Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coast Guard, cleanup efforts "held hostage" by weather

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 10:42 PM

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft says all cleanup operations in the Gulf are being "held hostage" — all skimming, controlled burns and dispersant use has stopped, due largely to Hurricane Alex. Waves of 7 to 10 feet prevent skimmers to skim for oil — when seas rise beyond 3 feet, Zukunft says, the skimmers just end up gathering water.

Efforts to move the Helix Producer containment device in place, which was set to be up and running today, have also stopped. Seas need to be less than 4 feet to make the subsurface connection to the blowout preventer.

Closer to shore, where Zukunft says winds are at 25 knots, all skimmers have been brought in, and dispersant application has stopped, deemed ineffective against the winds and seas.

"Our large heavy skimmers can certainly stay out at sea by the spill site, but in terms of their ability to do any skimming, we really have to wait for those seas to come down," he says. "For 36, nearly 48 hours of weather not conducive to skimming —  it looks like this weather will persist another 24 hours. Perhaps 48. As soon as it does subside, we’re prepared to immediately launch and resume our attack on this oil...

"At the same time we have oil moving to Chandeleur Sound, so I’m very concerned with the impact this oil’s going to have in the area," he says. "Until this weather subsides all we can do is have everything ready ... and (we'll) remove this oil, once we have weather conducive to operations."

Meanwhile, BP is now under fire for its reported lack of any hurricane response plan in the event of an oil spill or for any disaster of this scope. Zukunft says the Coast Guard has a plan, which he says he has been "intimitely involved" with its development — but it's not ready to go public. "The only reason I’d be reluctant (to make it public) is because it’s dated. We’re possibly making revisions and updates to it," he says. "As we bring in other equipment and newer technologies, if there’s a plan out in the public, it’s the equivalent of having last year’s phonebook, and everyone’s address has changed."

The "fully integrated plan" is the product of several agencies working with the Coast Guard, including the Department of Defense and FEMA. It's now in its third revision.

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Gay Republican condoms?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 10:36 PM

Today in "News You Won't Read in The Times-Picayune": Our friends at the Minneapolis-St. Paul City Pages report that during the city's gay pride festival last weekend, the local chapter of the gay conservative group Log Cabin Republicans was handing out free condoms with the slogan "Drill, Baby, Drill" on them.

Click through to see the gift that combines a bullish attitude toward oil exploration with a time-honored safe sex message. Who says New Orleans has a monopoly on creativity?

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What's In a Name?

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 10:06 PM

From the you-can-put-lipstick-on-a-pig-but-it’s-still-a-pig file: The Obama administration has changed the name of the embattled Minerals Management Service (MMS) — the agency in charge of overseeing offshore drilling — to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOE). The acronym is definitely an improvement, moving from sounding like a disease to something that rolls off the tongue much easier, but c’mon, it seems to be following the adage “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with B.S.”

New BOE head Michael Bromwich has promised Congress (and thus, the American people) that the name change is more than a ruse to fool people into believing the agency now understands its role. He told the Associated Press that specifying what the BOE’s function is in its title, emphasizes “those elements, I think, by consensus, (that) have been lacking in the approach of the agency.” It also takes some of the heat off the agency, which as the MMS has drawn fire as a result of the BP Gulf disaster and the revelations that some of the problem had to do with procedures and faulty safety equipment.

I suspect that it also crossed the minds of those in the Interior Department, the umbrella under which the MMS/BOE resides, that a quick change to a long and cumbersome title with soothing words like “ocean,” “regulation” and “enforcement,” might cause some confusion over which agency is in charge of offshore drilling, thus sparing them from some heated calls and maligning from the public — at least for a while.

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How the National Enquirer is covering the BP oil disaster

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Every media outlet has its own niche when it comes to the BP oil disaster. The Wall Street Journal, not surprisingly, is concentrating on the ups and downs (mostly downs) of BP stock prices. Mother Jones is muckraking (literally) from an environmentalist perspective. Even The Huffington Post is doing its own thing, which involves one of Arianna's celebrity friends penning a new-age, pop-psych essay called Drawing Blessings From the Gulf Oil Spill. ("To best serve the Gulf of Mexico, ourselves and our world, I encourage focusing and having faith in the power of divine love. By focusing on bringing greater good into manifestation, there can be a returning to the natural order that thrives and creates bounty.")

With everyone getting into the act, it's no surprise that the National Enquirer is muscling in on the action with a story headlined OILY BP BOSS BUSTS UP NUPS!:

BP boss CARL HENRIC-SVANBERG isn't just being blamed for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he's the accused villain behind the breakup of a Massachusetts couple's 18-year marriage! ...

What's more, just days after BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 - leaving 11 dead and millions of gallons of oil spewing into the gulf - the lovebirds vacationed in Phuket, Thailand on his luxury yacht!

