News in Brief: BP Stabilizes Gushing Flow of Oil and More

BP has stabilized the gushing flow of oil and gas from a ruptured well into the Gulf of Mexico, according to US officials, hoping to mitigate the catastrophic environmental effects of the leak. The BBC reported that Thad Allen, the Coast Guard commander, said it was too early to declare success, but the company’s “top kill” effort had “stabilized the wellhead.” BP is using mud and cement to seal the well, which opened after an explosion took place on the Deepwater Horizon rig five weeks ago, killing 11 people and sending millions of gallons of oil into the sea.

A BP document recently shared with The New York Times by a Congressional investigator shows that, several days before the oil rig explosion, BP officials chose to use a type of casing for a well that the company knew was the riskier of the two options. A different type of casing would have provided two barriers. The report states that the less effective casing was chosen partly for financial reasons.

Professor Tad Patzek, of the Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas-Austin, told The Hill that an unchecked leak “would be an environmental disaster of a caliber heretofore unseen by humanity.”

Meanwhile, President Obama said he will extend the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells for another six months, reported The New York Times, as well as delay or cancel specific projects off the costs of Alaska, Virginia and the western Gulf of Mexico, according to a White House official. The explosion of the BP oil rig initiated a 30-day safety review of offshore drilling. These actions are in response to this review.


South Korean warships fired guns and dropped anti-submarine bombs into the Yellow Sea in a large-scale military exercise Thursday, reported The Washington Post, as the North said the action brought the peninsula closer to war. The North warned South Korea of “immediate physical strikes” if any South Korean ships entered its waters, wire services reported.

North Korea has vowed to rip up its military safeguards with the South, reported Reuters, which guaranteed the safety of cross-border exchanges. The step is expected to be the prelude to shutting down a joint factory park after the North accused the South of driving ten years of a developing relationship into the ground. The tensions have been escalating since international investigators accused North Korea of the torpedoing of a South Korean warship and the subsequent death of 46 sailors.


Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was sworn into office Thursday following his controversial win in last month’s election, reported the BBC. Many international leaders stayed away from the inauguration of Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, but at least five African presidents attended the event and the UN sent the heads of its two peacekeeping missions to the ceremony. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said governments committed to justice in Darfur should have stayed away from Bashir’s inauguration.


The fate of over 100,000 teachers hangs on a $23-billion aid measure for the nation’s public schools being pushed through by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders, reported Democracy Now!. Congressional leaders have also agreed to reduce a package of jobless benefits and other economic aid by nearly $55 billion, after concerns were raised by lawmakers from both parties about the increasing federal debt. The new $145-billion package would only give jobless benefits until November, instead of the end of the year. A vote on the measure is expected today.


A flotilla of nine humanitarian aid ships is approaching the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the Israel blockade of the coastal territory, reported Democracy Now!, while Israel is vowing to repel the vessels in what may be a looming showdown. The Free Gaza Movement’s “Freedom Flotilla” is hoping to reach the Gaza coastline by Friday. Israel has stopped three other sailings since January 2009 as part of its three-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.