Friday, June 25, 2010

G20 Toronto: What the Leaders Will Not See

Photo Jeff Robson in The Torontoist

Toronto was my adopted home for 20 years and I am astonished at the pictures and reporting coming out about what this farce of a G20 Summit is doing to the city. Whole blocks have been locked down - a host of institutions like the Art Gallery of Ontario are closed to the public. A "fake lake" has been built just for the benefit of the leaders.  And the cost of security alone is $1 billion! What??!! Yes, $1 billion.  And for what purpose?  It is unconscionable that so much money is wasted at a time when social services are being cut. As a friend of mine summed it up quite succinctly:  ""It's a billion dollar bullshit festival taking place when they are brutally cutting services to a multitude of deserving groups that don't fit in with the conservative party's interests. Baaaaah!"

The Toronto Star posted this video of the faces that the G20 leaders will not see:

Reporting on the staggering affects this is having on the city and its residents from Sandro Contenta at GlobalPost:
A sign of the hassles ahead is the security fence that snakes for more than two miles around several downtown city blocks, where the G20 leaders will meet June 26-27. (A day earlier, the more exclusive G8 meets about 140 miles north in a lakeside resort in the cottage-country town of Huntsville, Ontario.)

An estimated 30,000 Torontonians will have to go through security hoops to come in and out of their condos or workplaces inside the fenced-in area. Many business owners have decided it’s easier to just keep their shops closed that weekend. Those immediately outside the 10-foot-high fence are likely to do the same, fearful of the sometimes violent protesters attracted by international summits.

Major theaters and art galleries have also announced they’ll be shutting their doors, and the Toronto Blue Jays, who play in the downtown Rogers Center, have moved their scheduled home series against the Philadelphia Phillies to Philadelphia.

In short, the core of Canada’s biggest city may end up looking like a commercial ghost town. It would make an ironic setting to a summit discussing how to avoid another economic collapse.

And then there is the price tag: Protecting political leaders at both the G8 and G20 summits will cost an astounding $1 billion — a sum that has hit Canadian taxpayers, who are footing the bill, like a vuvuzela blast.

To put this eye-popping amount in some context, security for the Pittsburg G20 summit in September 2009 cost $18 million; security for the London G20 in April that year cost $30 million. Security for the Vancouver Winter Olympics earlier this year — which lasted 14 days — was $900 million.

Here’s some more context: $1 billion is the entire yearly budget for the Toronto police force, plus overtime. $1 billion is what it costs Canada to support its military mission in Afghanistan each year.

Aid groups point to the shocking contrast between the security bill and the Canadian government’s four-year freeze on the level of foreign development aid. Others note that the G8 is $20 billion behind on an aid commitment to Africa made five years ago.

Is it any wonder then that people are protesting today. From an essay in the Globe and Mail:

Why I will protest at the G20

I am a Torontonian. I live in this city that is to be host to the G20 this weekend. And I am planning to protest. I will bring my face paint, banners and signs down to Queen’s Park. I will put my body on the line to march against this inequitable system where 20 nations make decisions affecting the whole world.
Yet this time, instead of being supported in my right to protest, I find myself explaining why I am legitimate, why I am not engaged in a terrorist act, and how many of our treasured Canadian social programs and rights that we take for granted resulted from people fighting for a better world.

A billion dollars has been spent to supposedly stop people like me. Media coverage has mostly focused on disruption to businesses and traffic. Police have been harassing my friends already while they have been passing out flyers, riding bikes or just lying down in the park.

My head can’t help but feel despair of ever reaching that world where decisions are truly democratic, where eradicating poverty is more important than furthering profit, and human rights matter more than the rights of capital. And yet my heart reminds me that magic is still possible. Even surrounded by fear and fences, hope and passion for an equitable and democratic world can yet be set free.

Annahid Dashtgard lives in Toronto. Read full essay here.

Gulf Oil Spill: Kindra Arnesen of Venice, LA at Gulf Emergency Summit

Absolutely compelling testimony of what is going on the Gulf oil spill response from Venice, Louisiana resident Kindra Arnesen. See website of the Gulf Emergency Summit, a grassroots effort to respond to the catastrophe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: A Crash Course in Deep Ecology

At the heart of Deep Ecology philosophy is the notion that humans should consider themselves to be only one part of the earth, rather than the dominant species at the top of the heap that take all of the earth’s resources for its own use. Deep Ecology is rooted in the belief that anthropocentrism is destructive and that we have to develop a relationship with nature that is sustainable and respectful of the needs of all species and the earth. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is demonstrating in terrifying ways the consequences of NOT subscribing to a respectful and sustainable relationship with the earth. Mother Earth is showing us that our arrogance about how we rape her resources will inevitably lead to our destruction and the destruction of myriad other species and ecosystems.  Naomi Klein has a good article titled Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World published in the Guardian where she says we are getting a "crash course in Deep Ecology" with this oilspill. I couldn't agree with her more. I hope the education will sink in to the minds and hearts of our sorry species.

