Friday, July 23, 2010

Oil spill work on hold as Bonnie approaches

The Development Driller II, right, and Development Driller III, which are drilling the relief wells, are seen at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site AP – The Development Driller II, right, and Development Driller III, which are drilling the relief wells, …
ON THE GULF OF MEXICO – Work to permanently choke off the oil well that had been spewing into the Gulf of Mexico was at a standstill Friday after ships around the site were ordered to evacuate ahead of the approaching Tropical Storm Bonnie.
There had been worries that the cap that has mostly contained the oil would have to be reopened and left gushing if a major storm came through. But engineers were confident enough in the strength of the cap that they decided to leave it sealed while most of the ships on the surface were told to leave the area.
Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch was issued early Friday for the northern Gulf coast from Destin, Fla., to Morgan City, La.
The storm, which blossomed over the Bahamas and was to enter the Gulf of Mexico by the weekend, could delay by another 12 days the push to plug the broken well for good using mud and cement, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen and BP officials conceded. Even if it's not a direct hit, the rough weather will push back efforts to kill the well by at least a week.
"While this is not a hurricane, it's a storm that will have probably some significant impacts, we're taking appropriate cautions," Allen said in Mobile, Ala.
Bonnie had maximum sustained winds near 40 mph Friday as it swirled about 80 miles south-southeast of Miami.
The delay in work would be worse if BP had to fully open the cap while the ships closely monitoring the well head left. More oil would have been allowed to spew into the Gulf until they returned.
A week of steady measurements through cameras and other devices convinced Allen they don't need to open vents to relieve pressure on the cap, which engineers had worried might contribute to leaks underground and an even bigger blowout. The cap was attached a week ago, and only minor leaks have been detected.
Allen said earlier in the day that evacuating the vessels could leave the well head unmonitored for up to a few days. He said he ordered BP to make sure the ships carrying the robotic submarines watching the well are the last to leave and the first to return.
Allen issued the order Thursday night to begin moving dozens of vessels from the spill site, including the rig that's drilling the relief tunnel engineers will use to permanently throttle the free-flowing crude near the bottom of the well. Some vessels could stay on site, he said.
"While these actions may delay the effort to kill the well for several days, the safety of the individuals at the well site is our highest concern," he said in a statement.
It was unclear Thursday night whether some of the vessels would go back to port or head farther south in the Gulf out of the path of the storm and await orders once the storm passes. The Coast Guard cutter Decisive, the hurricane guard for the vessels at the spill site, was awaiting instructions. In an evacuation, the Decisive is the last vessel to leave the area.
Bonnie caused flooding in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti before reaching tropical storm strength later Thursday, and Allen said crews expected sustained wind above 39 mph at the spill site by early Saturday.
Seas already were choppy in the Gulf, with waves up to five feet rocking boats as crews prepared to leave, and more of the smaller boats involved in the coastal cleanup were called into port, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said he expects local leaders in coastal parishes to call for evacuation of low-lying areas as early as Friday morning.
At the spill site, the water no longer looks thick with gooey tar. But the oil is still there beneath the surface, staining the hull of cutters motoring around in it.
One large vessel — the Helix Q4000 — is burning off oil collected from the water, and bright orange flames flared at the side of the ship.
Scientists say even a severe storm shouldn't affect the well cap, nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface 40 miles from the Louisiana coast. "Assuming all lines are disconnected from the surface, there should be no effect on the well head by a passing surface storm," said Paul Bommer, professor of petroleum engineering at University of Texas at Austin.
Charles Harwell, a BP contractor monitoring the cap, was also confident.
"That cap was specially made, it's on tight, we've been looking at the progress and it's all good," he said after his ship returned to Port Fourchon, La.
Before the cap was attached and closed a week ago, the broken well spewed 94 million to 184 million gallons into the Gulf after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers.
Work on plugging the well came to a standstill Wednesday, just days before authorities had hoped to complete the relief shaft. Allen said Thursday he has told BP to go ahead preparing for a second measure called a static kill that would pump mud and cement into the well from the top, a move he said would increase the relief well's chances for success. BP will have to get final approval from Allen before starting the procedure.
Vice President Joe Biden visited cleanup workers in southern Alabama, and said he was cheered the cap could remain on.
"After the storm's passage we will be right back out there," Biden said.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Port Fourchon, La., Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans and Melissa Nelson in Theodore, Ala., contributed to this report.

LPP NEWS First Draft...

The Quest For Absolute Control

Thursday, July 22, 2010
This month, the Iranian regime announced its new code of "appropriate" hairstyles for men.

The picture below was of the official ceremony by Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Needless to say, those that don't abide by this code will face repressive repercussions.

But these actions shouldn't be dismissed as simply religious or cultural fundamentalism.

