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More Ugly Truth about Deepwater Horizon

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Too many of the news reports concerning the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout are suspiciously similar to the BP commercials featuring testimonials about how the company’s wonderful clean-up job has brought life along the Gulf Coast “back to normal”.  Unfortunately, the ugly truth about life along the Gulf of Corexit has not been thrust before the American public with the same aggressiveness as BP’s public relations propaganda.

Since the catastrophe occurred back in April of 2010, one steady source of unvarnished reports on the matter has been Washington’s Blog.  On April 18 of this year, Washington’s Blog posted this great piece which links to a number of reports documenting the extent of ongoing damage to the Gulf ecosystem.

We are constantly bombarded with propaganda emphasizing how offshore oil rigs create jobs.  What we don’t hear are reports concerning the number of people from the fishing industry who lost their jobs (and their health) as a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident.  Consider this AFP report from last year:

Local chemist Wilma Subra has been helping test people’s blood for volatile solvents, and said levels of benzene among cleanup workers, divers, fishermen and crabbers are as high as 36 times that of the general population.

“As the event progresses we are seeing more and more people who are desperately ill,” she said.

“Clearly it is showing that this is ongoing exposure,” Subra said, noting that pathways include contact with the skin, eating contaminated seafood or breathing polluted air.

“We have been asking the federal agencies to please provide medical care from physicians who are trained in toxic exposure.”

She said she has received no response.

The most devastating exposé on the Deepwater Horizon disaster came from Greg Palast, who wrote a two-part report for EcoWatch.  A British investigative television program – Dispatches – sent Palast into Baku, Azerbaijan, with a cameraman to investigate a whistleblower’s report that in September of 2008, a BP off-shore rig in the Caspian Sea suffered a nearly identical blow-out to the Deepwater Horizon incident.  BP concealed the true cause and extent of the Caspian Sea event from the U.S. regulators and Congress.  From Part One:

The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival.  But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their fate.

One cause of the blow-outs was the same in both cases:  the use of a money-saving technique – plugging holes with “quick-dry” cement.

By hiding the disastrous failure of its penny-pinching cement process in 2008, BP was able to continue to use the dangerous methods in the Gulf of Mexico – causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  April 20 marks the second anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster.

There were several failures in common to the two incidents identified by the eyewitness.  He is an industry insider whose identity and expertise we have confirmed.  His name and that of other witnesses we contacted must be withheld for their safety.

The failures revolve around the use of “quick-dry” cement, the uselessness of blow-out preventers, “mayhem” in evacuation procedures and an atmosphere of fear which prevents workers from blowing the whistle on safety problems.

In Part Two of the report, Greg Palast revealed that one of the classified cables leaked by Private Bradley Manning through WikiLeaks.org to The Guardian was a briefing from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan to the State Department in Washington.  The cable summarized information obtained from Bill Schrader, President of BP-Azerbaijan, about the cause and extent of the 2008 blowout.  The collusion of the State Department in this cover-up became an important aspect of Palast’s report:

From other sources, we discovered the cement which failed had been mixed with nitrogen as a way to speed up drying, a risky process that was repeated on the Deepwater Horizon.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance and senior attorney for Natural Resources Defense Council, calls the concealment of this information, “criminal.  We have laws that make it illegal to hide this.”

The cables also reveal that BP’s oil-company partners knew about the blow-out but they too concealed the information from Congress, regulators and the Securities Exchange Commission.  BP’s major U.S. partners in the Caspian Sea drilling operation were Chevron and Exxon.

*   *   *

Kennedy’s particular concern goes to the connivance of the State Department, then headed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the cover-up and deception.  Chevron, noted Kennedy, named an oil tanker after Rice who had served on the oil company’s board of directors.  “BP felt comfortable – and Chevron and Exxon – in informing the Bush State Department, which was run by Condoleezza Rice,” he said, “and they felt comfortable that that wasn’t going to come out.”

The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission requires companies to report “material” events.  BP filed a “20-F” report in 2009 stating, “a subsurface gas release occurred below the Central Azeri platform,” suggesting a naturally occurring crack in the seafloor, not a blow-out.  This contradicted the statements of three eyewitnesses and the secret statement of BP’s Azerbaijan President in then WikiLeaks cable.

“The three big actors, Chevron, Exxon and BP all concealed this from the American public,” concludes Kennedy.  “This is a criminal activity.”

At this point, anyone who believes that Condoleezza Rice could be chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate is headed for a big disappointment.

With the passing of time, the Deepwater Horizon story isn’t getting any better.  It just keeps getting worse.


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Nasty Cover-Up Gets Exposed

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Ever since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster occurred on that horrible, twentieth day of April 2010, I have been criticizing the cover-up concerning the true extent of this tragedy.  Sitting here in my tinfoil hat, I felt frustrated that the mainstream media had been facilitating the obfuscation by British Petroleum and the Obama administration in their joint efforts to conceal an ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Corexit.  On July 22 of that year, I wrote a piece entitled, “BP Buys Silence of Expert Witnesses”.  On August 26 of 2010, I expressed my cynicism in a piece entitled “Keeping Americans Dumb”:

As time drags on, it is becoming more apparent that both BP and the federal government are deliberately trying to conceal the extent of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

I got some good news this week when I learned that the mainstream media are finally beginning to acknowledge the extent of this cover-up.  While reading an essay by Gerri Miller for Forbes, I learned about a new documentary concerning the untold story of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster:  The Big Fix.