Wow. Can't wait to see how the Weekly World News is going to cover this ... but I bet it'll involve space aliens and Bat Boy.

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Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 72

Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 4:24 PM

  • Last night, the Gulf of Mexico's Tropical Storm Alex became Hurricane Alex, a Category 1 storm now some 200 miles from Brownsville, Texas. Its projected path shows it making a sharp turn west into Mexico. It's the first June hurricane to hit the Gulf since 1995. But if you're wondering if we'll be seeing its effects, well, just look outside your window. Heavy rains are expected through today and possibly tomorrow.

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  • As for cleanup efforts, they're at a halt until the weather clears up. BP says it's facing 12-foot waves and will delay for a few days — which means, most likely, the rest of the week. Happy Fourth of July.

  • Jefferson Parish councilman John Young blasts the disaster response and tells WWL he's "ashamed to be an American right now":

    "We're on day 72, it's been ten weeks, over two months, they're still talking about cutting the red tape. We've been asking them to cut the rep tape since early May. ... There's so much of a disconnect. There needs to be a paradigm shift where the state and locals take over, the federal government gets out of the way, let BP pay for it at the end of the day. I'm ashamed to be an American right now. This is the greatest country in the world, and we have failed to properly respond to this disaster."

  • The U.S. Coast Guard has imposed a 100-meter "safety zone" around boom and other undefined "oil response efforts" — break the 100 meters and you can face a $40,000 fine and "Willful violations may result in a class D felony," according to a Deepwater Horizon Response release.

  • International aid in the Gulf: 12 countries of more than 30 that reached out are supplying booms, chemicals, skimmer and technical support.

  • New Orleans city council president and Wisconsonite Arnie Fielkow writes to his Northern brethren, letting 'em know why the country should care and pay attention to its fellow 'Mericans on the coast:

    It is neither about charity nor sympathy, and, in fact, we very much want you to continue to visit our majestic city and relish in its music, safe seafood and Southern charm. But it is all about a preservation of a way of life, a culture, a special sense of place and a pride of being here. That is something Midwesterners understand just as well as those of us in N'Awlins.

  • The ACLU has put Louisiana law enforcement on watch regarding its BP policing and the close relationships oil companies enjoy with the local law:

    Marjorie Esman, executive director of the group's Louisiana chapter, reminded the sheriffs of the coastal parishes that "members of the public have the right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to film, record, photograph, and document anything they observe in a public place. No one—neither law enforcement nor a private corporation — has the legal right to interfere with public access to public places or the recording of activities that occur there. Nor may law enforcement officials cooperate with private companies in denying such access to the public."

  • New Orleans foodie Lorin Gaudin vows to eat Louisiana seafood every day (or get someone else to) and document it, until it's no longer possible. Godspeed.

  • And this happened yesterday.

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    Mojo no-no: Louisiana outlaws synthetic marijuana

    Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 1:53 AM


    Call it mojo, spice, K2 or fake pot: As expected, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill today that had sailed through the Louisiana legislature, making it illegal to either possess or sell synthetic marijuana/incense blends that have gained popularity in head shops statewide. The doobie brother will now be a Schedule I drug. Making or selling it will be punishable by up to five years in prison, while possession will be capped at six months. (You can read all about it in our May cover story, "Mojo Madness.") The law kicks in Aug. 15, so smoke 'em if you got 'em ...

    Wait. What are we saying? Just say no, kids.

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    March for Clean Energy draws a wet crowd, sings sing-alongs

    Posted By on Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 12:43 AM

    Following last night’s New Orleans premiere of Fuel at the Theaters at Canal Place, director Josh Tickell, along with Peter Fonda, Amy Smart and Jason Mraz — who led the crowd in a 10-minute sing-along of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” replacing “peace” with “green” — marched around Jackson Square, beginning at Washington Artillery Park, with Mraz at the helm. Organizers handed out handmade placards, some reading "Loisiana [sic, see photo below] Clean Energy Meca [again, see photo]" or promoting algae as fuel. Despite the rain, the crowd circled the square and passed the amphitheater, where a school group waited in the protesters’ place. (Several excited teenage girls held out their cameras to film Mraz.) The group stopped at Café Du Monde where the Fuel bus waited.

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    One demonstrator, Kimberly Wolf, who has a background in environmental science, waited in the rain with several other demonstrators before the crowds gathered around the Fuel bus. Her posters read “No more Corexit” and “Put sunshine and people to work.”

    “Since Day Two of this disaster I knew it was going to be a disaster, so I became an activist, instead of an environmentalist,” she laughs. “Every time I hear about any protest or any rally or any event that’s meant for information, positive information, necessary information, I’m there. Doesn’t matter whether it’s raining.

    “We have urgent needs we need to yell, scream and holler about — immediate needs and long term needs,” she says.

