An investigation into the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion has uncovered new evidence that BP was aware of problems aboard the rig prior to the April 20 blowout that killed eleven workers, destroyed the rig, and launched the worst US oil spill. A BP employee testified Tuesday that Deepwater Horizon’s blowout preventer had a leak in the days before the explosion, but BP did not comply with a federal regulation requiring the rig to suspend operations. In addition, the Houston Chronicle reports Halliburton warned BP two days before the deadly accident that it could have a severe problem with natural gas escaping from the well. The ongoing investigation has also revealed that a September 2009 audit by BP identified 390 maintenance projects aboard the rig that were past due.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected calls for an inquiry into whether BP influenced the release of the Libyan man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. During a press conference with President Obama, Cameron said he opposed last year’s release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi but rejected calls for a new probe.
David Cameron: “I mean, the role of BP and any lobbying they might have done is an issue for BP and an issue that they should explain themselves. I mean, the decision to release Megrahi, though, was a decision made by the Scottish government, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the Scottish government were in any way swayed by BP. They were swayed by their considerations about the need to release him on compassionate grounds, grounds that I think were completely wrong. I don’t think it’s right to show compassion to a mass murderer like that. I think it was wrong. But it’s a matter for BP to answer what activities they undertook.”
In news from Capitol Hill, the Senate voted 60-to-40 Tuesday to end a Republican filibuster of a bill to extend unemployment aid to millions of Americans. The late Senator Robert Byrd’s successor, Carte Goodwin, cast the decisive vote.
Sen. Carte Goodwin: “I could not feel more privileged than I do to taking my first vote as a member of the United States Senate, have it be a vote that helps millions of Americans and over 12,000 West Virginians who are still looking for work, as the economy continues to turn around.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was the only Republican to back her nomination. The full Senate is expected to take up Kagan’s nomination next week. A confirmation vote is likely in the first week of August.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today he is reconsidering his department’s controversial decision to fire a black USDA official over a speech she gave in March at an NAACP function. Shirley Sherrod was pressured to resign Monday after a right-wing website posted a deceptively edited video of the speech that appeared to show Sherrod admitting she withheld help from a white farmer for racial reasons. What the edited video did not show is Sherrod describing how she ended up going to great lengths to help the farmer save his land. After her ouster, the white farmer, Roger Spooner, appeared on CNN praising Sherrod.
Roger Spooner: “I never was treated no better, no nicer, and looked after than Shirley. She done — she done a magnificent job. I don’t have words — I don’t have words to explain it.”
Shirley Sherrod said her boss at the Department of Agriculture called her on Monday and demanded she resign right away, “because you are going to be on 'Glenn Beck' tonight.” The NAACP also originally supported Sherrod’s ouster, but on Tuesday NAACP President Ben Jealous apologized to Sherrod. Jealous said the NAACP had been “snookered” by Fox News and Tea Party activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias. The video was first posted on a website run by Breitbart, a former editor at the Drudge Report. Last year Breitbart played a key role in the distribution of the doctored videos that purported to show ACORN employees giving advice to a pimp and a prostitute. Breitbart said last night he posted the Sherrod video in an effort to get back at the NAACP for passing a resolution calling on the “Tea Party” movement to repudiate racism.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will impose new sanctions on North Korea in a bid to stem the regime’s nuclear activities. Clinton made the announcement one day after she and Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the armed border that has divided the Korean peninsula for sixty years. On Sunday, the US and South Korea are planning to launch a major military exercise in the Sea of Japan as a warning to North Korea. North Korea denounced the drill as “very dangerous sabre-rattling”.
The Wall Street Journal reports US Special Operations Forces have been deepening and expanding its role inside Pakistan. The US says it has about 120 military trainers in the country, and the program is set to expand again with new joint missions.
In Afghanistan, an Afghan soldier has killed two US military trainers in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. It marked the second time in a month an Afghan soldier has killed US or NATO troops.
President Obama has praised the results of Tuesday’s international conference on the future of Afghanistan.
President Obama: “These are all important achievements, and they go a long way toward helping create the conditions needed for Afghans to assume greater responsibility for their country. Indeed, over the coming year, Afghans will begin to take the lead in security, and in July of next year, will begin to transfer — we will begin to transfer some of our forces out of Afghanistan. And the Kabul conference shows that the Afghan — that Afghanistan has the support of the international community, including the United States, which will remain a long-term partner for the security and progress of the Afghan people.”
The former head of Britain’s domestic spy agency, the MI5, said the war in Iraq has substantially increased the threat of terrorist attacks in Britain. Eliza Manningham-Buller testified Tuesday before a government inquiry into Britain’s role in Iraq.
Eliza Manningham-Buller: “Our involvement in Iraq radicalized a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens — not a whole generation, a few among a generation who were — saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam.”
In news from Guatánamo, a coalition of news organizations are calling on the Pentagon to rescind part of its rules on reporting at the military base. The rules dictate how photos can be taken, who can be interviewed, and even what reporters can write in their notebooks. In May, the Pentagon expelled four reporters for publishing the name of an Army interrogator whose identity was already widely known. The ban on three of the reporters has since been lifted.
Two employees in the Utah Department of Workforce Services will lose their jobs for their role in creating and distributing a list containing personal information of about 1,300 purported undocumented immigrants. An anonymous group recently sent the list to law enforcement officials, state lawmakers and the media, demanding the immediate deportation of everyone listed. The list included names, addresses, workplaces, phone numbers, birth dates and, in some cases, Social Security numbers and even due dates of women. Only Latino names appeared on the list. One of the state employees has already been fired. The other was served with a notice of intent to terminate. Both employees could face criminal charges.
Oakland’s City Council has approved a plan to license four large production plants where medical marijuana would be grown, packaged and processed. The main opposition to the proposal came from small medical marijuana growers who fear the move will put them out of business.
The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports a Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with an Israeli woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew. Sabbar Kashur was sentenced to eighteen months in prison after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception because he had posed as a Jewish bachelor. When the woman later found out he was Palestinian, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault, alleging that she would not have consented if she had not believed he was Jewish.