Once my enthusiasm was sparked, I began reading all I could find about this new documentary, which was co-produced by Peter Fonda.  The Guardian (at its Environment Blog) provided this useful analysis of the movie:

The Big Fix, by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, re-opens some of the most persistent questions about last year’s oil spill.  How BP was able to exert so much control over the crisis as it unfolded?  What were the long-term health consequences of using a toxic chemical, Corexit, to break up the oil and drive it underwater?

Rebecca Tickell herself had a serious reaction to the chemical after being out on the open water – and as it turned out so did the doctor she consulted in an Alabama beach town.  She still has health problems.

Josh Tickell, who grew up in Louisiana, said the Obama administration’s decision to allow the use of Corexit, which is banned in Britain, was the biggest surprise in the making of the film.

“The most shocking thing to me was the disregard with which the people of the Gulf region were dealt,” Tickell said.

“Specifically I think that there was sort of a turn-a-blind-eye attitude towards the spraying of dispersants to clean up the spill. I don’t think anyone wanted to look too deeply at the consequences.”

Gerri Miller’s article for Forbes provided more insight on what the film revealed about the injuries sustained by people in the local shrimping communities:

Dean Blanchard, whose shrimp processing company was once the largest in the U.S., has seen his supply dwindle to “less than 1 percent of the shrimp we produced before.  We get shrimp with oil in the gills and shrimp with no eyes.  The fish are dead and there are no dolphins swimming around my house.”  He knows five people who worked on cleanup crews who have died, and he suffers from sinus and throat problems.  Former shrimper Margaret Curole‘s healthy 31-year-old son worked two months on the cleanup and became so sick from dispersant exposure that he lost 52 pounds and is now unable to walk without a cane. “Most of the seafood is dead or toxic.  I wouldn’t feed it to my cat,” said her husband Kevin Curole, a fifth-generation shrimper who, like Blanchard, had friends who died from Corexit exposure.  “I used to be a surfer but I won’t go in the water anymore,” he said.  “The last time I did my eyes and lips were burning.”

EcoWatch warned us that the movie can be emotionally upsetting:

When you watch how the the Gulf residents captured in The Big Fix have been affected by Corexit and the spill, beware, it is both heart wrenching and frightening.  When you see Gulf residents driven to tears by this environmental tragedy, you want to cry with them. Rebecca, herself, was seriously sickened by Corexit during their filming in the Gulf.

When you listen to eco-activist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of champion of the seas Jacques-Yves Cousteau, state so emotionally in the film, “We’re being lied to,” you realize the truth about the Gulf oil spill is being covered up.

The most informative essay about The Big Fix was written by Jerry Cope for The Huffington Post.  The “official trailer” for the film can be seen here.

Ernest Hardy of LA Weekly emphasized how the film hammered away at the mainstream media complicity in the cover-up:

Josh Tickell, a Louisiana native, had two questions he wanted answered when he set out to make his documentary:  What were we not told by the media in the days and weeks immediately following the April 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and what haven’t we been told since the story faded from the news cycle?  If The Big Fix had simply tackled those questions, the story uncovered would be maddening:  BP’s repeated flaunting of safety codes; their blatant disregard for the lives of individuals and communities devastated by the spill; collusion among the U.S. government (from local to the White House), the media, and BP to hide the damage and avoid holding anyone accountable.  The film’s scope is staggering, including its detailed outlining of BP’s origins and fingerprints across decades of unrest in Iran.  By doing smart, covert reporting that shames our news media, by interviewing uncensored journalists, by speaking with locals whose health has been destroyed, and by interviewing scientists who haven’t been bought by BP (many have, as the film illustrates), Fix stretches into a mandatory-viewing critique of widespread government corruption, with one of the film’s talking heads remarking, “I don’t have any long-term hope for us [as a country] unless we find a way to control campaign financing.”  And yes, the Koch brothers are major players in the fuckery.

The theme of regulatory capture played a role in Anthony Kaufman’s critique of The Big Fix for The Wall Street Journal’s “online magazine” – Speakeasy:

Tickell says that U.S. politicians, both in the Democratic and Republican parties, are too closely tied to the oil and gas industries to regulate them effectively.  “Even if these people come in with good intentions, and what to do good for their community, in order to achieve that level of leadership, they have to seek money from oil and gas,” he says.

While the film promises to take a crack at BP, Tickell says the company is more held up as a “universal example, in the way that resource extraction companies have a certain set of operating paradigms which have lead us to a situation where we have Gulf oil spills and tar sands.”

I felt that my conspiracy theory concerning this tragedy was validated after reading a review of the movie in AZGreen Magazine:

The Big Fix makes clear that the Deepwater Horizon disaster is far from over.  Filmmakers Josh and Rebecca Tickell (makers of groundbreaking films Fuel and Freedom) courageously shine the spotlight on serious aspects of the BP oil spill that were never addressed by mainstream media.  Central to the story is the corporate deception that guided both media coverage and political action on the environmental damage (and ongoing human health consequences) caused by long-term exposure to Corexit, the highly toxic dispersant that was spewed into the Gulf of Mexico by millions of gallons.   The Big Fix drills deeply beyond media reports to demystify the massive corporate cover-up surrounding the Gulf oil spill, and BP’s egregious disregard for human and environmental health.  The film exposes collusion of oil producers, chemical manufacturers, politicians and their campaign funders that resulted in excessive use of Corexit to mask the significance of the oil, and thereby reduce the penalties paid by BP.

Reading all of this makes me wonder what happened to the people, who were discussed in my July 2010 posting, “NOAA Uses Human Canaries to Test Gulf Fish”.

The movie received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, as it did in its initial screenings in the United States.  Once audiences have a deeper look at the venal nature of the Obama Administration, it will be interesting to watch for any impact on the President’s approval ratings.