Klein traces the shift in (western) humanity from being respectful of the earth and considering it a sacred being, as all indigenous people do, and as Europeans used to do, to considering earth to be "dead," as far back as 400 years ago to the time of the scientific revolution:

And this is surely the strangest twist in the Gulf coast saga: it seems to be waking us up to the reality that the Earth never was a machine. After 400 years of being declared dead, and in the middle of so much death, the Earth is coming alive.

The experience of following the oil's progress through the ecosystem is a kind of crash course in deep ecology. Every day we learn more about how what seems to be a terrible problem in one isolated part of the world actually radiates out in ways most of us could never have imagined. One day we learn that the oil could reach Cuba - then Europe. Next we hear that fishermen all the way up the Atlantic in Prince Edward Island, Canada, are worried because the Bluefin tuna they catch off their shores are born thousands of miles away in those oil-stained Gulf waters. And we learn, too, that for birds, the Gulf coast wetlands are the equivalent of a busy airport hub - everyone seems to have a stopover: 110 species of migratory songbirds and 75% of all migratory US waterfowl.

It's one thing to be told by an incomprehensible chaos theorist that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's another to watch chaos theory unfold before your eyes. Carolyn Merchant puts the lesson like this: "The problem as BP has tragically and belatedly discovered is that nature as an active force cannot be so confined." Predictable outcomes are unusual within ecological systems, while "unpredictable, chaotic events [are] usual". And just in case we still didn't get it, a few days ago, a bolt of lightning struck a BP ship like an exclamation mark, forcing it to suspend its containment efforts. And don't even mention what a hurricane would do to BP's toxic soup.

There is, it must be stressed, something uniquely twisted about this particular path to enlightenment. They say that Americans learn where foreign countries are by bombing them. Now it seems we are all learning about nature's circulatory systems by poisoning them.

In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in the Andean cloud forests, the U'wa let it be known that if Occidental Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained that oil is part of ruiria, "the blood of Mother Earth". They believe that all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region, saying there wasn't as much oil as it had previously thought.)

Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living in the natural world - in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests - as did European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves a practical purpose. Calling the Earth "sacred" is another way of expressing humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe.

If we are absorbing this lesson at long last, the implications could be profound. Public support for increased offshore drilling is dropping precipitously, down 22% from the peak of the "Drill Now" frenzy. The issue is not dead, however. It is only a matter of time before the Obama administration announces that, thanks to ingenious new technology and tough new regulations, it is now perfectly safe to drill in the deep sea, even in the Arctic, where an under-ice clean up would be infinitely more complex than the one underway in the Gulf. But perhaps this time we won't be so easily reassured, so quick to gamble with the few remaining protected havens.

Same goes for geoengineering. As climate change negotiations wear on, we should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama's undersecretary of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate and aluminium particles into the atmosphere - and of course it's all perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP's former chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the technology behind BP's supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, "You know what happens when windmills collapse into the sea? A splash."

The most positive possible outcome of this disaster would be not only an acceleration of renewable energy sources like wind, but a full embrace of the precautionary principle in science. The mirror opposite of Hayward's "If you knew you could not fail" credo, the precautionary principle holds that "when an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health" we tread carefully, as if failure were possible, even likely. Perhaps we can even get Hayward a new desk plaque to contemplate as he signs compensation cheques. "You act like you know, but you don't know."   Read Full Article Here.

Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film.
© 2010 Guardian/UK

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit
Read more about Deep Ecology in the Encylopedia of Earth here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Dudus"Coke Captured!!!!!!!!

Breaking now - From Go-Jamaica:

Former Tivoli strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke is now in police custody.

The businessman, who has been on the run since the Jamaican government signed an extradition request May 18, was turned over to the police this afternoon.

The Gleaner understands the Reverend Al Miller facilitated his surrender about an hour and a half ago to the police.

The pastor has been instrumental in the surrender of Coke's sister Sandy and brother Leighton.

Coke is wanted in the US on drug and gunrunning charges.

Source: Gleaner/Power 106 News

Listen to Nationwide Radio for updates.  

Update from Jamaica Observer:

Police expecting imminent criminal attack
Police High Command warns personnel
 WITH wanted fugitive Christopher 'Dudus' Coke now in custody the Police High Command has again raised the threat level from criminal violence against the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to extremely high, meaning that attacks are expected imminently
"This upgrading of the threat level is based on intelligence suggesting that detained and displaced criminals as well as other criminal criminals are planning attacks on Security Forces personnel and assets," said a release from the police.
All personnel are urged to take the threat seriously and to raise their level of awareness both on and off duty.

