A government panel investigating the BP oil spill has doubled its estimate of how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Flow Rate Technical Group now says the leak is between 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day, more than five times BP’s original estimate. The current estimate suggests that an amount equivalent to the Exxon Valdez disaster could be flowing into the Gulf every eight to teb days. Some members of the government panel say the flow rate could be as high 100,000 barrels of oil a day, or 4.2 million gallons.
On Thursday, the families of the eleven workers killed on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig met with President Barack Obama at the White House. The family members included Keith Jones, the father of twenty-eight-year-old engineer Gordon Jones, who died aboard the rig. Keith Jones said he hoped such an accident would never happen again.
Keith Jones: "There are so many different ways that oil companies have to make certain that a blowout won’t happen. One by one, those protections fell by the wayside. Corners were cut. Decisions were made — always, always to save money — therefore, to make more money. And should we wait until we make certain that that sort of activity doesn’t take place anymore? Sure. Sure, we should."
Also at the White House on Thursday were Gordon Jones’s widow, Michelle, and their two-year-old and four-week-old sons.
BP is coming under increasing criticism for how it’s handling claims from Gulf residents who have lost jobs or income due to the oil spill in part because BP has hired the firm ESIS to handle its claim process. ESIS describes the goal of its services as "reducing our client’s loss dollar pay-outs." The New Orleans-based organization Advocates for Environmental Human Rights says the hiring of ESIS indicates that "BP’s goal is to minimize the amount of money it pays to claimants."
The BP oil spill has forced the oldest oyster-shucking operation in the country to shut down. The P&J Oyster Company has been operating in New Orleans since 1876. Co-owner Al Sunseri said, “All the people I buy from are unable to work their grounds. Unless they open some areas, we’re done.”
The Senate has rejected a Republican bill to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to use the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation was sponsored by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Six Democrats voted with the Republicans: Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders joined with the majority of Democrats in opposing the legislation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: "This resolution, really, is not about whether EPA or Congress should regulate greenhouse gas emissions. What this resolution is about is whether we go forward in public policy based on science or based on politics. That’s really what this resolution is about."
The Senate vote came as climate negotiators are meeting in Bonn to negotiate a new global climate deal. The Guardian newspaper reports the deal is being written in a way that many wealthy countries may actually be able to increase their carbon emissions by up to eight percent above 1990 levels if they take advantage of a series of major loopholes in their pledges. The new UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has openly admitted the pledges made by wealthy countries are not sufficient to meet the two-degree centigrade pledge made in Copenhagen.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports Israel and the United States have agreed on the nature of the Israeli probe into last week’s deadly raid on a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships bound for Gaza. The committee is being formed after Israel and the United States rejected calls for an international inquiry into the assault. There will be no official international role in Israeli’s investigation, except one American and one European will be allowed to observe the proceedings.
Video has been posted on the internet that apparently shows Israeli commandos executing a passenger aboard the Mavi Marmara. In the video, Israeli commandos are seen kicking a passenger while he lies on the deck of the boat. The commandos are then seen firing one and possibly two point-blank shots from above into the victim. The video was first aired on Turkish TV. It has been claimed the video shows the nineteen-year-old US citizen Furkan Dogan being killed, but it has not been possible to verify the identity of the victim.
At a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Arab nations urged Israel on Thursday to join the global Non-Proliferation Treaty and repeated their calls for a nuclear-free Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a stockpile of nuclear weapons, but Israel has never confirmed nor denied it has nuclear weapons. By shunning the forty-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty, Israel has not had to reject atomic arms or allow the IAEA to probe all of its nuclear sites. Thursday’s meeting marked the first time the IAEA’s policy-making board tackled the topic of Israel’s nuclear arsenal since 1991.
Mohamed Mostafa Fawzy, Egypt’s ambassador to the IAEA: "So what we are discussing here is how to apply the safeguards to every state in the Middle East. This is a precise point that we have to deal with, applying the safeguards. So it’s not only that we are asking Israel to join the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] or not. We are asking for the application of the safeguards agreements on all states in the Middle East."
Glyn Davies, the US Ambassador to the IAEA, defended Israel’s stance on nuclear weapons.
Glyn Davies: "Israel has broken no agreements nor failed to fulfill obligations to the agency. Discussion of this item distracts our collective attention from other pressing matters before the board. Premier among those is Iran, which stands in violation of the NPT and IAEA safeguards obligations and of resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council."
The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, said on Thursday he expected to see violence and casualties rising in the coming months.
Gen. Stanley McChystal: "I think it’s likely that our casualties and violence will continue to rise, particularly through the summer months. They could rise well into the fall. But I think it’s important, because I think it’s that pressure we place on the insurgency that will be, in the security part of this effort, important."
A federal judge has ruled the continued detention of a Yemeni citizen at Guantánamo is unlawful. The ruling could force the US military to soon release Mohammed Hassan Odaini, who has been held since he was eighteen years old. Six years ago, a Pentagon official concluded Odaini could be cleared for release, but he remains locked up. In his ruling, US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy wrote, "the evidence before the court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure."
The DailyBeast website reports Pentagon investigators have begun searching for Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. Earlier this week it was revealed the website might be in possession of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department cables. Wikileaks made international headlines in April when it released a classified US military video showing a US helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians, killing twelve people, including two employees of the Reuters news agency. The US military recently arrested Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who may have been responsible for leaking the classified video. Manning has claimed he sent Wikileaks the video along with 260,000 classified US government records. Manning, who was based in Iraq, reportedly had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina has called for a US attorney investigation into whether the Republican Party or another organization planted three candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina. In the Senate primary, a previously unknown thirty-two-year-old unemployed veteran named Alvin Greene shocked the state by beating a four-term state legislator without raising money or even campaigning. On Thursday, Greene was interviewed on the South Carolina station WCSC.
Reporter: "What was it like when you first heard the news that you are the nominee?"
Alvin Greene: "Well, I wasn’t surprised much. I mean, I worked hard. I knew that I’ve earned it and —- but I’m ready to -—"
Reporter: "What kind of work did you do, because, you know, I’ve been talking to folks, and nobody has really heard your name?"
Alvin Greene: "Well, I worked with my friends and friends of my friends, and we campaigned hard. You know, we worked hard."
Reporter: "What kind of campaigning did you do?"
Alvin Greene: "OK, could — OK, could I end this now?"
Alvin Greene: "What kind of campaign did we do?"
Alvin Greene: "OK. We campaigned all across the state, yes."
Less than twenty-four hours after Alvin Greene won the primary, the state Democratic Party in South Carolina asked him to withdraw from the race because of a pending felony charge.
The City of New York has reached a new settlement with around 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers who were exposed to dangerous toxic chemicals at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11 attacks. Under the deal, the city will pay out up to $712 million. Individual workers must decide now whether to accept the settlement or wait for a federal bill that could reopen the the 9/11 victim compensation fund to cleanup workers who got sick.
Here in New York, a group of students staged a die-in in front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office on Thursday. The students called on Schumer to support the DREAM Act, which would grant the children of undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. The die-in occurred after the students ended a ten-day hunger strike.