 

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Suspicious Trail Of Death

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As I pointed out on June 16, I often enjoy a good conspiracy theory.  That’s just one of the reasons why I wrote a posting back on January 28, 2010 entitled, “The Conspiracy Against Conspiracy Theories”.

The Internet provides us with innumerable sources of conspiracy theories on a vast array of subjects.  A good number of people disregard all of them, as a result of a belief that any conspiracy theory is of dubious veracity.  Others look for revealing signs of a fictitious narrative.  One such indicator becomes obvious when a conspiracy story twists and turns until it eventually finds its way to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Purveyors of those stories are responsible for the anti-Semitic stigma, which the term “conspiracy theory” frequently evokes.

The latest conspiracy theory to catch my attention arises from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.  On July 22, 2010 – three months after that tragic event – I wrote a piece concerning how BP had begun a campaign of signing-up as many potential expert witnesses as could be found, not only to testify on BP’s behalf in administrative and judicial proceedings – but, more importantly – to buy their silence.  Litigation attorneys often refer to this tactic as, “buying experts off the street”.  As you can see, I have been predisposed to assume that there are likely to be more than a few conspiracies and cover-ups resulting from the Deepwater Horizon blowout.  I concluded that essay with this remark about a gentleman named Matthew Simmons:

On July 21, Bloomberg News televised an interview with Matthew Simmons, founder of the Ocean Energy Institute.  Among the subjects included in the conversation was the topic of BP’s confidentiality agreements.  If what Mr. Simmons said is correct, BP’s legal defense efforts will become futile once the public realizes “we have now killed the Gulf of Mexico”.  At least on that one point, the cretins at BP are probably not the only individuals who are hoping that Mr. Simmons is wrong.

Within a few short weeks of that posting, Matthew Simmons was found dead in his hot tub, having suffered an apparent heart attack.  I immediately became suspicious   . . .

More recently, I came across this posting at a conspiracy-oriented website called The Intel Hub.  That item was based on the investigation conducted by a group called the Real Costal Warriors, who have been concerned about the fact that since the Deepwater Horizon event occurred, nine experts, critics and whistleblowers have died under mysterious circumstances.  The Intel Hub informed us that the suspicious death toll has now included a tenth individual:

George Thomas Wainwright, a BP ROV pilot was supposedly killed in a freak shark attack in Australia.

The avid outdoorsman and Texas A&M graduate was a marine systems engineer involved with capping the Macondo well after last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wainwright – whose body was recovered by the college friends he was boating with – is the third man killed by a great white in the state in two months.

The aforementioned Matthew Simmons was included in Real Costal Warriors’ list of nine individuals who are either “dead, missing or jailed”.  One of the unfortunate nine – Anthony Nicholas Tremonte – is still alive, although he was jailed after “child porn” was allegedly found on his computer.  A similar “child porn” bust was made against another member of this list – Dr. Thomas B. Manton – who was murdered in prison.  Here is the list as it appears on the Intel Hub website:

April 2, 2011 – Tucker Mendoza, gulf truth activist, still recovering, along with his niece.  Shot four times through his front door, niece hit twice.  Anyone with information regarding this shooting incident should call St. John the Baptist Parish Detectives at 985-359-8769 or Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.

February 17, 2011 – LSU scientist Gregory Stone, 54 – Died of Unknown Illness.  Stone was an oft-quoted expert concerning the damage the leaked oil might cause to the coast.

January 26, 2011 – Anthony Nicholas Tremonte, age 31 – Mississippi Department of Marine Resources officer, from Ocean Springs arrested on child porn charge.

January 19, 2011 – Dr. Thomas B. Manton, former President and CEO of the International Oil Spill Control Corporation – imprisonment and subsequent murder while jailed.

December 31, 2010 – John P. Wheeler III, a former Pentagon official and presidential aide and a defense consultant and expert on chemical and biological weapons – was beaten to death in an assault, body was discovered in a Wilmington landfill.

November 23, 2010 – James Patrick Black, an incident commander for BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill response team, died Tuesday night near Destin, Florida in a small plane crash.

November 15, 2010 – Chitra Chaunhan, age 33, worked in the USF Center for Biological Defense and Global Health Infectious Disease Research – Found dead in an apparent suicide by cyanide at a Temple Terrace hotel.  She leaves behind a husband and a young child.

November, 2010 – MIA Status – Dr. Geoffrey Gardner of Lakeland, FL – Swan expert who “ran into legal trouble over an expired prescription license has closed his practice” — Was investigating unexplained bird deaths near Sarasota abruptly and immediately closed his practice, and apparently his investigation into the deaths of swans in Sarasota, suspected to have been impacted by the BP Oil Disaster.  No one has heard or spoken with him since. Watch this news report covering his investigation before his disappearance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqbx2TnbYlc&

October 6, 2010 – Roger Grooters, age 66, was hit by a truck as he passed through Panama City, Florida.  Mr. Grooters had been knocked down and killed close to the end of a 3,200-mile trans-America charity ride to raise awareness about the Gulf Coast oil disaster. He began his cross-country bike ride in Oceanside, California, on September 10th.  Grooters’s family and friends will cycle the final stretch of the journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic in his honour, raising cash to support Gulf Coast families.

August 9, 2010 – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, 86, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, was among nine people on board when the 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter, crashed into a brush- and rock-covered mountainside Monday afternoon about 17 miles north of the southwest Alaska fishing town of Dillingham, federal officials said.  Stevens was the recipient of a whistleblower’s communication relative to the BP Oil Disaster blow-out preventer, and a conspiracy of secrecy to hide the facts from the public.

