Friday, October 1, 2010

U.S. oil spill waters contain carcinogens: Report

By Joshua Schneyer
Reuters/Rebecca Cook
Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:09pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - University researchers said on Thursday they recently found alarming levels of cancer-causing toxins in an area of the Gulf of Mexico affected by BP's oil spill, raising the specter of long-lasting health concerns.

Oregon State University (OSU) researchers found sharply heightened levels of chemicals including carcinogens in the waters off the coast of Louisiana in August, the last sampling date, even after BP successfully capped its runaway Gulf well in mid-July.

Near Grand Isle, Louisiana, the team discovered that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- which include carcinogens and chemicals that pose various risks to human health -- remained at levels 40 times higher than before the area was affected by the oil spill.

The compounds may enter the food chain through organisms like plankton or fish, a researcher said.
"In a natural environment a 40-fold increase is huge," said Oregon State toxicologist Kim Anderson, who led the research. "We don't usually see that at other contamination sites."

The PAH chemicals, which are often linked to oil spills, are most concentrated in the area near the Louisiana Coast, but levels have also jumped 2 to 3 fold in other spill-affected areas off Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, Anderson said.

As of last month, PAH levels remained near those discovered while the oil spill was still flowing heavily, Anderson said. The team will continue to sample for chemicals in months to come.

Although BP has sealed its well, experts are still cataloging the environmental and health hazards left in the wake of the spill. Scores of research teams, including Anderson's, are working with Federal Superfund grants to measure how the spill affected the environment.

Also on Thursday, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva told Reuters he would press for a congressional investigation into whether estimates of the oil spill volume and its related environmental risks were misrepresented in a federal report from early August.

BP's ill-fated Macondo well spilled a total of up to 4.9 million barrels before it was capped, the report said. But it also suggested that most of the oil had been dispersed naturally or removed by clean-up efforts at the time.

Grijalva, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees some wetlands damaged by the spill, said it was unclear whether the Federal report was peer-reviewed and whether its estimates remain accurate.

"I don't want to let BP off the hook, and my suspicion is that the numbers may be wrong and that the oil is still a danger," Grijalva said in an interview.

BP representatives were not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

Pakistan slams US-led drone attacks

Press TV Iran
Fri Oct 1, 2010 7:37AM

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari (L) meets CIA Director Leon Panetta in Islamabad, Pakistan on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010.
Pakistan has strongly condemned the increasing number of non-UN-sanctioned attacks by US drones and violation of its airspace by US-led forces stationed in Afghanistan.

In a Thursday meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta in Pakistan, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari censured violation of his country's sovereignty.
Referring to airstrikes by US-led forces, the president said that "violation of internationally agreed principles is counterproductive and unacceptable," a Press TV correspondent reported on Friday.

The visiting CIA chief, for his part, promised to examine reports that NATO helicopters conducted deadly cross-border raids from Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, who also held a separate meeting with Panetta on Thursday, expressed profound concern over the increasing drone attacks by NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
“Pakistan being a front-line ally in the war against terror expects from its partners to respect its territorial sovereignty,” he added.
Meanwhile, during a parliament session in Islamabad on Thursday Pakistani lawmakers demanded the government to give a befitting response to the attacks.
They said that if the US strikes were not stopped, then Pakistan should prevent supplies that pass through Pakistan to reach NATO and US-led forces in Afghanistan.
“It is a sheer violation of international norms and direct attack on our sovereignty. We have full right to defend ourselves,” Senator Khurshid Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami party told the House.
Senator Tariq Azim also questioned the government for tolerating the attacks asking government to shoot down NATO helicopters violating Pakistan's aerial space.
“Is the blood of our soldiers so cheap that we cannot even shoot down two helicopters,” he argued.
Recent increase in US drone attacks in tribal regions near Pakistan and Afghanistan border has provoked anger among the people.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Dismantling of Civilized Society

By David Michael Green

September 26, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --" -- How stupid are you?
I mean, let's just face it, shall we? That is precisely the question the right has been asking the American public for thirty years (and more) now. And that is the question the American public has been enthusiastically answering for the same period of time.

