Links 7/1/10

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Apologies for thin posts, I have an article deadline…

Distressed Ravens Show That Consolation Is For The Birds, Too GrrlScientist

Harbour seals ‘pupping earlier’ BBC

Aborigine ‘cooked’ to death in prison van Telegraph (hat tip reader Pat D)

Wrong Time for Congo Debt Forgiveness Kerry Kennedy, Huffington Post

CNN: Almost All Exxon Valdez Cleanup Crew Dead YouTube (hat tip reader Cocomaan). Scary, but I have not seen independent verification.

No Fishing Zone in the Gulf Expands WCTV (hat tip Doc Holiday)

Biologists find ‘dead zones’ around BP oil spill in Gulf Telegraph

Avertible catastrophe Financial Post. Read this and get angry. Reader Vlad adds:

Some of my contacts in the Gulf states are now saying that the rage has now mainly switched from BP to Fed government – Katrina in slo-mo. It doesn’t mean they forgave BP – just that they are more pissed off with White House, which I’d say is takes some effort on the govt’s side.

Wall Street sees little gain in levy win Financial Times

U.S. Regulatory Bill’s Support May Weaken as Senate Delays Vote Bloomberg

Still Not Looking Up Michael Panzner

Bankers Who Broke Big Dig With Swaps Gone Awry Get Paid for Fix Bloomberg (hat tip reader bob)

The BIS is part of the problem billy blog

The Asian century calls for a rethink on growth Kevin Brown, Financial Times

Antidote du jour:

Picture 9

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  1. walter jahnke

    according to Annenberg public policy fact check, the rumors that the Federal government turned down assistance from foreign countries is not true (except for one case, france and it was a dispersant that did not meet epa standards), also the Jones act which would force use of US workers has no impact in this situation and it is not true that US workers must be used on these ships (or the government is forcing us workers to be used)

    1. Guest

      If that were true then why did the state department announce on June 29 more than two months after the leak started that they were accepting offers of assistance from 12 of 27 countries? Why did it take them almost a month to accept an offer of skimmers from the Netherlands? Why is the super skimmer Whale only now being evaluated by the EPA?

      1. Guest

        some back up to my repsonse

        Netherland’s company offers high capacity skimming technology April 30

        and then there is this little gem that only exists in Google’s cache

        May 6 (AFP) The US State Department said there was no immediate need for the assistance

        “The State Department said Washington was grateful for the offers of assistance. The US Coast Guard, the lead US agency in this response, continues to monitor developments and evaluate specific needs, and is currently reviewing offers of assistance,” it said.

        and this

        June 14 (State Dept.) US is grateful for offers of help and will consider all of them

        and at Day 69 of the spill

        June 29 (WOKV) US Finally Accepts International Assistance


        June 25 Owner of the world’s largest skimmer is Negotiating with Coast Guard to use its ship the “A-Whale”

        and they are still negotiating

        Bureaucracy Bungling Gulf Oil Spill

        1. EmilianoZ

          That’s a great documented response!

          I’m already so angered by the Obama administration and its abysmal record in everything from financial regulation to health care. All spin, no substance. If there’s any justice they should go in the very last circle of hell.

          Also, I think we should thank the Netherlands for their generous offer. This is an awesome country. I work in a field where Dutch scientific and technological contribution is just amazing. I’ve found a team to support in the World Cup. I hope the Orange win it.

    2. Francois T

      Annenberg screwed up their Fact Check this time.

      It’s not enough to run a multi-search engines on the net to “fact check” something.

  2. Z

    I’m very suspicious of any point of view that finds some way to blame unions for the faults of corporations. The obama administration has done very little for labor, so it would be very surprising that they would be looking out for union workers in this situation.


  3. Jon

    Your posting of the Financial Post article was itself the avertible catastrophe. The article is opinion masquerading as fact. And I call bullshit on most of the opinion tendered.

    Maybe fewer, but better links in the future?

  4. DownSouth

    billy blog said: “The whole construction that the neo-liberals put on the separation of monetary and fiscal policy is deeply flawed anyway, but you would at least expect them to be consistently flawed.”

    But billy blog misses the ultimate criterion that neoliberals, libertarians and Austrian schoolers apply. For if we look at that single, overriding criterion that trumps all else, there is complete consistency. And that criterion is that whatever is good for the rich and powerful is “good,” and whatever is bad for the rich and powerful is “bad.”