“You and your fellow Committee members may wish to require BP to explain what action was ultimately instituted to cease the practice of falsifying BOP tests at BP Prudhoe drilling rigs.  It was a cost saving but dangerous practice, again endangering the BP workforce, until I exposed it to Senator Ted Stevens, the EPA, and the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”  The cause of the crash is still an OPEN investigation by the NTSB (http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/GenPDF.asp?id=ANC10MA068&rpt=p)

August 13, 2010 – Matthew Simmons, age 67 – Simmons’ body was found Sunday night in his hot tub, investigators said.  An autopsy by the state medical examiner’s office concluded Monday that he died from accidental drowning with heart disease as a contributing factor – “It was painful as can be” to be only insider willing to speak out against the “officials” during the BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

April 6, 2010 – Scientist Joseph Morrissey, age 46 – cell biologist and college professor, a near-native Floridian who chose to return to South Florida after studying at elite universities – was fatally shot during what police say was a home invasion robbery.

Obviously, the possibility exists that none of these incidents resulted from the involvement of these individuals in the Deepwater Horizon controversy.  In fact, there is no real connection described, which could remotely connect the death of John P. Wheeler III to Deepwater Horizon.  As for the death of George Thomas Wainwright, are we to believe that a Great White shark was trained to attack a particular individual on command?  There is an implicit suggestion that a shark attack was not the true cause of death, without any facts asserted which could bring that cause of death into question.  The number of victims is apparently being exaggerated here because, as that number increases, it seems less likely that we are looking at random coincidences.

The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Corexit presents enough suspicious circumstances and cover-ups whether or not any of these ten tragedies may have been causally connected to some aspect of the event.  Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing conspiracy theory and I’m going to keep it on my radar until it is satisfactorily debunked.


 

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Transparency Gives Way To Cover-Ups

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It hasn’t been limited to the Obama administration and it’s really catching on.  Transparency just isn’t working out anymore.  Things run much more smoothly after a good, old-fashioned cover-up.  This attitude is becoming more popular all over the world.

President Obama’s transition from transparency to opacity became obvious last summer, in his discussion about the catastrophe in the Gulf of Corexit.  Here’s how I discussed this situation on August 26, 2010:

Consider what our President said on August 4th:

“A report out today by our scientists shows that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water,” Obama said.

Beth Daley of the Boston Globe gave us another example of what our government told us about all that oil:

Earlier this month, Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief, declared that “at least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system, and most of the remainder is degrading rapidly or is being removed from the beaches.”

On August 20, we learned about the falsity of the government’s claims that the oil had magically disappeared.  The Washington Post put it this way:

Academic scientists are challenging the Obama administration’s assertion that most of BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico is either gone or rapidly disappearing — with one group Thursday announcing the discovery of a 22-mile “plume” of oil that shows little sign of vanishing.

After the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear power plant disaster in March, I immediately became suspicious about the lack of transparency concerning that crisis:

A good deal of the frustration experienced by those attempting to ascertain the status of the potential nuclear hazards at Fukushima, was obviously due to the control over information flow exercised by the Japanese government.  I began to suspect that President Obama might have dispatched a team of Truth Suppressors from the Gulf of Corexit to assist the Japanese government with spin control.

More recently, Vivian Norris reported on what she has learned about the extent of radioactive contamination resulting from the Fukushima events in the Huffington Post.  In the middle of the piece, she took a step back and shared a reaction that many of us were experiencing:

Why is this not on the front page of every single newspaper in the world?  Why are official agencies not measuring from many places around the world and reporting on what is going on in terms of contamination every single day since this disaster happened?  Radioactivity has been being released now for almost two full months!  Even small amounts when released continuously, and in fact especially continuous exposure to small amounts of radioactivity, can cause all kinds of increases in cancers.

In the United States, the EPA has apparently become so concerned that the plume of radioactivity may have contaminated fish, which are being caught off the Pacific coast and served-up at our fine restaurants – that the agency has decided to cut back on radiation monitoring.  That’s right.  Thorough radiation testing of water and fish causes too much transparency – and that’s bad for business.  Susanne Rust of California Watch discussed the reaction this news elicited from a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Public Employees – uh-oh!):

The EPA and the Food and Drug Administration increased their radiation monitoring efforts after a massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

But on May 3, the EPA announced [PDF] in a press release that it was falling back to a business-as-usual schedule of radiation monitoring, citing “consistently decreasing radiation levels.”

*   *   *

“With the Japanese nuclear situation still out of control and expected to continue that way for months and with elevated radioactivity continuing to show up in the U.S., it is inexplicable that EPA would shut down its Fukushima radiation monitoring effort,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the watchdog group, in a statement.

*   *   *

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the EPA has proposed raising their guideline radiation limits, or Protection Action Guides.  These values are used to guide decision makers about when a clean up is needed after a nuclear incident.

According to Ruch, the new clean up standards are “thousands of times more lax than anything the EPA has ever before accepted.”

Documents obtained by the watchdog group [PDF] via the Freedom of Information Act indicate the EPA made a decision to approve the revised guidelines months ago, but has yet to make a formal announcement.

Meanwhile, aversion to transparency is now being discussed in Geneva.  John Heilprin is reporting for the Associated Press that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is considering a reversal of its policy of transparency regarding how it spends the billions of dollars contributed to it.  Mr. Heilprin’s report discusses the hostile reaction to this suggestion – which resulted from revelations (by the organization’s internal transparency program) that the fund lost millions of dollars as a result of fraud and mismanagement.  The proposed solution:  to hell with transparency!  Be sure to read Heilprin’s entire report.  It presents a fine example of the latest trend in coping with the “transparency problem”.


