Tag Archives: obama

BP says mud has plugged well……but for how long???!

Clifford Krauss NEW YORK TIMES

HOUSTON—An operation that pumped heavy drilling mud to plug BP’s runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has been so successful that Obama administration officials said on Wednesday they are convinced it will never leak again.

BP began the effort, known as a static kill, late Tuesday and stopped pumping after about eight hours to verify that they had filled the Macondo well with mud without springing any new leaks.

Senior government scientists and BP engineers combed through data throughout the day to evaluate the condition of the well piping and whether it made sense to pour cement for a final plug from a surface ship above the well or through a relief well still being drilled.

Technicians said a decision whether to fill the well with cement this week might come later in day. But they said there was no doubt the static kill represented a major step in finally bringing the volatile well under control.

“We have reached a static position in the well that allows us to have high confidence that there will be no oil leaking into the environment,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, head of the federal spill response told reporters at a White House briefing. “And we have significantly improved our chances to finally kill the well with the relief well.”

The successful maneuver came almost four months after the well blew out, gushing nearly 780 million litres of crude into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 rig workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20. For nearly three months engineers repeatedly failed in their attempts to cap or contain the spill, until they finally were able to fit a tight fitting cap on the well three weeks ago.

President Obama, who had suffered political damage from the perception that he was slow to respond to the crisis, hailed what he called “the welcome news.” In a speech to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., he said, “The long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end.”

In the static kill procedure, engineers poured an estimated 2,000 barrels of mud at slow but gradually accelerating speeds from a surface vessel through a choke line into the blowout preventer on top of the well and into the oil reservoir.

Engineers still must determine if there are any leaks anywhere outside the production casing, an effort that requires careful readings of pressure fluctuations in the well. If there are no new leaks, government scientists and BP engineers will probably decide to plug the well with cement from the top, engineers following the process said.

But if they find leaks, the engineers said, they will need to fill the well with cement from the bottom through one of two relief wells being drilled. The first relief well, now 30 metres from intersecting the well, is scheduled to be completed by Aug.15. A second will be done shortly after that in case the first well misses its mark.

The static kill may only plug the centre of the well pipe, and not the portion of the well called the annulus between the inner piping and the outer casing. The relief well can intercept both, if the static kill cannot fill the entire pipe.

In the end, BP and government technicians may decide to plug the well with cement both from the top and the bottom for extra insurance that the well will never leak again.


Barack Obama…US’ knight in shining armor???

Obama gives downbeat assessment of Mideast peace prospects, says 2 sides may give up

By Anne Gearan, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama gave a surprisingly downbeat assessment Tuesday of the chances for a U.S.-brokered peace settlement in the Middle East, saying that the United States cannot help if Israel and the Palestinians decide they cannot negotiate.

The two sides “may say to themselves, ‘We are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear,”‘ Obama said.

Obama reiterated that peace is a vital goal, but one that may be beyond reach “even if we are applying all of our political capital.”

Obama was responding to a question about whether the successful negotiation of a new arms control treaty with Russia and the agreements he won at this week’s nuclear summit could help him make gains elsewhere. His words are a recognition that although he pledged to work hard for a deal from his first day in office, Obama has gotten little traction in the decades-old conflict.

The United States is pushing for new Israeli-Palestinian talks in which the the Obama administration would be a go-between. Previous talks broke off more than a year ago, and despite shuttle diplomacy and unusual pressure on ally Israel, the Obama administration has been unable to reach even the modest goal of new talks.

Obama spoke at the close of a conference on securing nuclear materials. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skipped the meeting because, a spokesman said, Israel thought it would devolve into “Israel-bashing.”

Israel sent a lower-level delegation instead. Israel is presumed to have nuclear weapons, although it does not say one way or the other.

Netanyahu acknowledged last week that his government has yet to resolve its differences with the United States over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, a dispute that has stymied American efforts to restart peace talks.

Netanyahu said both countries still are working to find a solution but staunchly defended his government’s contentious settlement plans in the disputed holy city, calling them a long-standing Israeli policy.

“There are things we agree on, things we don’t agree on, things we are closing the gap on,” Netanyahu said of his talks with Washington. “We are making an effort.”

The worst crisis in U.S.-Israeli ties in years erupted last month when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem during a visit by Vice-President Joe Biden, drawing sharp condemnation from Washington and calls to cancel the construction. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine in any two-state solution.

The announcement derailed a plan for third-party talks, in which each side would talk to a U.S. mediator, who would relay messages to the other. Obama had wanted a resumption of full, direct talks between the Israeli leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. officials settled for a pledge from both sides to engage in the awkward indirect talks, saying it was a step toward something better. That lesser goal is now in doubt, with each side blaming the other for delaying the start of talks.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said he never claimed that inaction toward a peace deal puts American soldiers at risk, and that he does not blame Israel for the lack of a deal so far.