  5. abelenkpe

    “Some of my contacts in the Gulf states are now saying that the rage has now mainly switched from BP to Fed government…”

    Yeah? Sounds like some of your contacts need to stop listening to FOX news.

    1. lark

      Yes, take this with a grain of salt.

      This is the South, which feels better when their poor folks are walking around with half their teeth than when there is a push for health care reform.

      They treat their people like trash, and love to blame the govt for it – they love to blame the govt for everything.

  6. Jon H

    The ‘Avertible Catastrophe’ piece is by a climate change denier, and isn’t the Financial Post pretty much a Canadian wingnut paper?

    So I’ll take it with a large helping of salt.

    1. Guest

      So what do you make of the State Department and Coast Guard dithering over offers of assistance in early May and only deciding to formally announce the acceptance of 12 of 27 international offers of assistance Monday of this week? Why did it take them a month to accept the Dutch offer?

  7. doc holiday

    Exxon Valdez Cleanup Crew Dead

    Ahhh, yes, here is where that started:

    ==> From Dr. Riki Ott: About ten years ago, a grad student named Annie O’Neill completed a pilot study which is posted on Riki’s web site. She surveyed workers from the Exxon Valdez who had reported Upper Respiratory Illness during the EVOS cleanup. There were 6,722 cases of URI out of 13,000 people on the clean up.

    In 2003, Christina Cinelli did a followup study that found roughly one third of the 6,722 people self reported lingering illnesses. That would be approx 2200 people. The ONLY way to determine the information like that quoted on the CNN clip is through a full-blown epidemiology study, which we have been encouraging for years – but which has never been done. We have no way to determine how many of those 6,722 are living or dead, and further, no means to determine cause of death.

    Also see: Feb. 2, 2009
    Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: 20 Years Later

    At least 6,000 of the original plaintiffs have died, and 8,000 plaintiffs have liens on their settlements – ranging from child support to back taxes.

    “I think that’s been Exxon’s strategy every step of the way – to wear everybody down,” says Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “They’ve succeeded in fatiguing those who were entitled to this compensation.”

    Osa Schultz and her husband got their checks last month of more than $50,000. They are still in debt.

    “We always expected that the settlement would make a big difference and bring us back,” she says. “It didn’t even come close.”

    1. Cocomaan

      Thanks for the heads up. Here’s Dr. Ott’s website (a lot of info here) for those who are interested in following up:

      The numbers are all there, and I find it hard to believe that anyone would trust the company’s numbers over the self-reporting numbers, but we live in America…

  8. doc holiday

    Cordova fisherman Michelle Hahn O’Leary later told Congress, “The boom’s only function was for show and tell. . . .” Nonetheless, Alyeska’s engineering manager, Bill Howitt, told Alyeska’s president, “It behooves us to have everything flapping in the breeze whether it’s catching oil or not!” Thick black smoke from a test burn—well away from the tanker—sickened villagers in Tatitlek, but no medical help was sent; buckets of dispersant doused on the spreading slick like water on a wildfire drenched the tanker crew and spill responders and did nothing to break up the slick, yet oilmen pressed for dispersant use; an emulsion of oily water was lightered (off-loaded) from the stricken tanker and reported only as oil, creating the illusion that less oil spilled; and on and on. I ran ragged trying to dam streams of misinformation, yet every hour there were more and more and more stories to address. I was shocked at how easily Exxon manipulated the truth—and the media. Saturday Exxon Shipping’s Frank Iarossi announced the tanker had spilled ta k i n g a s ta n d 45 10.8 million gallons, but that was only the low-end estimate. Others, myself included, had heard the figure 38 million gallons as the high-end estimate. When challenged about Exxon’s self-reported estimate, Iarossi threw the media off the trail by volunteering that alcohol may have been involved. I watched the media switch tracks to the sexier story as smoothly as a freight train. Eleven million gallons was good enough for the media—it set a new national record—but it wasn’t good enough for me. I vowed to resolve this, not knowing it would take ten years. Sunday night the storm hit. During the night, howling winds pushed the main slick forty miles into the Sound. Fishermen radioed that the eastern beaches of Naked, Peak, and Story Islands had been hit so hard that oil plastered shoreline spruces up to forty feet. The storm whipped oil and seawater into a mousse, a sticky custard-like emulsion impervious to burning and dispersants. Spray froze on the deck of the Exxon Valdez and the wind pivoted the impaled tanker twelve degrees on the reef into the wind, like a weathervane.