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More Bad News From The Gulf

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The never-ending catastrophe caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout receives minimal coverage by the mainstream media.  An onslaught of awful news continues to flow out from the Gulf of Corexit, although interested citizens seeking to access that information need to do a little “drilling” of their own find it.  As I noted just before November’s mid-term elections, the BP-sponsored, lamestream media seem more than happy with the claim of  “mission accomplished” voiced by Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft (the man in charge of the federal response to the disaster) and his top science adviser, Steve Lehmann.  Last July, I discussed the rather peculiar and questionable response to the crisis provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  I focused on NOAA’s bizarre program of using “human canaries” to perform smell and taste tests on Gulf fish to ascertain the presence of contaminants.  No kidding.

Since last summer, I have been keeping up with the Gulf of Corexit tragedy by checking in on Washington’s Blog, which has done a diligent job of keeping the spotlight on everything that has been going on with the cover-up investigation of the events that have transpired both before and after the blowout event.  This posting from October 23 provided some links to a number of genuinely scary stories concerning some awful physiological consequences experienced by those who have been immersed in that toxic environment.  More recently, Washington’s Blog discussed a proposal by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to “force the good men and women in our armed services” to eat Gulf coast seafood.

While our government persists in contriving grizzly science fair projects involving human consumption of seafood from the Gulf of Corexit, the concerned people at the Florida Oil Spill Law website continue to provide a number of important revelations that will come as quite a surprise to those who have been preoccupied with Christina Aguilera’s divorce.  A visit to that site provides links to stories such as this report by Randy Kistner of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

It all started on a warm spring night last May in the fertile fishing grounds near Barataria Bay.  BP’s busted undersea well was in its early days of eruption, spewing more than two million gallons of Louisiana crude into the sea each day.  Todd and Darla were trawling at night near the Gulf in Four Bayou Pass, trying to capture as many shrimp as they could before the offshore oil finally made its way to the coast.  Unknown to Todd and Darla, that night would be the first time the massive oil and chemical dispersant mix began pouring into the Barataria Bay.

Darla remembers what it felt that night after she was doused with water that she believes was full of oil and dispersants.  It was like being covered in stinging jellyfish, she says, except there were no jellyfish to be found.

“My husband shook the nets and water went on me.  I didn’t have a menstrual period for four months.  I had rash, itching irritated skin, something similar to bronchitis which I’ve never had.  It lasted for three or four months.  Eye irritations, heart pains, heart palpitations, involuntary muscles jumping all over my body, and continuous headaches day and night … all I would get is a about a 15 minute to a 20 minute break  from pain relievers that are specifically designed to get rid of headaches, that’s the only break I would get.   And I had to eat those 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three to four months … And they want to tell me to eat the seafood?  Why don’t they eat the seafood.  I’ll go catch them and I’ll throw BP a big old boil … I’m not eating it.”

On November 29, Florida Oil Spill Law provided a link to this video report appearing at the Local 15 TV website:

“Still in shock”:  Alabama shrimpers find catch “coated in oil” at area open for fishing — Boat to be decontaminated

Meanwhile, those who rely on the mainstream media for information about the current situation in the Gulf can expect to find reports such as this passage from a December 9 piece appearing in The Miami Herald:

Claims have come from all types of South Florida businesses and residents.  They include commercial fishermen, marinas, restaurants, hotels, dive watering holes, real estate agents, waterfront property owners, lobster trap makers, municipalities and even Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum in Key West.

Some find it hard to believe these claims.  After all, the spill occurred hundreds of miles away and not one drop of oil has reached South Florida’s waters, shorelines or beaches.

“It wasn’t the reality.  It was the perception that hurt us, and is still affecting us,” said Harold Wheeler, executive director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.  “Many people think we got the oil — and still have it.”

On the other hand, some find it hard to believe the information they are being fed by the mainstream media, NOAA and other government agencies.  Of course, there is never a shortage of people anxious to jump on the bandwagon to file bogus claims in the wake of a disaster.  Nevertheless, the concern held by many of us in South Florida is that if there are potentially harmful levels of contaminants presently in the waters off the Florida Keys – it could be a long time before we find out about them.



Keeping Americans Dumb

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August 26, 2010

Much has been written lately about the fact that Americans are becoming increasingly dumb.  How has this happened?  Some commentators have expressed the opinion that young people spend too much time playing video games and not enough time reading.  Whatever the cause, the statistics are shocking.  Lloyd de Vries recently did a report for CBS News concerning a Roper Poll of people aged 18-24, conducted for National Geographic.  Despite the wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Katrina, one-third of those polled could not locate Louisiana on a map.  Only 50 percent could locate New York State on a map.  Sixty percent could not locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East.  A recent Gallup Poll revealed more of the same:

When Americans are asked to identify the country from which America gained its independence, 76% correctly name Great Britain.  A handful, 2%, think America’s freedom was won from France, 3% mention some other country (including Russia, China, and Mexico, among others named), while 19% are unsure.

*   *   *

Only 66% of those aged 18-29 know that America gained its independence from England, compared to 79% of those aged 30 and older.

My favorite result from that poll was the revelation that 18 percent of the respondents believe that the sun revolves around the earth.  Roll over, Copernicus!

After reading so much of the news coverage concerning the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico (it’s west of Florida and south of the Alabama – Mississippi border) I’m beginning to suspect that the news and entertainment industries are responsible for dumbing-down Americans.  While we’re at it – we should be mindful of the role of the United States government in this effort.  Consider what our President said on August 4th:

“A report out today by our scientists shows that the vast majority of the spilled oil has been dispersed or removed from the water,” Obama said.

