Thursday, August 5, 2010

FP morning brief 8/5

"Static Kill" ends oil leak, but questions remain over rig safety

Top story: The leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico was conclusively plugged by a method known as "static kill" early this morning. The procedure, which involved pumping 13-pound-per-gallon mud into the well for eight hours, was declared successful by BP at 2 a.m. Approximately three quarters of the estimated 5 million barrels of oil that leaked from the well has already dissipated, according to a study released yesterday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Interior Department.

However, new scrutiny is being placed on the safety record of the company, Transocean, which owned the oil rig that set off the disaster. New studies obtained by the New York Times detail dozens of safety concerns regarding the equipment aboard several of Transocean's rigs, some of which the report identified as "critical equipment items that may lead to loss of life, serious injury or environmental damage as a result of inadequate use and/or failure of equipment." Transocean is the world's largest offshore drilling company, and currently operates 14 rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and 139 rigs worldwide.

The documents, which also surveyed workers regarding their opinion of the safety culture aboard the rigs, found that many believed the rigs did not receive proper maintenance, and were unwilling to report problems for fear of reprisal. 43 percent of workers aboard four of the company's rigs said that they were averse to raising problems, while 46 percent of workers said that parts of the staff were uncomfortable calling a "time out for safety." The Deepwater Horizon rig, whose explosion set off the oil leak, also received a safety inspection days before the incident, with inspectors finding a variety of problems with the rig's equipment.

Naomi Campbell takes the stand: Supermodel Naomi Campbell testified at the war crimes trial for former Liberian President Charles Taylor today. She said that she received a pouch of uncut diamonds while in Liberia, testimony that prosecutors hope will undercut Taylor's assertion that he was not involved in the diamond trade.

South Korea launched its largest-ever anti-submarine exercises.
The flooding in Pakistan spread to new areas in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh.
For the first time, U.S. officials will attend the annual memorial in Hiroshima to commemorate the dropping of the atomic bomb on the city.

Middle East
Two letters written by Iranian officials show the country's apparent determination to continue with its nuclear program.
Israel indicted three men on charges of spying for Syria.
An Egyptian official admitted that the rocket attack on Israel and Jordan's Red Sea ports earlier this week was launched from Egyptian territory.

The IMF declared that Greece has made a "strong start" in cutting its debt.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired several top military officials for failing to stop wildfires from destroying a naval base.
The Islamist leader of Chechnya's violent separatist movement backtracked on his earlier resignation from the movement.

A Canadian man accused of buying weapons for al Qaeda was freed by a Canadian judge, who refused a U.S. extradition request.
Panamanian investigators said that have found three more bodies on the property of an American man accused of murdering expatriates.
Fidel Castro is scheduled to address Cuba's parliament for the first time in four years.

Those opposed to a Kenyan referendum modifying the country's constitution have admitted defeat.
The Rwandan government denied any involvement in the assassination of its political opponents.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited Tripoli for talks with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
-David Kenner
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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