Gen. David Petraeus told a Washington audience that a policy statement he submitted to Congress last month was misconstrued and misquoted by media and online commentators. The statement lists the unresolved status of Palestinians as a complicating factor in the region, and says there is a sense among many who live there that the United States is biased toward Israel.

Petraeus did not back off those assertions, but he said that in hindsight he wishes his statement had made clear that Israel is a valued strategic ally and will remain one.

“That’s something we should and could have included,” Petraeus said during an address to the Woodrow Wilson Center, “just to make sure there was no misperception about what we were implying by this.”


Canada in Charge???!!!…bout time eh…

U.S. surge in Afghanistan likely to highlight Canadian role in Kandahar

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The United States is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the hopes of breaking an insurgency that has engulfed the country’s southern regions, where Canadian troops have been holding Kandahar city.

President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy for U.S. forces that included a military surge, a focus on improving civilian institutions and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

“We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum,” he said in the speech from the West Point Military Academy in New York.

“And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.”

American soldiers gathered around television screens at Kandahar Airfield to watch the highly anticipated speech, though it failed to bump a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs broadcast near the Canadian barracks.

The speech aired at 5:30 a.m., local time, in Afghanistan and is expected to prompt an official reaction from Canadian commanders later Wednesday.

Though he didn’t specifically mention Kandahar, where most of Canada’s 2,850 troops are based, officials say the bulk of the American reinforcements will be posted to southern Afghanistan.

In an effort to regain the initiative in Kandahar, NATO commanders are putting Canada’s military command in charge of the tactically vital Arghandab district north of Kandahar city.

As a result, two full battalions of troops already in the country – one American, the other Afghan – will come under the control of Brig. Gen. Dan Menard, the commander of the Canadian contingent known as Task Force Kandahar, by the new year.

“You’ll get all these guys together focused on Arghandab under the command of Dan Menard,” said Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, director of operations for NATO’s southern command.

“I think that’s a significant manifestation of the importance of that place on the city.”

Under U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO has signalled its desire to shift the focus of counter-insurgency efforts to urban areas; Kandahar has been singled out among them.

McChrystal is expected to tour NATO bases in Afghanistan on Wednesday to outline how Obama’s strategy will be implemented.

In a statement released as Obama delivered his speech, McChrystal said his main focus will be to develop the capacity of the Afghan police and army.

“We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow,” he said.

By hastening the training of both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, Obama hopes to create a sustainable security environment that will allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops in 2011.

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” he said.

The timeframe coincides roughly with the planned end of the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan.

Speaking in Ottawa, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said earlier the decisions to focus Canadian resources on Arghandab does not signal a change in direction for the mission, nor does it threaten the vaunted “model village” project in the Dand district to the south.

The model village concept, largely credited to Menard’s predecessor, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, is a uniquely Canadian combination of security, development and political outreach designed to win over public support and drive out insurgents in smaller rural areas outside the city.

“The Americans have paid us an enormous compliment,” MacKay said of Canada’s added responsibilities. “They trust us. They appreciate our expertise.”

The move won’t change Canada’s mind about its own scheduled 2011 exit date, “nor does it affect our ongoing responsibility with Kandahar city” and the projects already begun, he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he welcomes the increase in U.S. troops.

“We are pleased that the objectives of the U.S. policy are complementary to Canada’s own priorities,” Cannon said in a new release following Obama’s address.

“Canada has a significant civilian contingent on the ground in Afghanistan working alongside their military colleagues to ensure our programs and policies are helping the Afghan government to build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.”

Obama’s decision will put pressure on other NATO allies to either contribute more troops or in cases like Canada, extend existing commitments.

“I think it’ll have a positive influence on how other countries think about whether or not they should commit,” Hodges said in an interview prior to Obama’s announcement. “I personally… would love to see the Canadians stay here as long as is necessary, but I understand each nation has to make its own decisions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already asked France for an additional 1,500 troops to add to the 3,750 already in the country. She is seeking up to 7,000 more soldiers in all from the NATO alliance.

And while Canada is slated to begin a military pullout in 2011, some say it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Obama’s plan could influence the popular perception of the Afghan mission in Canada.

“I would suggest that if Obama had a strategy that Canadians would be at ease with, it’s not inconceivable the government would change its direction,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Terry Liston, a former chief of planning and development with the Canadian Armed Forces.

But Liston questioned whether an additional 30,000 troops would be enough to conduct a counter-insurgency properly, forcing the U.S. to rely on airstrikes and drone attacks that put civilians at risk.

With insufficient force levels, Obama would be hard-pressed to distinguish his military approach from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who focused on the counter-terrorism dimension.

“The extent that it seems to be a continuation of the (former U.S. secretary of defence Donald) Rumsfield approach, it’s not going to cause a rethink in Canada,” Liston said.