Hands Across The Sand - June 26, 2010 - Say No to Offshore Drilling

Hands Across The Sand is the largest anti-offshore drilling gathering in history. Find a gathering being staged near you on June 26, 2010.
Hands Newspaper Ad

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Twittering Jamaica

Follow LabrishJamaica on Twitter

I am increasingly impressed with Twitter and its potential to equalize status between low-power and high-power groups, as well as its more obvious benefits of providing up to the minute news on breaking developments. A month ago, when Jamaica was experiencing the worst violence in its history in a clash between gangs and the government I found a lot of good information on Twitter. Three days into the conflict, the Jamaican government reported that they were upset that people on Twitter and Facebook had been “spreading misinformation” and that they (the government) were now going to establish their own media center to update the public on the developments. I immediately wrote how proud I was that the Twitter and Facebook groups had forced the government of Jamaica to be more upfront with their constituents about this grave situation the country was in – a perfect example of status equalization as the Twitter and Facebook citizen groups inadvertently demonstrated a power over the government.  Media Specialist Marcia Forbes, in a column titled “Tivoli versus Twitter” in the Jamaica Observer writes about her experience at the time:

As we prepared to depart Norman Manley Airport, I questioned the immigration officer about the plane parked close to the cargo area. Rumours were that it was American and there to help Jamaica with extradition matters. The officer dispelled that by asserting that the plane was Russian and with supplies to Haiti. That piece of information got tweeted immediately. After all, it was from an authentic source and I was playing my part in quelling rumour-mongering tweets.

Stuck in the skies

By the time our contingent arrived in Antigua, word broke that "it" was on. None of us questioned what "it" was. We all knew. The state had moved against Tivoli Gardens. About 20 of us huddled in the plane exchanging the latest updates from home. We were heading to Barbados, ironically, to attend an academic conference themed, "The Everyday Occurrence of Violence in the Cultural Life of the Caribbean", hosted by the Caribbean Studies Association.

Twitter to the rescue

Twitter worked overtime as our plane sat in Antigua. Never again will I malign this social networking service or wonder about its value. It saved me from going crazy overseas while a section of my country was under siege.

For the first two days in Barbados, I was Twitter Queen. Many of the Jamaicans came to hear the latest. Mature men behind thick lenses peered on my BlackBerry, reading breaking news from local news media savvy enough to be on Twitter and disciplined enough to post regular updates. Following BBC and CNN on Twitter paid off handsomely, although they gave no joy with graphic details of activities in Jamaica. (Read rest of article here.)

Another good example of the power of Twitter comes from last year’s protests in Iran. Time magazine titled “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Moment.” Time reported on the significant influence that Twitter had during the Iranian uprising of last year:

Twitter [is] practically ideal for a mass protest movement, both very easy for the average citizen to use and very hard for any central authority to control. The same might be true of e-mail and Facebook, but those media aren't public. They don't broadcast, as Twitter does. On June 13, when protests started to escalate, and the Iranian government moved to suppress dissent both on- and off-line, the Twitterverse exploded with tweets from people who weren't having it, both in English and in Farsi. While the front pages of Iranian newspapers were full of blank space where censors had whited-out news stories, Twitter was delivering information from street level, in real time. (Read full article here.) 

The Jamaican and the Iranian examples show just how powerful social media is becoming - a strong wind at the back of citizen journalists and ultimately a benefit for the cause of democracy. News is no longer centralized in traditional media sites such as the established newspapers or television stations and it can no longer be controlled by governments. Arianna Huffington describes this shift in power in The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging: “The tech advances of the last few years have turned the news and entertainment worlds on their ears, shifting the balance of power away from media pooh-bahs dictating what is important and what is not, and toward consumers – and citizens – being empowered to choose and create.”  Citizen reporting on blogs and social media sites is holding governments accountable and forcing more transparency in areas where the citizenry never used to hold much power. I say, tweet on Twitterverse. . .tweet on!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Oval Office Address I Wish We Would Have Heard

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is BP Oil Spill Unstoppable? "Is this why Obama is praying?"

If you were to believe everything that President Obama said last night, you would trust that BP would be collecting 90% of the oil from the spill in the next few weeks, and that the relief well they are drilling would take care of stopping the actual flow. However, I seriously question Obama's credibility, and I doubt that he is getting good advice when so much information is out there about grave concerns from scientists about whether this oil leak can be stopped. Does this administration take us for fools, or read below to see why Mother Jones Environmental Correspondent Julia Whitty asks, "Is this why Obama's praying?" Don't try and calm my fears when you don't even seem to be aware of this information. Rachel Maddow tonight questioned the issue Obama brought up about building berms to save the Louisiana marshes. Sure, the Governor of Louisiana is pushing this, however, the science is not there to do that.   With as serious an environmental catastrophe as this is, I want to believe that Obama has all the facts, that he's getting the very best advice.  Unfortunately, with a speech like what he gave last night, I just don't believe it.   I blogged about this issue of the unstoppable oil well on Monday with videos of Mike Papantonio railing about it on the Ed Show on MSNBC.

Here is the latest from Julia Whitty's blog at Mother Jones reporting on the concern of whether the oil leak can be stopped:

Sharon Astyk at ScienceBlogs points the way to a seriously scary comment thread at The Oil Drum, a sounding board for, among others, many petroleum geologists and oil professionals. The comment in question is from a seemingly very knowledgable "dougr." Some of it follows verbatim below. I've highlighted the parts that frightened me the most and left me wondering: Is this why Obama's praying?