Beth Daley of the Boston Globe gave us another example of what our government told us about all that oil:

Earlier this month, Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief, declared that “at least 50 percent of the oil that was released is now completely gone from the system, and most of the remainder is degrading rapidly or is being removed from the beaches.’’

On August 20, we learned about the falsity of the government’s claims that the oil had magically disappeared.  The Washington Post put it this way:

Academic scientists are challenging the Obama administration’s assertion that most of BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico is either gone or rapidly disappearing — with one group Thursday announcing the discovery of a 22-mile “plume” of oil that shows little sign of vanishing.

As time drags on, it is becoming more apparent that both BP and the federal government are deliberately trying to conceal the extent of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon blowout.  Lisa Hooper-Bui is a professor of entomology at Louisiana State University.  She recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times, discussing the frustration experienced by scientists (including herself) who are attempting to measure the impact of this event on the environment.  As it turns out, unless you know “the secret handshake” – you might as well give up because you ain’t findin’ out nuttin’:

The problem is that researchers for BP and the government are being kept quiet, and their data is unavailable to the rest of the community.  When damages to the gulf are assessed in court or Congress, there might not be enough objective data to make a fair judgment.

*   *   *

Independent researchers like me and my team — we study the effect of things like oil and dispersants on insects — have had to rely on the meager discretionary funds provided by our university departments, particularly in the early weeks of the disaster.  And, as the weeks have rolled into months, we have found ourselves blocked from a widening list of sites, all of which are integral to completing our investigations.

America’s dumbed-down “sheeple” have been conditioned by the news media to disregard accounts of cover-ups, unless such accounts have been authorized by the corporate sponsors of those news outlets.  The expression “conspiracy theory” is invoked to serve as a stamp of falsehood on any factual account running contrary to a mainstream-approved narrative.  The usual tactics involve the use of such terms as “grassy knoll” or “Oliver Stone” as though the evidence disputing the “single bullet theory” of President Kennedy’s assassination has been conclusively discredited and that anyone who rejects the Warren Report is a fool.  (In fact, the most recent of the thousands of books on this subject —  Head Shot by physicist G. Paul Chambers, PhD — demonstrates that the physics behind the lone-gunman theory is not only wrong — but scientifically impossible.)

Uncritical reliance of the authority of the “mainstream” news media (and – for that matter – whatever can be found on the Internet) has also served to “dumb-down” Americans in a big way.  The horizons of our reality have been crimped to exclude “troublesome” information and our attention has been focused on American Idol drivel.  I was reminded of another example of the “conspiracy theory” stigma when I stumbled across this piece, appearing in the Financial Times, which was co-authored by President Clinton’s former Chief of Staff, John Podesta.  The article presented a great argument for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest two percent of households.  When I saw Podesta’s name, I was reminded of his position on another so-called, “cover-up conspiracy theory” —  the subject of UFOs and what the government really knows about them.  Here is a video clip of John Podesta making the case for disclosure of data compiled by the United States government on the subject.  In a speech before the National Press Club on November 14, 2007, Mr. Podesta said this:

“I think it’s time to open the books” (on government investigations of UFOs).    .  .  .  “We ought to do it because it’s right.  We ought to do it because the American people, quite frankly, CAN handle the truth and we ought to do it because it’s the law.”

Yes, the truth is out there  —  but if you limit your information intake to what you are fed by the mainstream media (or any other authoritarian source) – you might not find it.



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NOAA Uses Human Canaries To Test Gulf Fish

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July 5, 2010

I recently checked in on the website for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) for the latest update on the Deepwater Horizon oil plume.  The site features a map depicting the “fishery closure area” – a rather huge section of the Gulf of Mexico consisting of over 81,000 square miles — where fishing is prohibited.  I immediately began to wonder whether some of the toxic fish from the fishery closure area might swim outside of their boundary and find their way onto someone’s plate.  Apparently, the folks at NOAA thought of that themselves, so they developed a testing protocol to ascertain whether Gulf fish intended for human consumption might have been contaminated with petrochemicals and/or Corexit – the creepy dispersant that has been banned in Britain, although it has been used extensively in response to the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.  Corexit 9500, when ingested, has been known to rupture red blood cells and cause internal bleeding.  Here is the Material Safety Data Sheet for Corexit 9500, where you can find this useful tidbit:

HUMAN HAZARD CHARACTERIZATION :  Based on our hazard characterization, the potential human hazard is:  Moderate

What do you think NOAA’s Gulf fish testing protocol involves?  Gas chromatography?  Scanning electron microscopy?  Guess again.  They’re having people sniff the fish to determine whether it has been tainted.  No kidding.  Check it out:

NOAA’s expert seafood assessors are training state personnel to use their sense of smell and taste to detect any unusual odors and flavors in Gulf Coast fish — aromas that could indicate contamination by oil or dispersants from the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

*   *   *

Using your sense of smell is one of the best methods for determining the safety and acceptability of seafood  — sensory analysis is a commonly used tool in seafood safety and quality inspections.  An essential element of the job of a NOAA seafood inspector is to determine what qualifies as Grade A fish, which means that seafood must have good flavor and odor.

*   *   *

People are trained by exposing them to various kinds and concentrations of odors and flavors.  This process takes time.  Some people, unfortunately, are not trainable — some just don’t have an adequate sense of smell to do this work.  However, most people have a sense that can be trained to detect specific odors and refined for enhanced sensitivity.

*   *   *

The Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill is on a scale we’ve never seen before, and we can use all the extra hands — and nostrils — we can get.  We are expecting to process tens of thousands of samples in the coming months.

What are sensory testers “sniffing” for?

Sensory testers smell for the distinct scent of oil or chemicals that might differ from the normal odor of fish and shellfish ready for market.  When we get a whiff of oil in a seafood sample, we know that the product is unfit for both human consumption and for commercial sale.