Like a crack junkie, in fact.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented America with a set of economic lies so transparent that even a monster like George H. W. Bush called them "voodoo economics". When he was contesting Reagan for the Republican nomination, that is. Once Bush had lost it, and when he wanted to be added to the ticket as the Vice Presidential nominee, everything became hunky dory, and no more voodoo critiques were uttered. That was one of the greatest acts of treason (I choose my words carefully) in American history.

But back to Reagan. "Watch this", he said. "I'm gonna slash taxes, especially for the rich, spend huge sums on 'defense', and balance the budget at the same time".

Okay, so he wasn't a math major in college. Two out of three ain't bad, though, eh? Well, it is if you have to pay for his 'mistakes', plus interest, as so many of us continue to do to this day. Prolly not a big problem, though. Even though Americans hate taxes with the passion of the truly infantile, I'm sure they don't mind working extra hours flipping burgers each week to pay for the enrichment of the previous generation of plutocrats and defense contractors. Right?

Or maybe it's just that their answer to the "How stupid" question is: "Very".

You might think that, because Reagan and Bush actually managed to quadruple the national debt with their little exercise in national folly. Or you might especially think that because Lil' Bush came along with the exact same snake oil a decade later. You had to be stupid to buy it the first time, but you had to have been really stupid to buy it the second time. We, of course, were.

And not just in terms of federal debt, either. A generation of Reaganomics has now succeeded in suspending ninety-eight percent of the country in standard-of-living formaldehyde, so that they felt zero effect whatsoever from the substantial growth in GDP over the last thirty years, and now those policies are cutting off their legs from underneath them altogether. All while the people of Reagan's class, of course, just piled on the riches. How stupid do you have to be to not notice who's diddling you?

Very, of course, but not necessarily as stupid as is maximally possible. 'Cause, guess what? Here they come again. This week Republicans once again have issued a manifesto calling for slashing taxes on billionaires and cutting deficits, all at the same time. And once again they will win big electoral landslide victories in November despite that patent idiocy. Or perhaps because of it.

Why don't they just come out and do magic tricks, instead? Oh wait. That's their Jesus bit. Never mind.
On the one hand, I don't blame Americans for voting for the party that isn't the Democratic Party this fall. Obama and crew are miserable failures, as completely unable to provide meaningful solutions to the problems facing Americans today as they are inept at winning political fights against manifest criminals. Looking at the landscape in front of them as it appears to voters' blinkered vision, it makes perfect sense to desperately swing to the party not in government when the house is on fire and the party in government is showing up with squirt guns. What could be more logical? This is, indeed, the fundamental notion of 'responsible government' itself, and it is at the core of democratic theory.

On the other hand, of course, there are two very excellent reasons why such a vote is completely idiotic. First, because there actually are more than two alternatives to choose from. I wish we had viable third parties in America but I don't normally advocate for them, given the massive systemic improbability of their success. That said, if there was ever a moment for which a third party vote was called for, this is it.

And second, because 'the alternative' to the Democrats are the very folks who put us in these crises to start with, and they are now explicitly devoted to making conditions even worse for ordinary Americans. That's exactly what will happen, of course, and if you think the present moment is grim, wait until you see how much fun the next two years are gonna be. They're gonna look like the mangled and ferocious spawn of a tainted marriage between the Depression politics of the Hoover era, the sick depravity of McCarthyism, the relentless scandal-mongering of the Gingrich era, and the completely unmitigated greed of the Cheney years. Welcome to the dismantling of civilized society in America. Yes, yes, I know - it's quite arguable whether such a beast ever existed. Well, at least that's one debate we're about to put to rest definitively.

And we also know for sure of yet one more thing Ol' W was wrong about. Remember when he said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - You can't get fooled again!"

He shoulda checked with Karl Rove and the rest of his party of predatory shucksters, who seem quite incapable of not constantly trying to fool the public. And he shoulda considered the ridiculous improbability of his own presidency before attempting to quote Pete Townshend. Not to mention the current moment. We know why the GOP has to lie, and does so compulsively. Even in contemporary America, surely the stupidest country on the planet, the homo sapiens are still sentient enough to opt out of the most overt cases of self-immolation. If kleptocratic Republicans told the truth, who in the world would ever vote for them, other than the richest two percent of Americans?

