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The effort to contain the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues today with an attempt to place a four-story dome-like structure around the breached well. Engineers hope the dome will siphon off the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil that have been spewing into the Gulf each day. The dome has never been used at such depths. BP executive Doug Suttles said the attempt is unprecedented.
Doug Suttles: "It will take about two days to put it on the sea floor. You can imagine, we’re landing a very, very large metal — essentially metal building onto the sea floor to capture the flow. And this has to be done very precisely at a depth of 5,000 feet, so it’s a very complex task."
The oil spill could turn out to be the worst industrial environmental disaster in US history. As the oil slick continues to approach coastal areas, scientists are warning that globules of oil sticking to the bottom of the sea could threaten every part of the ocean food chain.
Newly released documents, meanwhile, show government regulators exempted BP from a comprehensive environmental review of the project that resulted in the spill. The Minerals Management Service granted BP a "categorical exclusion" from a full review before approving the project just over a year ago. In a statement, the Center for Biological Diversity said, "Instead of protecting the public interest by conducting environmental reviews, [the MMS] rubber-stamped BP’s drilling plan, just as it does hundreds of others every year in the Gulf of Mexico."
US officials say they now believe the Pakistani Taliban may have played a role in the failed car bombing of New York’s Times Square. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attempted attack and the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has reportedly provided new information about his alleged contacts with Pakistani militants under continued interrogation. A top Pakistani official meanwhile has echoed speculation the failed attack could have been retaliation for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with CBS News.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi: "This is retaliation. And you could expect that. Let’s not be naive. They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you so to eliminate them. They’re going to fight back."
In a video made before the bombing attempt, Pakistani Taliban leader Qari Hussain Mehsud called the attack "revenge" for drone attacks in Pakistan as well as the killings of militant leaders in Iraq. According to the New York Post, Faisal Shahzad told interrogators he witnessed several drone attacks during his recent eight-month stay in Pakistan.
Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts meanwhile have announced they’ll propose a measure to strip Americans charged with terrorism of their US citizenship. The "Terrorism Expatriation Act" is expected to be formally unveiled today.
In Greece, three people were killed Wednesday in rioting over a new round of austerity measures in response to the Greek economic crisis. Lawmakers are set to vote today on additional wage cuts and tax hikes in order to secure billions of dollars in international loans. Clashes broke out as over 100,000 people took part in a nationwide strike. The victims were killed when a breakaway group of demonstrators set fire to a bank in Athens.
Nigeria has declared a week of mourning following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua. The fifty-eight-year-old Yar’Adua died Wednesday after a long battle with kidney and heart ailments. Presidential spokesperson Ima Niboro made the announcement.
Ima Niboro: "President Umaru Yar’Adua passed away tonight in the presidential villa. The acting president has received this news with shock, sadness. And the nation is in mourning, and I’m sure that the entire world mourns with us tonight. The acting president has declared seven days of mourning, during which period the Nigerian flag will fly at half-mast."
Acting President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in to replace Yar’Adua earlier today.
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to unveil new regulations today for broadband providers based on the rules for traditional phone networks. The move would help adopt the "net neutrality" concept of ensuring web users have equal access to all websites. The new rules follow last month’s federal appeals court ruling that the FCC lacks the authority to prevent internet service providers from blocking and controlling internet traffic. Media reform activists have flooded FCC chair Julius Genachowski with phone calls and emails in recent days following rumors he’s considered abandoning net neutrality in the new rules.
Democratic Congress member and House Appropriations Committee chair David Obey of Wisconsin has announced his retirement. Obey says he won’t run for reelection in November after over forty years in office. Obey made headlines last year when he proposed a surtax to cover the cost of the Afghan war.
A prominent right-wing Christian scholar who’s espoused homophobic beliefs has been found to have hired a young gay male escort for a ten-day European vacation. The scholar, George Rekers, co-founded the Family Research Council with the well-known anti-gay evangelist James Dobson. According to the Miami New Times, Rekers hired the escort through RentBoy.com, which bills itself as the world’s largest gay escort site. Rekers and the escort were photographed at the airport after returning from Europe. Rekers has authored books on ensuring children grow up straight, has testified against gay adoptions, and is a board member of a group that advocates for trying to "reform" gay people through therapy. Rekers has maintained he hired the escort to help him carry his luggage.
And in Minnesota, six activists with the Rainforest Action Network were arrested Wednesday after chaining themselves inside the headquarters of the agribusiness giant Cargill. The activists say they staged the protest to oppose Cargill’s palm oil operations that are destroying large areas of Indonesian rainforest.