For decades, the Castro regime imprisoned Cubans it considered "undesirable" in labor camps, namely homosexuals, rockers, hippies and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Today, the Castro regime imprisons thousands of "undesirables" -- dissenters of all stripes -- based on a reprehensible law of "social dangerousness," which it defines as "the special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is observed to be in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality."

For these regimes, it all comes down to one thing: absolute control.

Canadians Calling For Cuba Travel Ban?

From The Toronto Sun:

Outrage grows over teen's plight in Cuba
Canadians from coast to coast have been voicing their outrage after learning of 19-year-old Cody LeCompte's plight in Cuba.
And they are even more dismayed to learn that after three months of detention in the Communist country, for a car accident that he claims wasn't his fault, our government has been content to wait for justice to run its course rather than take swift action to help the young man get back home.

"Today I wept with anger," one Sun reader wrote on a Facebook group dedicated to helping Cody after reading the story that appeared in Thursday's paper.

"I am appalled that out government is failing him," the reader added. "We must unite and take action in bringing Cody home, immediately!"

The Simcoe teen was on a two-week vacation within his mom that was supposed to be a reward for getting into college.

Instead his life has been turned upside down because of a bizarre law that forces tourists involved in a crash where a Cuban citizen is seriously hurt to prove his or her innocence before being allowed to leave the country.

Cody's mom, Danette, who is at her son's side because she's afraid to leave him alone in Santa Lucia, so far is $30,000 in debt after paying for lawyer's fees, a room at the resort and other expenses.

She is on the verge of financial ruin and Cody hasn't even been charged with anything.

Danette was in the rental car, so was her cousin and his Cuban fiance, and Cody was driving when they were allegedly "broadsided" by a truck April 29.

They were all hospitalized but have since recovered from their injuries, including the fiance who underwent surgery for her damaged liver. Apparently, the only one still hurting is Cody.

He and his mom were unavailable Thursday because they were meeting with their lawyer.

"I have never been to Cuba and never will go!" Sun reader Steven Leech wrote on, adding the feds should "put a travel ban on Cuba and cut off all foreign aid" to the impoverished country.

  • European Union’s foreign relations ministers will begin debating early next week the consequences of the recent release of political prisoners in Cuba. [Europa Press]
  • Germany demands of Havana “true reforms,” i.e. free elections and respect human rights. [Clarín]
  • Dominican president meets with Army General Raul Castro and both countries sign agreements on diplomatic exchanges. [PL]
  • Ricardo Alarcón (Cuban parliament president) is in France meeting with French parliamentarians and socialist politicians. [CubaMinRex]
  • US diplomatic mission in Cuba convened a meeting with relatives of political prisoners who are refusing an offer to leave emigrate to Spain. [AFP]
(Image: Diplomacy board game from Avalon Hill.)

July 22, 2010

Health minister is removed and replaced

Cuba's Council of State, "at the initiative of its president, Raúl Castro, agreed to release Public Health Minister José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera from his post," the Prensa Latina news agency (fot1) announced late Thursday, without elaborating.
Balaguer will be replaced by his First Deputy Minister, Dr. Roberto Tomás Morales Ojeda, "a member of the secretariat of the Central Committee [of the Communist Party] dealing with health-care matters."
Morales (foto) was promoted from first secretary of the Communist Party in Cienfuegos province to the Central Committee in May 2008. Before then, he was director of the Hygiene and Epidemiology Unit in the city of Rodas and municipal director of health in Rodas and Cienfuegos.
Balaguer will be returned to his duties in the Party Central Committee, Prensa Latina said. "His performance and devotion to work during the time he headed that ministry were acknowledged."
Age may be a factor in the changeover; Balaguer is 78, Morales, 43. Balaguer had held the post since 2005.
Posted by Renato Perez at 09:41 PM in Raul Castro, Science
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Raúl is not leftist enough, Trotskyites say; in fact, he may be bowing to imperialism

Raúl Castro's tentative tweaking of the economy is only a way "to unload the crisis atop the masses and take new steps on the road to pro-capitalist reforms," the Socialist Workers Party of Argentina charges in the latest issue of its publication, The Workers' Truth.
The article, in Spanish, is titled "The Castro Regime Prepares a New Adjustment Against the Masses." Although published in Argentina, it reads as if written by a Cuban writer or panel of writers.
(fot5) It is interesting (almost fascinating) to see the situation in Cuba through a Trotskyist prism, which the SWP freely admits to being.
As viewed through that glass, Raúl Castro is not positioned far enough to the left.
For example, in the Trotskyites' view, the recent release of prisoners, "far from meaning a broadening of the freedoms and political rights of the working and peasant masses, so that they may self-organize in defense of their achievements [...] indicates an attempt by [Castro's] bureaucratic regime, haunted by the ghost of bankruptcy, to reinforce a policy of negotiation, making concessions to imperialism and the forces of restoration, which use the democratic-bourgeois banners to liquidate the deformed and bureaucracy-riddled State that emerged from the 1959 Revolution."
Presumably, the "forces of restoration" are any Cubans who favor a return to the capitalism of Batista days.
Posted by Renato Perez at 02:47 PM in Media, Raul Castro, U.S.-Cuba relations
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Tampa Bay legislator joins sponsors of bill that would let Americans travel to Cuba