    Also see:

  9. doc holiday

    Health of Exxon Valdez cleanup workers was never studied

    “We don’t know a damn thing,” said Anchorage lawyer Michael Schneider, whose firm talked with dozens of Alaska cleanup workers following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in preparation for a class-action lawsuit that never came.
    In New Orleans last week, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin delivered a similar, if more subtle, message to a gathering of health experts meeting to talk about how to protect people working on the massive BP oil spill still gushing in the Gulf of Mexico.

  10. dh

    … BP wasn’t recording most worker complaints of illness after exposure to oil. While Louisiana records described at least 74 oil spill workers complaining of becoming sick, BP’s own official recordkeeping noted just two such incidents.
    That followed a McClatchy story that said BP’s plan to protect workers, which the Coast Guard approved on May 25, exposes them to higher levels of toxic chemicals than generally accepted practices permit.
    The plan also doesn’t require BP to give workers respirators, to evacuate them from danger zones, or to take other precautions until conditions are more dangerous. BP’s plan also fails to address the health impacts of more than 1 million gallons of dispersants used so far in the cleanup.

    Read more:

    1. Z

      This is pat of the reason why that article on Avertible Catastrophe is very suspect. There is a lack of logical consistency in believing that a) the us government is looking out for union workers and labor; and b) they are not protecting workers from the health dangers involving in working cleaning up the spill.


      1. dearieme

        I don’t know about the US, but I can imagine a Labour government in the UK behaving like that i.e. doing what the Union apparatchiks want, but ignoring the interess of the union members.

  11. doc holiday

    BP plans to get rid of safety watchdog, sources say

    BP has said it can do a good job investigating complaints through an established internal system — without the ombudsman’s office. But Pascal, who spent 26 years prosecuting polluters for the EPA, has called BP a “serial environmental criminal.” She said BP repeatedly violates environmental laws, scoffs at safety regulations and treats U.S. government safety and pollution control officials as a mere nuisance.
    The company paid record federal fines and pleaded guilty to a felony in connection with the Texas City explosion. It also pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of criminally negligent discharge of oil, a misdemeanor, in Alaska. In 2009, the Justice Department filed a civil complaint alleging the company had violated clean air and water laws in Alaska.
    That record indicates that BP considers safety “a secondary or tertiary concern,” with no indication that will change, Pascal said.

  12. doc holiday

    Biggest piece of maritime fiction since ‘Moby Dick

    “You can respond with thousands of people and thousands of boats and millions of feet of boom and skimmers, but you’re not going to be very effective,” said Steiner, reached by phone near Barataria Bay in Louisiana, where he has been working with environmental groups and volunteers.

    After the 1989 spill, Picou said, a second disastrous wave broke over the communities: 19 years of litigation and successful appeals by Exxon that ultimately reduced its damages for 32,000 fishermen and Native plaintiffs from a jury-awarded $5 billion to $507 million. The result was a loss of faith in the legal system, Picou said, and more injury to injury.

    “The damage will be done,” said Steiner. “There’s really no easy way to rehabilitate oiled wildlife, no easy way to restore an oil-injured ecosystem, and there’s certainly no easy way to make lives whole that were turned upside down by these things. Those are lessons we learned the hard way in Alaska, and they’re lessons that are being learned here, very poignantly.”

    In some cases, seeing the Gulf spill has rekindled the smoldering anger that many Alaskans still carry from the Exxon Valdez.

    “We didn’t learn much in 21 years,” said John Devens, the mayor of Valdez when the Exxon Valdez came aground on Bligh Reef March 24, 1989. “BP seems to be making exactly the same mistakes Exxon made.”

    Denny Kelso was Alaska’s commissioner of Environmental Conservation in 1989. The day of the spill, he and then Gov. Steve Cowper motored out to the tanker, climbed up a rope ladder and stood on the deck as oil continued to boil from the holds. At a hearing later before Congress, he famously declared the industry’s spill cleanup plan was “probably the biggest piece of maritime fiction since ‘Moby Dick.’ “

  13. doc holiday

    Mammoth A-Whale Oil Skimmer Still Awaiting Approval From EPA Coast Guard

    Also see: The project manager says the ship can take in up to 500,000 barrels a day, and all the oil gathered so far is only 600,000 barrels.

