Saturday, May 29, 2010

Justice Finally on Hand for the Cambodian People

Light at the end of a very long tunnel

Posted by René Volpi ,  Saturday May 29- 2010
Comrade Duch in the dock
It has taken more than 30 years to bring the perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge excesses to justice. On Monday 26 July we will at last hear the verdict in the first trial of the ECCC, that of Comrade Duch, head of the infamous Tuol Sleng/S-21 prison. He stands accused of crimes against humanity and much more besides. He's been in detention since 1999 and deserves to remain incarcerated for the rest of his days. The trial itself began in March of last year and ended in November. I attended just once on the day that David Chandler gave his expert testimony. It was clear to me that Duch was enjoying his moment in the spotlight, and though he has freely acknowledged his role as the head of S-21, he didn't tell the whole truth and only revealed what he wanted us to know. His defense focused on the premise that he acted out of fear for his life and whilst that may've been partly true, his culpability as head of the interrogation and extermination center tells a very different story. This man is responsible for at least 12,000 deaths, and probably many more, and deserves whatever the trial judges can throw at him. His remorse is a sham and his guilt is clear, even though his former S-21 colleagues were less than forthcoming in their time on the stand. Nevertheless, the paper trail left by the Khmer Rouge and his own admissions, have sealed his fate. The trial for case 002, four of the leading members of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, is unlikely to begin before the end of this year.  I, personally cannot wait...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The BP Disaster (part 1)


Posted by Rene Volpi. Compilation by Alan Taylor on Thursday, May 28, 2010

In the three weeks since the April 20th explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and the start of the subsequent massive (and ongoing) oil leak, many attempts have been made to contain and control the scale of the environmental disaster. Oil dispersants are being sprayed, containment booms erected, protective barriers built, controlled burns undertaken, and devices are being lowered to the sea floor to try and cap the leaks, with little success to date. While tracking the volume of the continued flow of oil is difficult, an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil (possibly much more) continues to pour into the gulf every day. While visible damage to shorelines has been minimal to date as the oil has spread slowly, the scene remains, in the words of President Obama, a "potentially unprecedented environmental disaster." (40 photos total)

Seawater covered with thick black oil splashes up in brown-stained whitecaps off the side of the supply vessel Joe Griffin at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana Sunday, May 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A tugboat moves through the oil slick on May 6, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. (Michael B. Watkins/U.S. Navy via Getty Images) #

Oil burns during a controlled fire May 6, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. Coast Guard is overseeing oil burns after the sinking, and subsequent massive oil leak, from the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform off the coast of Louisiana. (Justin E. Stumberg/U.S. Navy via Getty Images) #

Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010. The U.S. Coast Guard working in partnership with BP PLC, local residents, and other federal agencies conducted the "in situ burn" to aid in preventing the spread of oil. (REUTERS/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg-US Navy) #

The crew of a Basler BT-67 fixed wing aircraft releases oil dispersant over parts of the oil spill off the shore of Louisiana in this May 5, 2010 photograph. (REUTERS/Stephen Lehmann/U.S. Coast Guard) #

A pod of Bottlenose dolphins swim under the oily water Chandeleur Sound, Louisiana, Thursday, May 6, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

Winds cause ripples to form on the water of grassy marsh wetlands in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, as work continues to try to protect it from the massive oil spill on May 9, 2010 in Gulf of Mexico. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

A worker with one of the shoreline clean-up crews deploys a snare boom on the west side of the South Pass near Port Eades, Louisiana May 11, 2010. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner) #

A man holds a plastic bag with seawater and oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill south of Freemason Island, Louisiana May 7, 2010. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria) #

An oil-stained cattle egret rests on the deck of the supply vessel Joe Griffin at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Sunday, May 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) #

Oily water is seen off the side of the Joe Griffin supply vessel at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) #

A helicopter takes off from the helipad of the Development Driller III, which is drilling the relief well at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in the Gulf of Mexico on May 11, 2010. (REUTERS/Gerald Herbert) #

Oil washes onto the sides of a 100-ton concrete-and-steel pollution containment chamber as the mobile offshore drilling unit Q4000 lowers it into the water at the Deepwater Horizon site on May 6, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico . The chamber was designed to cap the oil discharge that was a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident. (Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images) #

The single cable supporting the 100-ton oil containment device being lowered to the sea floor disappears into Gulf waters off the side of the Q400 mobile drilling platform on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Efforts to contain the leak with the device were unsuccessful due to ice crystals forming in its domed roof. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) #

One of the New harbor Islands is protected by two oil booms against the oil slick that has passed inside of the protective barrier formed by the Chandeleur Islands, as cleanup operations continue for the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster off Louisiana, on May 10, 2010. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images) #

Workers attempt to secure an oil boom into place in an effort to protect the coast line from the massive oil spill near Hopedale, Louisiana May 10, 2010. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner) #

Blobs of oil from the massive spill float on the surface of the water on May 5, 2010 in Breton and Chandeleur sounds off the coast of Louisiana. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

Crews build a sand berm to protect the island from the potential of oil washing onshore, on Dauphin Island, Alabama May 10, 2010. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder) #

Unemployed commercial fishermen and their families wait in line to receive handouts from New Orleans Catholic Charities on May 5, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. Many local fishermen have been temporarily shut down but have been hired by British Petroleum (BP) to lay oil booms in sensitive areas. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images) #

