BP plays its final card to stop leak: sludge
David Usborne reports from the Houston command centre masterminding efforts to prevent an ecological catastrophe
Thursday, 27 May 2010
If there was near silence from BP’s command centre on a low floor of a grey office building near Houston last night there were reasons for it. The stakes were too astronomic for anyone to speculate how the latest bid to tame the company’s rogue well in the Gulf of Mexico was going until they really knew.
“It is one interesting day here,” admits Bob Dudley, BP’s Managing Director and board member, who ducks out for more than an hour to speak with The Independent. “Stephen Chu’s in there,” he notes. He means the US Energy Secretary. So is CEO Anthony Hayward. The company is about three hours into the long-awaited ‘top kill’, a bold effort to blast mud – more of a dense gel – into the well to clog it shut.
Tate Modern in display of voyeurism for photography curator’s debut
From Cartier-Bresson via Helmut Newton to Alison Jackson: Simon Baker has 13 rooms of images we should not be seeing
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
It promises to be the most intrusive art exhibition Tate Modern has ever held: 13 rooms of photographs and video footage of things we really should not be seeing – ranging from sex and death to outrageous invasions of privacy.
Somewhat presciently, given the coalition government’s promise of legislation to regulate the use of CCTV, the scariness and scale of surveillance features heavily in Voyeurism, which opens to the public on Friday.
The exhibition suggests that, as a society, we have always been voyeurs – it is just that technology now makes it so much easier.
“The exhibition is meant to be a critical look at the issues that surround voyeurism and surveillance,” said Simon Baker, Tate’s recently appointed photography curator.
U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will be on time, Vice President Biden says
By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 27, 2010
President Obama called Iraq his predecessor’s war of choice. Now it is his war to exit — and quickly.
The challenge for Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq invasion helped propel him to the presidency, is sticking to his timeline for a U.S. military withdrawal despite a jump in violence and continued wrangling among Iraqi politicians over who will lead the country.
The sensitive departure is being managed by Vice President Biden, who says the U.S. military will reduce troop levels to 50,000 this summer, even if no new Iraqi government takes shape.
U.S. to suspend new exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic
Fearful of a disaster worse than the Gulf of Mexico spill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar plans to postpone consideration of drilling off Alaska. New drilling was to have begun this summer.
By Kim Murphy and Jim Tankersley
May 27, 2010
Reporting from Seattle and Washington –
The Interior Department will announce Thursday that is it postponing oil drilling in the Arctic until at least 2011 amid widening fears that an oil spill there could be many times worse than the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.
The decision by Secretary Ken Salazar will halt permit approvals for new exploratory drilling this summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas so that additional information can be gathered on proposed drilling technology and to evaluate what capability exists to respond to an oil spill in often ice-laden Arctic waters.
Sarkozy follows Europe in raising retirement age
Thursday, 27 May 2010
By John Lichfield and Cheryl Roussel in Paris
The French, who have the youngest retirement age in Europe, will soon have to work longer to qualify for a full state pension. As unions called a nationwide strike to defend pension rights today, the government said that France could no longer afford the retirement age of 60 – for both men and women – which has existed since 1982.
The insolvency of state pension systems, as the 1950s baby-boom generation approaches retirement, is a severe problem for all European Union countries. Deficits in pension schemes are one of the contributory factors to the immense state debts which have provoked a speculative panic on financial markets in recent days.
Hezbollah theme park woos fighters for next war with Israel
From The Times
May 27, 2010
Israeli tanks lie smashed and upturned on a remote mountaintop in south Lebanon, while Hezbollah fighters, wearing camouflaged uniforms and carrying rifles, crouch near by in the dense undergrowth.
The scene could be the latest battle between the militant Shia group and Israeli troops, but while the tanks are real, the fighters are plastic dummies and the display is part of a newly opened tourist project to mark the tenth anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon.
That historic event – the first time Israel unilaterally abandoned occupied Arab land – comes at a time of heightened tension in the region amid fears that another war is brewing between Hezbollah and the Jewish state.