You can read the comment in its entirety here, complete with useful links, as well as all the comments (some of which dissent from dougr's claims) made in response. Sharon notes, to the inevitable question of why pass along an anonymous comment: "This one passes my smell test, which is usually pretty good - that doesn't mean I claim commenter Doug R is right - it means I think his information is interesting enough to be worth exposing to a wider audience for clarification or correction." As the Oil Drum staff explains to it's own readers regarding this post: "Were the US government and BP more forthcoming with information and details, the situation would not be giving rise to so much speculation about what is actually going on in the Gulf. This should be run more like Mission Control at NASA than an exclusive country club function--it is a public matter--transparency, now!" Amen. Meanwhile, judge for yourself:

"All the actions and few tid bits of information all lead to one inescapable conclusion. The well pipes below the sea floor are broken and leaking. Now you have some real data of how BP's actions are evidence of that, as well as some murky statement from "BP officials" confirming the same.

"To those of us outside the real inside loop, yet still fairly knowledgeable, [the failure of Top Kill] was a major confirmation of what many feared. That the system below the sea floor has serious failures of varying magnitude in the complicated chain, and it is breaking down and it will continue to.

"What does this mean?

"It means they will never cap the gusher after the wellhead. They cannot...the more they try and restrict the oil gushing out the bop?...the more it will transfer to the leaks below. Just like a leaky garden hose with a nozzle on it. When you open up the nozzle? doesn't leak so bad, you close the nozzle? leaks real bad, same dynamics. It is why they sawed the riser off...or tried to anyway...but they clipped it off, to relieve pressure on the leaks "down hole". I'm sure there was a bit of panic time after they crimp/pinched off the large riser pipe and the Diamond wire saw got stuck and failed...because that crimp diverted pressure and flow to the rupture down below.

"Contrary to what most of us would think as logical to stop the oil mess, actually opening up the gushing well and making it gush more became direction BP took after confirming that there was a leak. In fact if you note their actions, that should become clear. They have shifted from stopping or restricting the gusher to opening it up and catching it. This only makes sense if they want to relieve pressure at the leak hidden down below the seabed.....and that sort of leak is one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging kind of leak there could be. It is also inaccessible which compounds our problems. There is no way to stop that leak from above, all they can do is relieve the pressure on it and the only way to do that right now is to open up the nozzle above and gush more oil into the gulf and hopefully catch it, which they have done, they just neglected to tell us why, gee thanks.

"A down hole leak is dangerous and damaging for several reasons. There will be erosion throughout the entire beat up, beat on and beat down remainder of the "system" including that inaccessible leak. The same erosion I spoke about in the first post is still present and has never stopped, cannot be stopped, is impossible to stop and will always be present in and acting on anything that is left which has crude oil "Product" rushing through it. There are abrasives still present, swirling flow will create hot spots of wear and this erosion is relentless and will always be present until eventually it wears away enough material to break it's way out. It will slowly eat the bop away especially at the now pinched off riser head and it will flow more and more. Perhaps BP can outrun or keep up with that out flow with various suckage methods for a period of time, but eventually the well will win that race, just how long that race will be? one really knows....However now?...there are other problems that a down hole leak will and must produce that will compound this already bad situation.

"This down hole leak will undermine the foundation of the seabed in and around the well area. It also weakens the only thing holding up the massive Blow Out Preventer's immense bulk of 450 tons. In fact?...we are beginning to the results of the well's total integrity beginning to fail due to the undermining being caused by the leaking well bore.

"The first layer of the sea floor in the gulf is mostly lose material of sand and silt. It doesn't hold up anything and isn't meant to, what holds the entire subsea system of the Bop in place is the well itself... The well's piping in comparison is actually very much smaller than the Blow Out Preventer and strong as it may be, it relies on some support from the seabed to function and not literally fall over...and it is now showing signs of doing just that....falling over...

"What is likely to happen now?

"Well...none of what is likely to happen is good, in's about as bad as it gets. I am convinced the erosion and compromising of the entire system is accelerating and attacking more key structural areas of the well, the blow out preventer and surrounding strata holding it all up and together. This is evidenced by the tilt of the blow out preventer and the erosion which has exposed the well head connection. What eventually will happen is that the blow out preventer will literally tip over if they do not run supports to it as the currents push on it. I suspect they will run those supports as cables tied to anchors very soon, if they don't, they are inviting disaster that much sooner.

"Eventually even that will be futile as the well casings cannot support the weight of the massive system above with out the cement bond to the earth and that bond is being eroded away. When enough is eroded away the casings will buckle and the BOP will collapse the well. If and when you begin to see oil and gas coming up around the well area from under the BOP? or the area around the well head connection and casing sinking more and more rapidly? won't be too long after that the entire system fails. BP must be aware of this, they are mapping the sea floor sonically and that is not a mere exercise. Our Gov't must be well aware too, they just are not telling us.