    Enter the Fuel folks — riding the algae-powered bus (that is, oil refined from algae), with Tickell demanding climate change legislation and support for alternative energies, ensuring, as Mraz says, the BP oil disaster “doesn’t happen again.” The group established a "Oil Cleanup Alliance," a collective of nonprofits, companies and others to press for alternative energies and solutions.
    “There are solutions coming out of the ass,” Mraz says.

    The event mirrored last month's Murdered Gulf protest, which drew several hundred at the same site — but it was noticeably more lightweight and less agressive and drew a much different and smaller crowd.

    Fuel explores the history of the world’s dependence on oil and Tickell’s efforts to introduce its alternatives. It won the 2008 Sundance Film Festival audience award.

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    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Unity Against Homelessness

    Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Unity of Greater New Orleans is receiving an $804,912 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide permanent housing to low-income people in the area living with HIV/AIDS so they can receive support services and manage their illness.

    The funding is provided through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for persons with AIDS Program and is part of $30.2 million in grants awarded to 29 programs in 19 states to help HIV/AIDS patients.

    In late April, the National Alliance to End Homelessness gave Unity of Greater New Orleans its 2010 Non-Profit Sector Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The award is a top honor among homeless services. (The video was shown during the awards ceremony on April 22.)


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    Le Petit Theatre announces its 95th season

    Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    le petit

    Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre has announced its 95th season this morning, though no word on casting yet. Here's the rundown:


    • Hairspray: Sept. 17 - Oct. 3

    Soul Doctor: Nov. 5 - 21

    White Christmas: Dec. 10 - 26


    Frost/Nixon: Jan. 28 - Feb. 13

    The Drowsy Chaperone: Apr. 7 - 24

    Evita: June 10 - 26

    • High School Musical on Stage: July 14 - 31

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    Today in BP Oil Disaster: Day 71

    Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    • Good morning, Alex! After stalling out last night, he's on the wobbly move again today. He's still a tropical storm, but is expected to become a Category 1 hurricane at the next advisory. It's still scheduled to make landfall in south Texas or northern Mexico, perhaps as a Category 2. Projected landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday. "Forecasters said the storm's likely path would take it away from the site of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill off Louisiana's coast, but added that it might push oil farther inland and disrupt cleanup efforts."


    • Vice President Joe Biden is in town today to meet with Gov. Bobby Jindal, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. Then he's off to Pensacola, but not before engaging in the new New Orleans ritual for politicians: the Gulf seafood lunch, publicly eaten to demonstrate its safety and deliciousness.

    • BP's got a backup strategy. Oh, good.

    • The Jimmy Buffett/Kenny Chesney benefit concert scheduled for July 1 on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. has been rescheduled to July 11 due to expected high surf, inspiring even more than the usual level of half-wit attempts at wit over in the comments section at

    Protest at London's Tate Museum:

    Activists opposing oil company BP Plc burst into a party at London’s Tate Britain last night, spilling cans of an oil-like liquid inside and outside the gallery to protest BP’s 20-year sponsorship.

    Black-clad protesters with veils over their heads splattered the party entrance with cans of treacle bearing the BP logo, then sprinkled bird feathers over the slick. Another group smuggled cans inside, under their skirts, and emptied them in Tate Britain’s columned main hall.


    Speaking of protests, there'll be another one today at 3 pm in Washington Artillery Park (better known as the breakdancers' amphitheater) across from Jackson Square. On hand: musician Jason Mraz and actor Peter Fonda of March for Clean Energy. Participants are asked to bring black plastic bags so aerial photographer John Quigley can get a picture of them spelling out some sort of message ... and then the bags will be put to good use cleaning up trash. Leave only your footprints, kids.

    • Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour may be tardy to the party, but he's finally shown up. After exhibiting a blithe spirit last month about the spectre of his state's beaches turning to tar, he's now blasting BP for doing too little, too late. (He's not too thrilled with the Obama administration's response either, quelle surprise.) But wasn't it only June 16 that Barbour was hopping mad about the BP victims' compensation fund/escrow account?

    • We've heard a bit about how the oil is affecting Louisiana's Vietnamese-American community. Here's the view from Biloxi:

    To help, Asian Americans for Change, a local community development organization established in 2007, and Steps Coalition, a group of 35 social- justice organizations, are planning a Resources and Claims Fair for July 8 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.

    Kaitlin Truong, one of the organizers, said they hope to offer a BP claim workshop and a Unified Command briefing, along with social services focusing on mental health assessment, information on the hurricane season, disaster preparedness and safety training.

    • Epicurious takes note of Susan Spicer's class-action lawsuit against BP for damaging the Gulf fishing industry, and The Village Voice is amused that her lawyer is named Serena Pollack.

    • Finally: Gambit ace photographer Cheryl Gerber has published a book titled Love Pelicans, filled with images of our state bird, and all profits go to the International Bird Rescue Research Center. A nice gesture that would make a nice gift. Hint. Hint.

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