Representative Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) announced Thursday that she is signing on to the House bill that hopes to open travel to Cuba to all Americans.
(fot2) "There is great potential for new jobs and economic growth throughout the Tampa Bay area if travel and trade opportunities are expanded over the coming years.  The Port of Tampa, Tampa International Airport, area businesses and our neighbors are well positioned for new economic opportunities,” Castor said in a press release.
Castor will cosponsor H.R. 874 by Representative Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. She also is renewing her call to designate Tampa International Airport as a port of entry and departure for charter flights to Cuba.
"Tampa Bay families traveling to and from Cuba are suffering economic hardship and severe inconvenience by having to travel to Miami in order to fly to Cuba," she said. Currently, charter flights to Cuba depart only from Miami, Los Angeles and New York City.
–Renato Pérez Pizarro, with thanks to Lesley Clark.
S: Cuban Colada

Cuba sets shake-up for powerful health minister

HAVANA – Cuba has replaced its long-serving health minister, the latest in a flurry of recent leadership changes by the government of President Raul Castro.
Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered few details on why he was replaced.
Balaguer had held the post since 2004, when he was a surprising choice to replace Damodar Pena, an official made health minister in 2002 as part of a then effort to promote younger leaders.
Trained as a physician, Balaguer was a founding member of Cuba's Communist Party and has been an ideological hard-liner for decades.
Replacing him will be 43-year-old Roberto Morales, a fellow physician who had been first vice minister of health.
Cuba provides free health care for all citizens, making the health minister an influential position — but the Cabinet shake-up was one of many of late.
In June, Cuba fired its transportation minister for professional mistakes and replaced the head of the Sugar Ministry after he admitted incompetence.
Those moves came after the March 23 replacement of Attorney General Juan Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959. Health problems were cited as the reason.
Also in March, Rogelio Acevedo, who as a teenager fought alongside the Castros and Ernesto "Che" Guevara, was abruptly dismissed as the overseer of Cuba's airlines and airports for unexplained reasons.
Cuba has since been awash with rumors that Acevedo was secretly running his own airline and otherwise misusing state aircraft. The speculation was eventually mentioned in a controversial essay on state corruption posted on a government website in April.

Released five Cubans travel to Spain

By: Agency | Source : EFE | 2010-07-22
  • Viajarán otros cinco excarcelados cubanos a España
    Photo: AP
Source : EFE

Inform family of five Cuban political prisoners Thursday will travel to Spain with them completes the first group 20 releases announced

LA  HAVANA , Cuba, in July . 22, 2010 .- Five Cuban political prisoners Thursday will travel to Spain after being released , thereby completes the first group of 20 announced by the Government releases Raul Castro through the Catholic Church.
Family sources confirmed to Efe that the trip Madrid night to Tanquero Jorge Luis González , José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández , Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez , Blas Giraldo Reyes Jesus Mustafa Felipe, on scheduled flights Spanish airline Iberia and Air Europa.
All had been sentenced to 25, 20 and 16 years imprisonment in the crackdown of the Black Spring 2003 when he was imprisoned a group of 75 dissidents , journalists independent Cuban human rights activists .
As was the case of the fifteen prisoners that came from the past 13 days this month, has so far completed the procedure of direct transfer from prison " Combination of the East of Havana to the airport "José Martí ".
Also today there was information, either from sources  Cuban officials or the local Catholic Church , on the details  of these releases and the exact time of travel, which complete the first phase of the releases announced.
Nilda Tanquero , mother of Jorge Luis Gonzalez said telephone from the town of Jovellanos, in the province West of Matanzas, he was " very happy , very happy " with the release of his son and the confirmation that he was in the  airport with other family members.
"With him (Jorge Luis ) get his brother to Spain Lázaro Miguel with his wife, three daughters and husband of one of the daughters and  your child , "said the woman.
Nilda Tanquero also noted that there are still five accompanying family group of your child ( including herself ) that are waiting with luggage ready, with "uncertainty "of know when the call to travel to Spain .
Isel Acosta , wife of imprisoned dissident Blas Giraldo Reyes said from a mobile phone that authorities had soon announced that he would lead with five other relatives to International Airport "José Martí " , Havana , where meet with her husband.
For its part , Rosa Sanchez , sister of Antonio Diaz said this afternoon that had already been fired from his sister Gisela , who  was on a flight on Thursday .
Also, Lydia, a relative of Yamilka Morejon José Ubaldo Izquierdo wife said , "He (José Ubaldo ) called and said she's already dressed to go to the airport. "
The Government of Chile offered to host as Izquierdo Hernández political refugee , who has confirmed the accepted the proposal to go to the South American country after transferred  first to Spain, where he will arrive tomorrow, Friday .
This week also travel to Madrid, Arturo Perez Alejo Rodríguez , Ricardo Silva Gual , Alfredo Manuel Pulido López Ubals González, as announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs  Spanish.
The government of Raul Castro has committed to release gradually over a maximum period of four months  the 52 dissidents , who were in jail, the group of 75, in the unprecedented process of open dialogue with the hierarchy of Catholic Church on the island , backed by Spain.
After the 20 releases that have occurred so the time being is to know when the 32 will be released remain in prison and what their destination.
In recent days it has emerged that some want to remain in Cuba and others may wish to go to America .
S: Noticierotelevisa / translate LPPNEWS Front- Line