Captain Johnny Bourgeois and deckhand Chris Crappel (left) of Venice, Louisiana retie netting for shrimp trawling as they wait for the shrimp season to reopen in Venice, Louisiana May 9, 2010. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Robert Barham announced that the shrimp season in the territorial seas of the central coast of Louisiana from Four Bayou Pass to Freshwater Bayou were closed effective sunset Saturday. (REUTERS/Sean Gardner) #

Louisiana National Guard Private Dallas Bacon guides a dump truck as they use dirt to create an earthen barrier as they try to protect an estuary from the massive oil spill on May 10, 2010 in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images) #

Louisiana National Guardsmen use Blackhawk helicopters to build a dam to protect the fragile wetlands known locally as "Bayou" near the town of Grand Isle, as work continues to protect the coastline from oil after the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster off Louisiana, on May 11, 2010. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images) #
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010



BP Oil Spill Live feed: Co. To Show

Video During Top Kill Procedure

WASHINGTON - BP readied yet another attempt to slow the oil gushing
 into the Gulf on Tuesday as a government report alleged that drilling
 regulators have been so close to the industry they've been accepting gifts
 from oil and gas companies and even negotiating to go work for them.
President Barack Obama prepared to head to the Gulf on Friday to review
 efforts to halt the disastrous flow.
Scientists said underwater video of the leak showed the plume growing s
ignificantly darker, suggesting heavier, more-polluting oil is spewing out.
BP's next effort to stop the gushing oil will, perhaps Wednesday, is to involve
 a procedure called a "top kill," in which heavy mud and cement are to be shot
 into the well to plug it up. The procedure has never been tried a mile beneath
 the sea, and company executives estimate its chances of success at 60 to 70 
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) who pushed BP to release a live feed of
 the spill has just announced that his office has learned that BP will kill the live
 feed during the "top kill" procedure.

You can watch the live feed here.
In Washington, the Obama administration said it has been laboring to root out
 problems at the agency that regulates offshore drilling.
In at least one case, according to a new report from the Interior Department's 
acting inspector general, an inspector for the Minerals Management Service 
admitted using crystal methamphetamine and said he might have been under the
 influence of the drug the next day at work.
The report cites a variety of violations of federal regulations and ethics rules at 
the agency's Louisiana office. Previous inspector general investigations have 
focused on inappropriate behavior by the royalty-collection staff in the agency's
 Denver office.
The report adds to the climate of frustration and criticism facing the Obama 
administration in the monthlong oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, although 
it covers actions before the spill. Millions of gallons of oil are gushing into the 
Gulf, endangering wildlife and the livelihoods of fishermen, as scrutiny intensifies 
on a lax regulatory climate.
The report began as a routine investigation, the acting inspector general, Mary
 Kendall, said in a cover letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, whose 
department includes the agency.
"Unfortunately, given the events of April 20 of this year, this report had become 
anything but routine, and I feel compelled to release it now," she wrote.
Her biggest concern is the ease with which minerals agency employees move
 between industry and government, Kendall said. While no specifics were included
 in the report, "we discovered that the individuals involved in the fraternizing and gift
exchange -- both government and industry -- have often known one another since 
childhood," Kendall said.
Their relationships took precedence over their jobs, Kendall said.
The report follows a 2008 report by then-Inspector General Earl Devaney that 
decried a "culture of ethical failure" and conflicts of interest at the minerals agency.
Salazar called the latest report "deeply disturbing" and said it highlights the need for
 changes he has proposed, including a plan to abolish the minerals agency and replace
 it with three new entities.
The report "is further evidence of the cozy relationship between some elements of 
MMS and the oil and gas industry," Salazar said Tuesday. "I appreciate and fully 
support the inspector general's strong work to root out the bad apples in MMS."
Salazar said several employees cited in the report have resigned, were fired or were
referred for prosecution. Actions may be taken against others as warranted, he said.
The report covers activities between 2000 and 2008. Salazar said he has asked Kendall
 to expand her investigation to look into agency actions since he took office in 
January 2009.
Salazar last week proposed eliminating the 
Minerals Management Service 
and replacing  it with two bureaus and a revenue collection office. 
The name Minerals Management Service would no longer exist.
Members of Congress and President Obama have criticized what 
they call the cozy relationship between regulators and oil companies and have 
vowed to reform MMS, which both regulates the industry and collects billions 
in royalties from it.
The report said that employees from the Lake Charles, La., MMS office had 
repeatedly accepted gifts, including hunting and fishing trips from the Island 
Operating Company, an oil and gas company working on oil platforms regulated 
by the Interior Department.
Taking such gifts "appears to have been a generally accepted practice," the report 
Two employees at the Lake Charles office admitted using illegal drugs, and many 
inspectors had e-mails that contained inappropriate humor and pornography 
on their government computers, the report said.
Kendall recommended a series of steps to improve ethical standards, including a 
two-year waiting period for agency employees to join the oil or gas industry.
One MMS inspector conducted four inspections of Island Operating platforms 
while negotiating and later accepting employment with the company, the report said.
A spokeswoman for Island Operating Company could not be reached for comment. 
The Louisiana-based company says on it website that it has "an impeccable safety
 record" and cites Safety Awards for Excellence from the MMS in 1999 and
 2002. The company was a finalist in other years.
"Island knows how to get the job done safely and compliantly," the website says.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called the report "yet another black eye for the 
Minerals Management Service. Once again, MMS employees have been found
 culpable of  performing shoddy oversight of offshore drilling. The report
 reveals an overly cozy  culture between MMS regulators and the oil industry."
Feinstein, who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the 
Interior Department, said she will hold a hearing next month on Salazar's plan to
 restructure the agency.
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