The bigger mystery is why people continue to fall for this crap over and over. This is the "shame on me" concept that Dauphin George was reaching for but couldn't quite grasp (too bad he didn't actually, er, study, when he was at Yale). How many times can fools be told the same foolish line and be fooled into foolishly falling for it, like a pack of so many fools?

It would appear that for Americans, at least, there is no limit, based on the contents of the Republicans' just released "Pledge to America" manifesto, which I could have drafted for them, so predictable is its contents. There is of course, loads of debauchery and rampant destruction in there, dressed up as piety and patriotism. But the fiscal insanity is the most egregious. Can they really pledge the old voodoo economics once again - slashing tax revenue while simultaneously cutting deficits - and get away with it? Yes they can, and yes they have.

Perhaps their lies are more plausible because they have promised to cut spending. It's just that there are two little caveats they hope you won't notice. First, that they somehow miraculously fail to specify in advance of the election what they intend to cut. Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that if people knew what those cuts would be they would be aghast? Or could it be - and this brings us to the other small footnote - that what they are proposing is to mathematics what a dropped object falling upward would be to physics?

As Paul Krugman notes, the Republican Pledge claims that "everything must be cut, in ways not specified - 'except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.' In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits. [Krugman should have also mentioned service to the existing debt, which is one of the biggest single items in the federal budget today, and absolutely cannot be touched.] So what's left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won't cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: 'No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.'"

And yet - of course - poll data shows that the folks purveying this heap of garbage are about to be swept into office. Meanwhile, city governments are folding their tents across America, slashing all their services entirely, and the GOP is nominating former witches, anti-masturbators, racists, wrestling promoters and every other form of personal screw-up and jive con-artist to be found everywhere killers and thieves congregate.
I'm sorry, but surveying the landscape, it just feels so over now in America. We seem like little more than a popped balloon, with only the faux blustering fart noises of rapid deflation remaining where once there was an empire and once there were truly revolutionary and truly valuable ideas.

It's no accident, either, that the near-complete obsession of the tea party right and their followers is taxes. It's naked greed, it's more infantile than the politics of a kindergarten sandbox, and it's as corrosive as can be. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society". He meant it, too. When he died, he donated his estate to the US government.

What is happening to America today is nothing short of the dismantling of such civilized society. Does anyone think the country is economically better off today than in the 1950s or 1960s? Does anyone seriously think that the Millennial Generation will be better off than their parents? Would anyone seriously bet on America today, as an economic comer? Does anyone think that the next hundred years will be the American century?
There is so much tragedy to this story that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps the greatest ugliness of the whole affair is the self-inflicted nature of our demise, and, therefore, the complete lack of necessity for all the pain and suffering already endured and the vastly greater amounts still to come. It never had to be this way, which just makes it all the more pathetic.

If there is any silver lining here it is that the hooligans of the right will manifestly fail at governing, which at least opens up the potential for them to be rejected once again.

I will be interested - as a political scientist, not as a citizen - to see what sort of budget proposal Republicans will pass out of the House once they control it. Like Reagan and Bush before them, their numbers cannot possibly jibe. Unlike Reagan and Bush, however, they will have far less luxury to resort to the shell game of grossly irresponsible deficits as a way out of their own lies, having made deficit reduction so overtly the centerpiece of their campaign this year. The freaks of the tea party right don't seem so likely to let them off the hook for another round of campaign lies as they were the last two times out. How's that for an irony? The only prospect of real accountability for these monsters would be coming from the monsters of their own constituency.

But, assuming the GOP can find a way around that problem (perhaps by proposing a draconian pretend budget that they know could never be accepted by congressional Democrats or Obama?), I would expect them to prevail again in 2012. Unless the jobs picture changes radically in 2011 - and no economist that I know of is predicting that - Obama is complete toast. Indeed, he is probably so wounded that we might expect a Democrat or two to challenge him in the primaries for the nomination. Doesn't matter, though. Either way, whoever the Republicans nominate will be the next president.

