we arrived, we were met by the U.S. Coast Guard, which has federal oversight over the oil burning effort.Â The work itself is being coordinated and paid for by BP, using local contractors.
The entire operation is run by a company called Oâ€™Brien out of Houston, Texas. This â€śin situâ€ť or on location burning of surface oil has only been used in U.S. waters during the Exxon Valdez disaster. Thatâ€™s largely because of environmental concerns; although those concerns are now outweighed by fears that crude oil itself will do more damage than the particle contaminants released by burning them.
At about 12:30 p.m., five of us from CNN go into briefings with the Coast Guard. At about 1 p.m. our Coast Guard escorts load our gear onto the crew vessel Gulf Storm, which is normally used to transport oil workers to and from rigs and platforms in the gulf, and to supply those oil vessels.
After about 45 minutes, we enter the Gulf of Mexico and head to the site of the burning. The trip from the port to the burn site takes about three hours.Â During that time we discuss the process at length with Coast Guard Senior Chief Andrew (Drew) Jaeger, a paramedic/firefighter from Wisconsin andÂ a member of the Coast Guard Reserve who is our chief escort.
The burn site scene was remarkable. An earlier thunderstorm had cleared and skies were bright and partly cloudy. But in the distance, seven separate funnels of dark cloud churning upward into the sky created a great, billowing angry cloud up ahead. Through the cloud of burnt oil particles, a single King aircraft flew â€“ a spotter plane which would guide the burn teams to the locations where, using fishing terminology, they would get their â€śbest catch.â€ť
We disembarked onto a larger, similar supply boat, the Premier Explorer. Itâ€™s â€śmission controlâ€ť for these burns. From there, it was onto a jetty used as an ignition vessel to light the fires.
[Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET] BP issued the following statement after the president's Oval Office speech:
"We share the president's goal of shutting off the well as quickly as possible, cleaning up the oil and mitigating the impact on the people and environment of the Gulf Coast. We look forward to meeting with President Obama tomorrow for a constructive discussion about how best to achieve these mutual goals."
[Updated at 8:25 p.m. ET] The president ended his Oval Office speech by saying that what sees the nation through tough times "is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it."
"Tonight, we pray for that courage," Obama said.Â "We pray for the people of the Gulf.Â And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.Â "
[Updated at 8:19 p.m. ET] The presidentÂ said the oil disaster "is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now."
"I am happy to look at ... ideas and approaches from either party, as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels," he said. "Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development, and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.
"All of these approaches have merit and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet."
[Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET] President Obama said he knows the government's six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling "creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs."
"But for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue," Obama said.
[Updated at 8:13 p.m. ET] President Obama says he's asked the secretary of the Navy to "develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan as soon as possible."
"The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents. And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region," he said.
[Updated at 8:11 p.m. ET] President Obama said he will tell the chairman of BP to "set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness" during their meeting scheduled for Wednesday.
"This fund will not be controlled by BP," Obama said. "In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party."
[Updated at 8:07 p.m. ET] The president says that despite best efforts, "oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife."
"And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That's why the second thing weâ€™re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast," Obama said.
[Updated at 8:04 p.m. ET] President Obama has begun to address the nation, saying that the oil spill "is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced."
Obama said his administration has directed BP to "mobilize additional equipment and technology."
"In the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well," Obama said. "This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that's expected to stop the leak completely."
"Make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we've got for as long it takes," he added. "We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever's necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy."
[Posted at 7:46 p.m. ET] President Obama will detail plans for dealing with the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in an address to the nation tonight at 8 ET.
Check this post for updates on the president's speech as he gives it.
The 18-minute speech, Obama's first from the Oval Office, will emphasize the government's containment strategy in conjunction with oil giant BP, which owns the broken well, to capture as much as 90 percent of the leaking oil in coming weeks, two senior administration officials said.
Watch it live on CNN, CNN.com/Live and the CNN iphone app.