"All of these things lead to only one place, a fully wide open well bore directly to the oil deposit...after that, it goes into the realm of "the worst things you can think of" The well may come completely apart as the inner liners fail. There is still a very long drill string in the well, that could literally come flying I said...all the worst things you can think of are a possibility, but the very least damaging outcome as bad as it is, is that we are stuck with a wide open gusher blowing out 150,000 barrels a day of raw oil or more. There isn't any "cap dome" or any other suck fixer device on earth that exists or could be built that will stop it from gushing out and doing more and more damage to the gulf. While at the same time also doing more damage to the well, making the chance of halting it with a kill from the bottom up less and less likely to work, which as it stands now? the only real chance we have left to stop it all.

"It's a race now...a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up it's last gasp in a horrific crescendo.

"We are not even 2 months into it, barely half way by even optimistic estimates. The damage done by the leaked oil now is virtually immeasurable already and it will not get better, it can only get worse. No matter how much they can collect, there will still be thousands and thousands of gallons leaking out every minute, every hour of every day. We have 2 months left before the relief wells are even near in position and set up to take a kill shot and that is being optimistic as I said.

"Over the next 2 months the mechanical situation also cannot improve, it can only get worse, getting better is an impossibility. While they may make some gains on collecting the leaked oil, the structural situation cannot heal itself. It will continue to erode and flow out more oil and eventually the inevitable collapse which cannot be stopped will happen. It is only a simple matter of who can "get there first" or the well."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seize BP response to President's Oval Office Address

Seize BP offers a compelling analysis of President Obama's Oval Office address tonight:

President Obama needed to be able to say with certainty to the people of the Gulf Coast, who today go to sleep fearing that they will not be able to put food on the table, pay their rent or their other obligations because of the spill, that tonight you can sleep safe knowing that the funds needed to make you whole would be secured, in trust, and available immediately.

He did not do it because he chose not to. Not because the funds are not available or because he lacks the authority. He did not because he could not get BP to agree and he refuses to treat BP as anything other than a partner.

BP possesses sufficient assets to place in trust for the victims of its malfeasance, the massive harm it has caused in its reckless pursuit of mega-profit.

Why "negotiate" with corporate criminals?

Rather than using the power vested in him as President and fulfilling the obligation vested in him to protect the people, he instead insists on “negotiations” with an entity that has engaged in criminal and reckless acts of deadly proportions.

President Obama has been given a choice: Serve the people or be subservient to corporate interests. The corporate interests of BP are in irreconcilable conflict with those of the people of the Gulf Coast and of the United States.

The workers and families in the Gulf Coast need action. Not rhetoric. Not sympathy and not the channeling, or mirroring, of their anger and frustration through the figure of the President. Their suffering is real. Their fears of life-altering catastrophe are well founded. The coastlines of five states are under attack.

The White House, responding to building national anger and the echoing cry for relief, brought out all of the symbolism of Presidential authority and leadership that have been so sorely lacking over the past two months of crisis. For the very first time in his presidency, which has seen the financial crisis—to which his administration responded with a massive banker bailout—Obama used the authority and the familiarity of a speech from the Oval Office to communicate directly with the nation as a whole.

Long on rhetoric—short on guarantees

This was to be the defining moment of the President’s response to this crisis, if not the defining moment of his presidency as a whole.

President Obama did not deliver. He did not deliver specifics about an escrow fund; specifics about the size of a proper trust account; specifics about how it would be administered; specifics about whether all wage-earners who have lost their income would be able to get immediate compensation. Again long on rhetoric, painfully short on details or the minimum guarantees that people require. President Obama reiterated his imposition of a six month moratorium on deepwater drilling but refused to pledge to use BP funds to compensate all oil workers who will lose their incomes as a result of the moratorium.

The U.S. government has the authority, under the Commerce Clause and other legal means, to secure the financial relief that is needed. President Obama has the authority of his office. His party commands majorities of both the House and the Senate. Collectively, the U.S. Constitution gives these institutions the fullest power of the state to act in ordinary times and in an emergency, to exercise its massive legal authority under the Commerce Clause.

The U.S. government will either allow BP to externalize the costs of its damage, shifting it onto the backs of the people whose lives and economies and ecologies will be damaged potentially for decades. Or it will hold BP responsible for the harm which it has caused.

We are not even referencing punishment for the completely reckless and avoidable oil spill. Just compensation. Immediate, ongoing, full compensation.

Tonight’s speech—particularly in what was missing—projected President Obama’s unwillingness to act in the face of this catastrophe.

His election benefitted from the repository of the people’s aspirations. He promised change. He promised hope. Tonight, for the people of the Gulf Coast, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Thank you everyone for your support in the past several weeks. We couldn't have done it without your help. Please make an urgently needed donation to keep this demand for justice echoing loud and clear.

Mike Papantonio on Ed Show on MSNBC on well disaster

Hope Obama has watched this:

Related Post: Can BP stop this leak or is there catastrophic geological failure?

TEDxOilSpill Presentation June 28, 2010 Washington, D.C.