Which is where I start to get real nervous. Governments that combine a commitment to holding power at all costs with a total absence of real policy solutions and an amoral willingness to do anything to serve their true aspirations are a truly scary prospect. History suggests that the years after 2012 could be the ones during which the wheels finally came off the wagon of what is left of American democracy.

But it could be far worse than that, too, for us and for others. The prospect of a hugely powerful empire lashing out at the rest of the world - whether in rage or seeking domestic diversion - is not a pretty one at all. The Soviet superpower was kind enough to implode rather innocuously. I'm not at all convinced that we yanks would be quite so gracious about doing the same.

I remain haunted to this day by the words of John le Carre, written on the eve of the Bush invasion of Iraq: "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War".

Sadly, I think he had everything right in his assessment, save for the word "periods". That term implies a temporariness to our condition that might at least make it somehow barely tolerable.

But what if it only gets worse from here?

And let's be honest. Given the nature of the Republicans, the Democrats, the media and the public in America today, how does it not?

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 160

Editor's NOTE:

I have tried repeatedly for the past week unsuccessfully to obtain up-to-date information regarding the water and air quality in the Gulf coast areas of Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. It is not clear when the area was last sprayed with Corexit dispersant and when it was last applied to the surface water in that area. At one point several weeks ago for example, the water in and around Orange Beach Alabama was said to contain 13.6 ppm of 2 butoxy ethanol (2BE)  and core samples from the sea bed allegedly contained over 66 ppm of the 2 BE "marker" for Corexit according to Local chemist Bob Naman.

It is truly unfortunate that the necessary data required for people to make informed decisions about traveling to the Gulf area has not been released by the appropriate federal and local authorities. BP and the unified command have been very unwilling to reveal the extent to which Corexit spraying and direct surface water application has been continued or stopped at a date certain. It is clear from multiple reports eminating from locals and University research projects that much of the oil once located on the surface has been "dispersed" to the sea bed after falling through the entire water column. The short and long term effects to marine life and the local human populations affected remains to be determined.

At the very least, the controllling government authorities have made it extremely difficult if not impossible for interested individuals to obtain the information they need to make informed decisions about the potential deliterious health related effects to which they might be exposed.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

4 MILES offshore Pensacola: Scuba divers find “what appeared to be tarballs”, “nearby location shows a MUCH THICKER brown film” — Officials deny oil

September 23rd, 2010 at 02:58 PM  HERE...

Possible oil below the ocean’s surface, WEAR, September 22, 2010.

As we all know, oil is still in the gulf… sitting on the sea floor and dispersed in the water column…
Dan Thomas, WEAR reporter: We’re out here in the Gulf of Mexico about 4 miles off Pensacola beach…
Mike Harrell, Harrell Marine Services: “I have seen what I think and analysis will prove that what I thought was oil.”

Dan Thomas, WEAR reporter: I found what appeared to be tarballs, similar to what we’ve seen on shore. This is video shot by Harrell of a nearby location shows a much thicker brown film. It’s not what he was hoping to find… His marine services company depends on the gulf being pristine.

Mike Harrell, Harrell Marine Services: “I’ve been diving these waters for 25 years and what I have seen, it just doesn’t look like it used to.”

One group of researchers have observed oiled sediments on the seafloor stretching from the wellhead to 20 nautical miles off the coast of Gulfport, MS.

Today the media is reporting that federal teams have been finding oil just off the coast all along the Gulf.
Now WEAR discovers what appears to be submerged oil four miles from shore.

Feds: Finding “plenty” of crude all along Gulf Coast by digging holes just offshore — Up to 25 PERCENT OIL in samples

September 23rd, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Oil lingering in waters off Alabama, Mississippi and Florida beaches, Press-Register (Ben Raines), September 23, 2010:

A good deal of oil remains in the shallow waters closest to the beaches in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, according to a federal team using shovels and snorkeling gear to survey the coastline for submerged oil. …

“We’re basically digging potholes approximately 18 inches deep,” [Todd Farrar, who works for Polaris Applied Sciences, a company hired by BP to do the shoreline assessments with federal officials] said… “We’re finding plenty of it.”

In the potholes he dug Wednesday morning, Farrar reported that from 10 to 25 percent of the material in his shovel was oil…