Floods cause havoc as beavers bite the land that saves them
From The Times
May 27, 2010
As if the euro crisis were not enough, the Continent is being gnawed by a new problem: ungrateful beavers.
The rodents, Castor fiber, have been munching through dykes and aggravating the floods currently sweeping along the River Oder in Central Europe. They are also holding up the construction of a controversial bridge across the Elbe in Dresden. In Bavaria beavers have tunnelled into a sewerage works, releasing hundreds of tonnes of untreated faeces into a river.
Conservationists have spent millions of euros protecting the endangered species. That now seems to have been a very expensive decision.
Trampled in a Land Rush, Chinese Push Back
By MICHAEL WINES and JONATHAN ANSFIELD
Published: May 26, 2010
BEIJING – When China’s land boom excited a frenzy of popular resistance late last year – including headline-grabbing suicides by people routed from their homes – Chinese policy makers finally proposed a solution: rules to protect citizens from unchecked development and to fairly compensate the evicted.
Today in Laogucheng, a dingy warren of apartments and shops slated for redevelopment on Beijing’s far west side, the fruits of that effort are on vivid display: a powerful developer is racing to demolish the neighborhood before the rules are passed. And about 700 gritty homeowners are adamantly refusing to move until they get the fair deal they hope the rules will provide.
Anti-whaling activist pleads guilty in Tokyo court
An antiwhaling activist arrested after boarding a Japanese vessel in the Antarctic Ocean in February has pleaded guilty to most of the charges laid against him at the first hearing of his case in Tokyo.
By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Published: 7:00AM BST 27 May 2010
Peter Bethune, 45, was captaining the Sea Shepherd Conservations Society’s chase vessel, the Ady Gil, when it was struck and sunk by the Shonan Maru No. 2 in January. On February 15, he used a jet ski to board the Japanese vessel with the intention of making a citizen’s arrest of the Shonan Maru’s caption for attempted murder and to claim damages for the loss of the Ady Gil.
After being detained, Mr Bethune, who is from New Zealand, was returned to Japan on March 12 and formally arrested by the Japan Coast Guard.
Madagascar water fowl declared extinct
A tawny water fowl that lived in a tiny corner of Madagascar has officially been declared extinct by conservationists.
The Alaotra grebe, also called the rusty grebe, had been highly vulnerable as it was found only in Lake Alaotra, eastern Madagascar, according to the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the Red List of endangered species.
The grebe was wiped out by habitat destruction, by the introduction of a carnivorous fish called the snakehead murrel and by nylon gill-nets which accidentally caught and drowned many birds.
“No hope now remains for this species. It is another example of how human actions can have unforeseen consequences,” said Leon Bennun, director of science at BirdLife International.
In Somalia’s war, a new challenger is pushing back radical al-Shabab militia
By Sudarsan Raghavan
Thursday, May 27, 2010
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA — From behind green sandbags, Abdul Gader fired his rusting AK-47 down a narrow road. A Koran, its pages open, rested on the earth near his sweat-soaked body. So did a pile of bullets. Before him was territory controlled by radical al-Shabab fighters. Behind him was territory Gader and his comrades had taken away from them.
“They are the enemy of my religion and my culture,” Gader, a strapping 17-year-old with a boyish face, declared after pumping another burst of bullets at his targets lurking among crumbling houses.
In Peru, parole of terrorist American Lori Berenson sparks anger
Peruvians reacted angrily to the release of American Lori Berenson, who was serving a 20-year term for terrorism in Peru. Berenson, now a mother, must stay in Peru to serve the remaining five years of her sentence.
By Lucien Chauvin, Correspondent / May 26, 2010
A Peruvian judge’s decision to parole Lori Berenson, an American imprisoned in Peru since November 1995 on terrorism charges, has provoked an avalanche of negative reactions here.
Judge Jessica León accepted on Tuesday Ms. Berenson’s request to be released after having served three-quarters of her 20-year sentence. Berenson, however, must remain in Peru through the end of her sentence, in 2015, and report to judicial authorities every 30 days. A list of other conditions also restricts where she can live and the people with whom she can associate.