The European Union held on Monday a debate on Cuba in light of the recent releases of prisoners

Brussels will not seek to Spain to recognize Kosovo

The foreign ministers of the European Union held  on Monday July 26 a preliminary discussion on Cuba will continue  after the summer break to discuss the implications of Recent releases of prisoners in European policy towards island.
The head of Spanish diplomacy , Miguel Angel Moratinos , who has asked this question on the agenda of the meeting, will inform its colleagues from his recent trip to Havana and successful releases through the mediation of the Catholic Church .
Moratinos is in the gesture of the Cuban regime sufficient reason for  review the so-called common EU position towards Cuba , which has 1996 dialogue makes progress in human rights, and Council of Ministers last June asked his colleagues postpone the review of this policy until September so that by the Church to give their fruit.
However, any change requires unanimity of the 27 Council sources believed "premature" if the latest venture events will change the minds of traditionally partners contrary to alter the vision for Cuba: Czech Republic Sweden. In addition, the released prisoners themselves have called on the EU amend the common position
The Council on Monday will also maintain an exchange of views  views on the Court endorsing the UN Kosovo's independence, although no conclusions beyond hope Thursday 's statement made on behalf of the EU and therefore agreed by the 27 , the High Representative for Common Foreign and  the Security Policy ( CFSP ), Catherine Ashton.
The EU emphasizes the opening of a new phase now be directed to the future, while reiterating the European perspective of both Serbia and Kosovo, but avoids entering  the thorny issue of recognition of the breakaway province , so far rejected by five European countries , including Spain . "It  something for them to decide on the Member States , " interjected the Friday, a spokesman for Ashton.
In the Council's agenda also includes the adoption of new applied sanctions on Iran on 17 June by the heads of State and government of the 27 in the light of the concern is raising the Iranian nuclear program , adding to measures adopted by the Security Council United Nations.
Restrictive measures will focus on trade, energy and the financial sector , including imposition of an embargo on new Iranian banks and banking restrictions .

It  also apply to key industry sectors and gas oil, which prohibit new investments and technical assistance  technology transfer , equipment and related services especially for refining. Refuse visas and garnish the assets of members of the Revolutionary Guards Islamic .
In any case, the High Representative Council and express their willingness to work towards encouraging a diplomatic solution Tehran to respond positively to the invitation that has been made to resume negotiations on the basis of the offer made in June 2008.
Ashton informed in this regard the ministers of his recent epistolary exchanges with the incumbent Iranian Foreign Manucher Mottaki , who also spoke at the recent conference on  Afghanistan held in Kabul.
The Council meeting will begin at 11.30 with a first  point on Sudan to be followed by an intervention by the head of the European diplomacy on his second visit to the Middle East in which state the situation in Gaza following the Israeli decision to soften the embargo.
Previously, at 10.00 , the General Affairs Council (CAG ) listen to the priorities set for the semester Belgian presidency , and approve the negotiating framework that will kick  Check out the opening of the accession process in Iceland. Onset negotiations be finalized at the next day, July 27 in an Intergovernmental Conference at ministerial level in Brussels.
Iceland presented its candidacy to join the club Community on 16 July 2009 at the height of last June 27 judged that the Scandinavian country met the criteria politicians to become an EU member and that could open the negotiation.
These are intended to incorporate fully the candidate  its domestic law the so-called acquis communautaire and to ensure their application. Iceland now has 35 chapters recorrrer punctuate the road towards the EU.
Belgian Presidency sources admit that the situation differs from that of other candidates such as Croatia or Turkey , because Reykjavik has already taken a significant part of the acquis, by forming part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen area , which simplify the process of accession. Iceland has, however, resolve the dispute over compensation for UK and Holland after the collapse of the bank ' Icesave '.
Front- Line Translation LPPNEWS