Photo James Duncan Davidson
I'm a big fan of the TED conferences. A new TEDxOilSpill group has formed with a presentation scheduled for June 28, 2010 in Washington, D.C.  Right now the TEDxOilSpill group is on a week long expedition in the Gulf region to document, film and bring first hand information to the conference.  See a slideshow of their photographs here.  Some of the speakers will be Philippe Cousteau, Dr. Sylvia Earle, and David Gallo.
 Photo James Duncan Davidson

You can watch this TED event from anywhere in the world as there will be live streaming of the event. From their website:

TEDxOilSpill will explore new ideas for our energy future, and how we can mitigate the current crisis in the Gulf.

TED conferences bring together the world’s leading thinkers and doers for a series of talks, presentations and performances. TEDxOilSpill will tackle the tough questions raised by the recent and ongoing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Topics will include mitigation of the spill and the impending cleanup efforts; energy alternatives; policy and economics; as well as new technology that can help us build a self-reliant culture.

What can you expect to see? Speakers at TED events – some of the world’s most fascinating, innovative and influential individuals – are challenged to give “the talk of their life” in 18 minutes or less. Attendees are as exceptional as the speakers. Sharing and connection happens from the stage or in the lounge. It’s the conversation that will change your life.

TEDxOilSpill will be held June 28, 2010, and will follow the TED form and spirit.

Learn more about TEDx OilSpill: SpeakersRegistering – Attending the event – About TED

What is TEDx?

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At TEDxOilSpill, live speakers will spark deep discussion and connection. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

Gulf War Syndrome and can BP shut this well down or is there catastrophic geological failure, unstoppable even by relief wells?

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes today on the war we're fighting (and losing) in the Gulf oil spill:
It's great that President Obama and his advisers finally seem to understand the atmospherics of responding to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Now if they'd only get the policy right. . . The issue isn't what Obama is feeling, it's what he's doing. Why haven't skimmers been brought in from around the world to scoop up more of the oil? Why isn't the defense of the coastline being run like a military campaign, with failure not an option? Why is the answer to every question essentially the same -- "We've repeatedly asked BP to get that done" -- when we're dealing with a crisis that has to be seen as an urgent matter of national security and the public welfare?

Enough of asking BP. The company is responsible for the spill and must be made to pay dearly. But BP management answers to the company's shareholders, not to the American people. And even if BP's gaffe-prone chief executive, Tony Hayward, and his lieutenants had only the purest and noblest of intentions, the problem they have created in the gulf is far beyond their capacity to solve.

This is, essentially, a war that is partly being fought one mile beneath the surface of the gulf, where crude oil continues to gush out of the highly pressurized "Macondo" deposit -- which carries the name of the fictional town in Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's magical-realist masterpiece, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" -- at a calamitous rate.

The administration had no choice but to leave the initial response on the seafloor to BP. The government simply doesn't have the equipment or the expertise to stanch the flow. This unfortunate situation may reflect bad policy choices in the past, but that's the reality. One smart decision was to order BP to begin drilling a second relief well, in case the first one misses its target -- but neither will be completed until August, and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

A second battle is the effort to contain the tens of millions of gallons of oil that have already polluted the gulf and its coastline. Here, too, the administration has gone by the book and pressured BP to honor its responsibilities. It should be clear by now that this has been a mistake.

The Post reported Monday that the administration has received offers of assistance from 17 nations. Sweden has volunteered to send three ships that can each collect about 15,000 gallons of oil an hour. Norway has offered to send nearly a third of its oil-spill response equipment. Japan has offered to send some boom, which authorities on the scene complain is in short supply.

The Swedes, the Norwegians, the Japanese and most of the other would-be Samaritans are still waiting to hear from the U.S. government or BP. Last week, according to The Post, the administration did ask the European Union to help with any specialized equipment it might have. But meanwhile, oil has penetrated the marshes of southern Louisiana and is lapping onto the beaches of Alabama and Florida. The main spill is spreading, and hurricane season is upon us.

Every available piece of equipment in the world that can vacuum, skim, scoop or sop up oil ought to be in the gulf by now, deployed under a central -- probably military -- command structure. The beaches should be defended as if from a threatened enemy invasion. This is a time for overkill, for the Powell Doctrine, for "decisive force."

There's no silver bullet that can defeat this bloblike enemy, but each drop of oil that gets removed from the gulf and its shores is a victory -- and each drop that doesn't is a defeat. It's that simple. This is war. ~ Eugene Robinson

The mismanagement of this clean up effort has been staggering. Read the New York Times today on the chaotic efforts to manage the spill.

I wonder if Obama will mention anything tonight about the very scary reports coming out about damage beneath the  level of the sea floor.  What bothers me are the comments that he says like "we are doing all we can."  Clearly this clean up has been botched from the beginning. No, I don't think the U.S. Govt. has been doing all it can.   Or the comment he made this morning that  "the seafood from the Gulf is safe." Mr. President, how do we know that the seafood from the Gulf is safe?  With the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals (banned in other countries) being dispersed, not to mention the millions of gallons of oil spilled, why on earth would I blindly believe you that seafood is safe to eat from the Gulf?   Am I the only one who has these questions?