In “harmonization” class, we spike fish samples with set concentrations  of oil specific to the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill, as well as dispersants, to determine how sensitive our testers and trainees are.

Learning to discern an odor or flavor and properly describing it is something that comes from experience.  Some odors or flavors are easily masked by a competing odor or flavor so the training and evaluations need to take place in a controlled setting such as a laboratory.  We train people to not only fine-tune their sense of smell to the oil and dispersants from this particular spill, but also to be able to repeat their sensory abilities and standardize how they describe what they are smelling.

*   *  *

For fish like snapper and grouper, we collect a minimum of six, one-pound samples.  First, the fish are filleted.  Then, a panel of 10 expert assessors will smell each of the raw samples and record the odor.  The samples are then cooked, and the process is repeated so that the experts may smell and taste the fish in its cooked state.

Cooking the product is important for two reasons:  First, it releases aromas that may be less detectable in a raw state.  Second, some of the testers may be more sensitive to the smell of cooked fish versus raw fish.  Either way, smelling both raw and cooked samples assures that our testers can detect the full aromatic possibilities of the fish.

This “sniff testing” struck me as a really stupid idea.  It doesn’t sound reliable at all.  It is based on the presumption that hazardous levels of numerous chemicals — often in combination —  can be detected by the human olfactory sense.  Has NOAA considered that these fish sniffers might be getting exposed to hazardous chemicals at levels in excess of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for these substances?   How many parts per million of the various petrochemicals are the testers ingesting when they sniff this fish on a continuous basis?  Worse yet:  How much do they ingest when they eat the fish?   I would love to hear the opinion from an independent, objective panel of occupational hygienists about this testing protocol.

NOAA’s fish-sniffing project appears to be just another example of how a stupid mistake  (allowing the  Deepwater Horizon to operate in the first place) sets off a chain reaction of even more stupid mistakes.  Let’s hope the people involved with this testing don’t suffer any unhealthful consequences from this activity.  Aside from the risk of adverse physical effects, there is also a good chance that these people signed a release —  exculpating “the usual suspects” from any and all liability arising from injuries sustained while conducting these tests.  No good deed shall go unpunished.



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Living Up To A Title

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June 7, 2010

It was back on April 9, 2009 – before President Obama had completed his third month in office – when I first referred to him as the “Disappointer-in-Chief”.  I concluded that piece with this gloomy prediction:

If President Obama does not change course and deviate from the Geithner-Summers plan before it’s too late, his legacy will be a ten-year recession rather than a two-year recession without the PPIP.  Worse yet, the toughest criticism and the most pressure against his administration are coming from people he has considered his supporters.  At least he has the people at Fox News to provide some laughable “decoy” reports to keep his hard-core adversaries otherwise occupied.

Just two weeks earlier —  on March 23, 2009 – I had been discussing the widespread apprehension over Obama’s planned bailout of the largest banks (the so-called “Financial Stability Plan” which later morphed into the PPIP).  At that point, Frank Rich of The New York Times made a premature use of the term “Obama’s Katrina moment”.

With the arrival of Obama’s real “Katrina moment” — by way of the Deepwater Horizon blowout –  we are again hearing a chorus of criticism directed against the Obama administration, not unlike what we heard during those first few months.  Now that our new President has established a track record of bad decisions, let’s take a look at some reactions from people the Fox News will insist are loyal Obama supporters.  First we had Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, who delivered a one-two punch to the man she has called “Barry” (when mad at him) on May 29 and June 1:

In the campaign, Obama’s fight flagged to the point that his donors openly upbraided him.  In the Oval, he waited too long to express outrage and offer leadership on A.I.G., the banks, the bonuses, the job loss and mortgage fears, the Christmas underwear bomber, the death panel scare tactics, the ugly name-calling of Tea Party protesters.

Too often it feels as though Barry is watching from a balcony, reluctant to enter the fray until the clamor of the crowd forces him to come down.  The pattern is perverse.  The man whose presidency is rooted in his ability to inspire withholds that inspiration when it is most needed.

Ouch!  If that weren’t enough, Ms. Dowd’s June 1 punch had to hurt:

This president has made it clear that he’s not comfortable outside whatever domain he’s defined.  But unless he wants his story to be marred by a pattern of passivity, detachment, acquiescence and compromise, he’d better seize control of the story line of his White House years.  Woe-is-me is not an attractive narrative.

Also at The New York Times, Frank Rich expressed his impatience with the President – now that the real “Katrina moment” has arrived:

We still want to believe that Obama is on our side, willing to fight those bad corporate actors who cut corners and gambled recklessly while regulators slept, Congress raked in contributions, and we got stuck with the wreckage and the bills.  But his leadership style keeps sowing confusion about his loyalties, puncturing holes in the powerful tale he could tell.

*   *   *

No high-powered White House meetings or risk analyses were needed to discern how treacherous it was to trust BP this time.  An intern could have figured it out.  But the credulous attitude toward BP is no anomaly for the administration.  Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs was praised by the president as a “savvy” businessman two months before the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Goldman.  Well before then, there had been a flood of journalistic indicators that Goldman under Blankfein may have gamed the crash and the bailout.

It’s this misplaced trust in elites both outside the White House and within it that seems to prevent Obama from realizing the moment that history has handed to him.  Americans are still seething at the bonus-grabbing titans of the bubble and at the public and private institutions that failed to police them.  But rather than embrace a unifying vision that could ignite his presidency, Obama shies away from connecting the dots as forcefully and relentlessly as the facts and Americans’ anger demand.