    Giant oil skimmer makes stop in Norfolk on way to Gulf oil cleanup,0,456573.story

    The vessel’s billionaire owner, Nobu Su, the CEO of Taiwanese shipping company TMT Group, said the ship would float across the Gulf “like a lawn mower cutting the grass,” ingesting up to 500,000 barrels of oil-contaminated water a day.

    > Meanwhile, NASA ad NOAA remain on high alert with media blackout….

    1. doc holiday

      ship would float across the Gulf “like a lawn mower cutting the grass

      ==> Yes, Nobu has that right and although he seems to have a better method, this is another dog and pony show, because the ship will be like a lawn mower that does one single pass and then turns around and another pass … and so, what are we dealing with here…

      ==> the closed area now represents more than 80-thousand square miles, which is approximately 33.2% of Gulf of Mexico federal waters.

      … So, Nobu’s lawn mower is going to cover 80,000 sq/miles in what time frame and what percent of the oil will he catch, as it continues to flow during hurricane season?

      1. doc holiday

        Compounding the problem is that A Whale has never actually processed oily water before – though it did pass a recent test in Portugal, where a foaming agent was sucked into the ship’s bowels at sea and “did quite nicely,” said Bob Grantham, an executive with TMT Group.

        Ironically, the ship was originally built as a supertanker for oil. But soon afterward, the BP oil spill began off the Louisiana coast, and Su saw an opportunity.

        He sailed the ship to Portugal for modifications, turning A Whale into an oil skimmer that “drinks seawater,” Su said.

        ==> Free Enterprise Crashes the Oil Cleanup Party

        Su believes so firmly in its potential that he already has retrofitting underway in Portugal on the B Whale, a sister ship that he says could arrive in the Gulf of Mexico by mid-July. And the C Whale not too long afterward.

        1. doc holiday

          80-thousand square miles of water for these skimmer contraptions,

          The State of Utah is 82-thousand square miles, so I keep wondering about how fast these babies can turn on a dime…

          > The top speed of a supertanker when carrying a full load can be as much as 18 mph

          A measure of the speed of the vessel.
          1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour, that is 1,85 km/h.

          The class possess a relatively high service speed (16.5 knots laden, 17.5 knots in ballast


          Any guess as to how long it will take one ship to clean this up?

  14. Valissa

    Thanks for the Big Dig swaps article… that was fascinating… I’m thinking a new slogan is needed… how about “Banksters – can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.” ;)

    FYI, Despite all of the many problems with the Big Dig (and I’ve lamented them all over the years), the results are fabulous! The downtown area is way improved as is driving through the city in general. You can now walk from Fanuel Hall right over to the harbor through a nice new park and there are new restaurants on the pier there too. They often have free concerts in the park. But the thing that many of us appreciate most is easily getting in and out of Logan airport to and from the Mass Pike. I used to suggest to out-of-towners that they NOT rent a car at the airport due the challenge of the winding maze of streets to and from.

    Here is a link to a photo of the stunning Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, one of the more inernationally famed products of the Big Dig

  15. Francois T

    Re: Avertible catastrophe.

    I’m being proven wrong…and loving it!! I thought this was a genuine article with some facts, but…ooops! this detail:

    “to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.”

    is a pure lie, and I know that for a fact. So, I started to wonder: Who is Lawrence Solomon?

    Holly Molly! I got mo’ that I paid fo’ Bro! Be it on Google, Bing or Dogpile, we got a climate denialist of the first order!

    As a ex-practitioner of the Art (Hippocrates’s Art) with a keen interest in anything psychiatric, I love to study climate deniers. Such an interesting subculture of the human genus does not pop up every day.

    I won’t get into a dissertation about my findings on Mr. Solomon, but suffice to say I must consider anything he write with the utmost suspicion. He definitely has a strong drive to bend the facts to whatever give him some sort of obscure and dirty satisfaction.

    Hence, I stand corrected: Annenberg is on to something here.

    1. Norm

      “a climate denialist of the first order!”

      are you telling us that he denies there is a climate?

      Thanks for the update

  16. mg

    Did anyone click the PDF supplied by the State Department that listed the supplies/country that were offered. The far right column declared if compensation was required. Yes was the answer for the majority. BP didn’t want to have to pay foriegn governments for the services offered. Now that it is a political disaster the answer has magically turned to give us all the help you can send.

    Money is the question and answer to any question in regards to this debacle.

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