Mike Papantonio was on the Ed Show on MSNBC yesterday speaking out about the issue of the damage beneath the level of the sea floor and how this could mean that even relief wells may not work to stop this hemorraging.  And in a discussion piece on the Washingtonpost, John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, responded to this question:

What are the chances that the well casing below the sea floor has been compromised, and that gas and oil are coming up the outside of the well casing, eroding the surrounding soft rock. Could this lead to a catastrophic geological failure, unstoppable even by the relief wells? 

John Hofmeister: This is what some people fear has occurred. It is also why the "top kill" process was halted. If the casing is compromised the well is that much more difficult to shut down, including the risk that the relief wells may not be enough. If the relief wells do not result in stopping the flow, the next and drastic step is to implode the well on top of itself, which carries other risks as well.
We really need to find out what went wrong from the beginning so that we don't have this happen again. 

Read more about this here and here.

Like everyone, I will be watching the President speak from the Oval Office tonight.  I support Seize BP's position outlined here in their latest message: 
A message from Seize BP about
the Obama administration's new position on BP
The Obama administration has just announced a major shift in its handling of BP and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
For six weeks the Obama administration just said NO to the growing nationwide chorus of public opinion demanding that the government seize BP’s assets in an amount commensurate with the damage caused by their criminal negligence, and that the funds be placed into a trust that could quickly and easily pay for damages and compensation now and into the future as more damages accrue.
Directly on the heels of Seize BP's demonstrations taking place in more than 50 cities -- with more demonstrations occurring every day -- officials from the administration are now announcing a "new" approach to BP: President Obama has given BP an ultimatum to create an escrow fund administered by an independent body for the payment of claims and damages or the White House will invoke its legal authority to create such an escrow account from BP’s assets. He plans to address the country in a nationwide television address Tuesday night and meet with BP executives at the White House on Wednesday.
But what is the reality undergirding the Obama administration's announcement? It may appear that the administration is now close to the demand of seizure of assets for an escrow account unless BP commits to the establishment of such an escrow account on its own accord. There are several key factors:

  1. The administration's 55 days of coddling BP has become unsustainable from a political and public relations standpoint. The government has revealed itself as a subservient appendage to corporate interests. Now they are going out of their way to present a different image.

  2. In recent days, Florida and Louisiana have both made demands on BP that funds be escrowed as a down payment to cover initial damages, totaling $7.5 billion. BP says that it only has $6.8 billion in cash and cash equivalents available. BP itself is reassuring its investors that the damages in the Gulf that BP will have to pay will not exceed $3 billion to $6 billion. It needs to be understood that it is not a lowball estimate of the scope of the damage but a statement of intent, of just how little BP intends to pay. BP is reported to have called its large U.S. stockholders -- J.P. Morgan Chase controls deposits and services for 30 percent of BP's U.S. stock -- to pressure the administration. The administration’s plan for an escrow account may be seen like a get-tough-against-BP policy but still be designed to further protect BP. The telltale indicator will be the amount of BP assets set aside for the escrow fund.

  3. The anger of the people is spreading around the country especially as estimates of the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf are growing exponentially. To be more precise, what is changing is the weakening of the corporate and political cover-up of actual spill volume. Substantial amounts of oil being funneled to the surface by BP from its new cap are not being processed by BP's on-site tanker because it lacks capacity, so the oil is being dumped back into the Gulf. BP says it can't get more tankers to the area until July. The relief well planned for August may not even work then.

  4. At the same time, President Obama held what was reported as a "warm and constructive" phone call with the British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday in which he recognized that BP "is a multinational company" and reassured Cameron that he did not want to undermine BP's value. Obama had been hoping that BP would suspend its upcoming shareholder dividend (estimated at more than $10 billion annually), but BP has vacillated publicly on whether it intends to do so. The administration is worried that BP might not do enough to placate the public and that the dire necessity of the situation, as evidenced by Louisiana's and Florida's independent demands, will overtake the administration's attempts to appear in control of the problem.
 Seize BP’s position on the Obama administration’s New Approach Toward BP’s Assets
While it is clear that the Obama administration has undertaken what appears to be a dramatic shift in its handling of one part of the crisis, there are two central issues that will indicate whether it is just another sham public relations offensive or something that will make a real difference for the suffering people and communities in the Gulf states: (1) The size or amount of the escrow fund taken from BP’s assets (the real costs are likely to be in the tens of billions of dollars) and (2) that the “real people” of the affected communities, and not corporate and banking representatives or Wall Street lawyers, be selected to be the trustees of the fund.
Seize BP, since it inaugurated the demand to create a trust from seized BP assets, has demanded “that a trust established with the funds seized from BP should be administered by the people from the harmed area. The trustees should include representatives of the fishers, shrimpers, crabbers, unions, small business people and workers in the tourism and recreation industry, local elected officials, clergy, and independent scientists and environmentalists."
Seize BP will continue to organize demonstrations, rallies, press conferences and banner drops, collect tens of thousands more petitions, and engage in the kind of mass grassroots organizing that can, as it already has, shift the political climate in a way no politician can fail to ignore.
Spread the word. Tell your friends to sign up at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ocean Glory and Horror: TED talk by Brian Skerry