Back on December 14, I pointed out how the so-called “race card” has not been a free pass for the Disappointer-in-Chief:

As we approach the conclusion of Obama’s first year in the White House, it has become apparent that the Disappointer-in-Chief has not only alienated the Democratic Party’s liberal base, but he has also let down a demographic he thought he could take for granted:  the African-American voters.  At this point, Obama has “transcended race” with his ability to dishearten loyal black voters just as deftly as he has chagrined loyal supporters from all ethnic groups.

The most recent example of this phenomenon appeared in the form of an opinion piece by Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Here is some of what Mr. Norman had to say:

At a Memorial Day dinner I attended, there wasn’t just disappointment with Mr. Obama’s inability to find his inner Huey Long — there was an undercurrent of genuine anger.

It went far beyond the handling of the BP crisis.  As far as anyone can tell, there isn’t much to distinguish Mr. Obama’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq from his predecessor’s.

Beyond the Deepwater Horizon, Mr. Obama has been a disappointment on civil liberties, banking reform, military spending, the drug war, Middle East policy, immigration and the environment.  Political gamesmanship and calculation of the rankest kind continue.  Even his latest Supreme Court nominee shows every indication of being as colorless as the president has proven to be in recent months.  It’s too much to expect this president to champion a progressive Supreme Court candidate.

Meanwhile, the corrupt culture of Wall Street continues to set the agenda, thanks to cowardly Democrats and nihilistic Republicans.  Accountability is as much a dirty word for Mr. Obama as it was for President George W. Bush.

*   *   *

Honestly, other than the particularities of the historical record, it no longer makes sense to blame Mr. Bush for much when Mr. Obama has done little — other than improvise a less belligerent foreign policy — to distinguish himself from the 43rd president.

I won’t spoil the rest of Mr. Norman’s article.  Just be sure to read it.  (Hint:  It includes some nice speculation about how the new President was likely pulled aside by some members of the plutocracy, who gave him “The Talk”.)

Meanwhile, the Presidential disappointments continue.  It appears as though we are going to wait for God to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.  Since we have left it to God to do the wetlands protection and the clean-up, this shouldn’t be too surprising.   I’m beginning to suspect that President Obama’s religious ideas are even more far-out than those of President Bush. –  It’s just that President Obama doesn’t talk about them.





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This Flip Is Bound To Flop

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August 4, 2008

Most of the criticism directed against Barack Obama this past week concerned what has been described as his “Celebrity” status.   The McCain camp actually believes that this theme hurts Obama.  Greg Sargent reported in TalkingPointsMemo.com that McCain is spending over $140,000 per day to run the ad featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.  This, according to Sargent, amounts to roughly one third of McCain’s TV ad spending.  Meanwhile, many of us in the audience are wondering whether this ad campaign may actually be helping Obama.  Given America’s fascination with celebrities, might some people be motivated to vote for Obama simply to put a celebrity in the White House?

For his part, Obama disappointed many of us last week with his “flip” on the issue of offshore oil drilling.  There is unanimous consensus among experts on the point that planning new offshore oil rigs will do nothing to effect the availability of gasoline for approximately ten years.  By then, we will likely have the infrastructure and technology available for cost-effective electric cars.  Nevertheless, Obama appeared to be reacting to mounting pressure from the Republicans to allow for more offshore drilling.  Worse yet, new poll results reveal that a majority of Americans actually believe that enacting legislation to permit more offshore drilling would reduce the price of gasoline now.  A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released on July 30 revealed that 69% of the respondents favored offshore drilling, with 51% actually believing that legislation approving increased offshore drilling would lower oil prices within the next year.  The people participating in these polls were probably the same poll participants who expressed belief (and who probably still do believe) that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the September 11 attacks.  Rather than attempting to educate those “low information voters” on the futility of planning more oil platforms to solve today’s problems, Obama has chosen to drink the Kool Aid favored by McCain and announce that he supports expanded offshore drilling.  One would have expected this issue to die when McCain had to cancel a speech he was going to give on an oil rig, because of Hurricane Dolly on July 24.  If he wanted to, Obama could have chosen to ridicule McCain for this failed stunt and criticize McCain’s claim that Hurricanes Rita and Katrina did not damage any oil rigs located in the Gulf of Mexico.  As reported by Michael Shear of The Washington Post on July 23, those hurricanes actually destroyed 113 oil rigs, contrary to McCain’s claim.

The article by Adam Smith and Wes Allison of The St. Petersburg Times on August 1, contrasted Obama’s earlier campaign promise with his current position.  Quoting a speech given by the candidate early this summer, they included this passage:

“And when I am president,” Obama said in June in Chicago, “I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts.  That’s how we can protect our coasts and still make the investments that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down gas prices for good.”

Obama’s new position on this subject goes back to that same type of compromise we saw him demonstrate by voting in favor of the FISA “wiretap” bill.  The voting public is not likely to see this type of weak compromise as the sort of “change” promised by the sign on the podium.

Looking back to Jonathan Darman’s July 11 article for Newsweek, he discussed the results of their poll taken on July 9 – 10.  Senator Obama voted in favor of the controversial FISA bill on July 9 (after having discussed his intention to do so a week earlier).  This poll revealed that the Democrat lost his 12-point lead among independent voters and fell behind McCain among independents by 7 points.  The people “sitting on the fence”, the independents, are the voters tracking Obama’s campaign moves with the most scrutiny.  They are also the voters he needs most.  This latest “flip” in favor of offshore oil drilling could have the same effect on the independent voters as his vote in favor of FISA.  Given Obama’s concern about the poll results concerning the popularity of offshore drilling, the next poll results to show the impact of his position change on this subject, particularly from the perspective of independent voters, might give him a good scare.