BP has again suspended a pressure test of a containment cap placed over the breached well in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after receiving government approval to proceed. Work crews began testing the cap on Wednesday until a leak was found on one of the caps. The testing has raised hopes of plugging the gusher, but National Incident Commander Thad Allen urged caution.
Adm. Thad Allen: "It would be terrific news if we could shut in the well, but I don’t think we can say that. I think there needs to be an overabundance of caution, and I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up that we can shut this well in, until we get the empirical pressure readings that we need to have, do a seismic survey of the sea floor, and try and understand as well as we can the condition of the well bore and the casings."
Biologists meanwhile say oil has smeared hundreds of pelicans and terns on Raccoon Island, the largest seabird nesting area along the Louisiana coastline. The birds haven’t been counted among the government’s list of oiled birds. An estimated 10,000 birds are said to nest on Raccoon Island.
BP meanwhile has acknowledged its share of the cost of the oil spill could be partially offset by lower taxes. In an interview with Bloomberg News, a BP spokesperson said the company plans to deduct the amount it’s spent on cleanup efforts and that it’s likely to do the same for compensation payments to Gulf Coast residents. Based on its tax rate last year, BP could deduct almost $20 billion in taxes should its cleanup obligations reach $60 billion as some have projected.
The US military says eight American troops have been killed in several attacks over a twenty-four-hour period in Afghanistan. Forty-five international troops have died in Afghanistan this month, which follows the record 103 killed in June.
The Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri has returned to Iran just days after surfacing in Washington following a year-long disappearance. Amiri’s whereabouts had been a mystery until he appeared at the Pakistani embassy in Washington asking for assistance to return home to Iran. On Wednesday, Amiri renewed claims he was abducted by CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence agents.
Shahram Amiri: "I was abducted in Medina in front of my hotel by US and Saudi intelligence agents. Then I was transferred to an unknown location in Saudi Arabia. They injected anesthetic drugs into me. They took me to the US on a military plane. During my stay in the first two months, I was subjected to heavy psychological and mental tortures by CIA interrogators."
The US claims Amiri defected and provided valuable intelligence about Iran’s nuclear activities before changing his mind. The Washington Post is reporting he was paid $5 million under a secret government program for Iranian defectors.
A Libyan aid ship has docked in Egypt after the Israeli navy prevented it from reaching the Gaza Strip. The ship set sail from Greece last week carrying over 2,000 tons of aid in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade. But on Wednesday, eight Israeli vessels surrounded the ship and ordered its diversion to Egypt.
A leading Rwandan opposition figure has been brutally murdered. The Democratic Green Party’s vice president, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was found nearly decapitated shortly after his disappearance on Tuesday. The party’s president, Frank Habineza, announced the news.
Frank Habineza: "About his last meetings with some people, so we see that was the police and the army. And then, afterwards, we, when reached here last night, this morning, we got confirmation from — again from his sister that today they found a body. So I talked to the brother — he’s called Antoine Haguma — who went to the scene and actually did find the body of his brother Kagwa, and he found that the head was cut, almost cut off the body. It is just small skin remaining. It is a terrible death. So, afterwards, the police has now taken the body to a mortuary."
The Democratic Green Party has been banned from registering in Rwanda’s upcoming elections. In a speech months before his death, Rwisereka criticized the government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Andre Kagwa Rwisereka: "We can’t continue to live like this. The Rwandan population has lived in fear since 1960 up until now. It is time now to change this life and for people to live in peace. That’s what we’ve come to do in our political party."
The Obama administration has unveiled plans to reduce the US nuclear arsenal by between 30 to 40 percent by 2021. The move would reduce the US arsenal to between 3,000 to 3,500 warheads, a target that critics say remains too high. The administration’s plan also calls for spending nearly $175 billion by 2030 on new weapons production, facilities, as well as modernizing existing weaponry.
The Washington Post is reporting the nation’s major non-financial firms have reserves of some $1.8 trillion — around a quarter more than they had when the recession struck. Despite the higher earnings, most executives don’t plan to increase hiring. In a survey of over 1,000 top executives by Duke University and CFO magazine last month, nearly 60 percent said they don’t expect to bring staffing back to pre-recession levels until 2012 or later. This despite forecasts of a 12 percent rise in earnings and a nine percent boost in capital spending over the next year.
New figures show more than one million Americans are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year. According to RealtyTrac, close to 528,000 homes were foreclosed in the first six months of the year, a figure on pace to surpass last year’s 900,000 repossessed homes. The one million mark is about ten times the historical average for foreclosures per year.
The Obama administration has appointed a former insurance executive and leading opponent of the public option to help implement the new healthcare law. Liz Fowler was a former executive for the insurance giant WellPoint before serving as chief health adviser to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus. Fowler headed the group of staffers who helped draft the healthcare reform law that excluded the public option.
The tobacco giant Philip Morris is under scrutiny for using child labor in remote areas of Kazakhstan. In a new report, Human Rights Watch says it’s documented at least seventy-two cases of child workers harvesting tobacco on farms that supply a Philip Morris-owned factory. The children were as young as ten years old. Harvesting tobacco would be a particularly dangerous task for children because of the exposure to high levels of nicotine. Philip Morris says it’s adopted "sweeping changes" to end child labor in its supply chain in response to the report’s findings.
A former New York police officer who was videotaped tackling a bicyclist has escaped a prison sentence. The then-officer, Patrick Pogan, violently knocked the cyclist off his bike during a Critical Mass bike ride in 2008. Pogan then charged the cyclist with attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Pogan was convicted in April of lying about the incident in his police complaint. He had faced up to four years in prison but has been given a conditional discharge.
A US judge is deciding today on whether to uphold a twenty-eight-month prison term for the civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart or sentence her to thirty years. Stewart was found guilty in 2005 of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh." Prosecutors had sought a thirty-year sentence, but Stewart was sentenced to two-and-a-half years after the judge rejected the prosecutors’ argument that she threatened national security and ruled there was no evidence her actions caused any harm. But in November, a three-judge appeals court panel ordered the trial judge to review the sentence, calling it "strikingly low." On the eve of the new sentencing, hundreds of people rallied near the federal courthouse in Manhattan in a show of support for Stewart. Stewart’s daughter, Brenna Stewart, said her mother is being targeted for her political involvement.
Brenna Stewart: "She faces the possibility of thirty years. And it’s never been heard of for an upper court to tell a lower court, 'Resentence.' It’s just amazing how they are targeting her because of the unpopular clients that she represented in her lifetime. She has fifty years of representing everybody and is repaid by being put in jail."