A great TED talk with powerful iconic photography by National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry on the majesty of the ocean. His images illuminate the threats to the ocean with the global fish crisis, overfishing, ship strikes to whales and habitat loss.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Yours Truly, BP

NRDC's Gulf Coast Recovery Fund

BP Spills Coffee

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ed Schultz Packs the Baghdad Theater in Portland

I had the honor of meeting Ed Schultz, spirited progressive radio host and host of MSNBC's The Ed Show tonight in Portland. Schultz was in town to promote his new book Killer Politics: How Big Money and Bad Politics are Destroying the Great Middle Class. 
Ed began the evening by thanking Portland and in particular the great progressive radio station 620KPOJ AM for being a juggernaut of support for progressive talk in this country. His MSNBC team was there filming the event and some of it may be shown on his TV show tomorrow. The event will also be broadcast in its entirety on his radio show tomorrow.

Ed said that his wife Wendy told him when they first came here in 2004 that “Portland was the 1st place you came where people really like you.” Since then he said that his team has been a vehicle for the voices of America. The progressive talk movement has grown in this country although it still lags behind the Republicans talking heads. Ed’s radio show has soared in popularity in the past 6 years and now he has his own TV show on MSNBC which has grown 28% in popularity over the past year – more than any other news show on the air.

Ed said we were at a defining moment in this country. In the healthcare debate, we found out who the real Democrats are. He encouraged people to treat each election like it’s on the national stage so that we can get more good progressive Democrats in power. He was disappointed that Bill Halter lost the Senate primary in Arkansas to Blanche Lincoln who he characterized as a corporate Democrat. He warned the Democrats in Washington that you can’t get what you want in this country without organized labor and urged everyone to keep fighting.

The night was all about the politics of the moment, the Tuesday night primaries, and the progressive fight for things like health care for all, the Employee Free Choice Act, funding proper education in this country, not allowing jobs to be sent overseas and reigning in the Wall Street barons. The lively and engaged Portland crowd cheered when he called on Obama to end the wars and bring the troops home.  He said that we are following in the footsteps of the Russians in Afghanistan and we now seem to be more entrenched than ever before.

Ed acknowledged that we have two good Democratic Senators here in Oregon however he also said that part of being a good progressive is that we have to have the intestinal fortitude to hold our people accountable.  When someone asked what we could do here in Portland to support the fight for Progressive leadership across the country, Ed said that we could support candidates in other states - even give $5 to support a Progressive who is trying to beat a corporate Democrat or a Republican.

Ed lamented the fact that the media in this country is not covering the issues of the middle class and the vast difference in wealth between the top 2% of this country and the rest.   He lambasted Fox News and the damage they are doing to the country by misleading the public and not telling the truth - "You can't have your own set of facts," he said.   He noted that the biggest voting block in this country has the weakest voice.  He spoke disparagingly of people like Meg Whitman who just basically spent $80 million to buy herself into the Governor's race in California, and Michael Bloomberg who spent $150 million in New York City to keep his position as Mayor.  Ed asked the question, "Who in the middle class in this country has the money to get into politics?"  

Update to this post June 11:
I'm sitting here listening to the radio broadcast of this Portland Town Hall meeting with Ed Schultz and I want to say how proud I am of Portland. I've lived here for 5 years and at times it's been a little rocky - not many Jamaicans or West Indians living out here - it's not like living in our Caribbean-rich communities of Toronto or South Florida.  For me at times it's been a little like being out in the wilderness.  Plus leaving Canada for the U.S. one realizes how vastly different the cultures of these countries are.  However, last night, I felt so totally connected to this incredible community of progressives in this city who are informed, engaged, intellectually honest and on the side of social justice for all.  These are people who have heart, have deep compassion for the needy and the underprivileged and who are committed to doing their part to making the world a better place for every human being.  Last night at the Baghdad Theater I was surrounded by these people and it was pure joy.  Listening to 620KPOJ AM has been a big part of my life here and I'm proud to support this great radio station for bringing much needed progressive voices to the airwaves of America.  We need more of that!  So thank you Portland, for being progressive, for being feisty and passionate, for demanding change, for standing up for the working class, for fighting for justice.  Viva Portland!  
Read an exerpt of Ed Schultz's book Killer Politics here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dear Mr. President: Honor Your Pledge - Save the Whales

Actor and environmentalist Pierce Brosnan calls upon the Obama Administration to withdraw its support for a proposed plan that permits Japan, Norway, and Iceland to resume commercial whaling while the moratorium continues. Call the President @ 202-456-1111 or visit WhiteHouse.Gov/Contact now.

From HuffPost Secret Weapons: James Bond, the Whales and the White House.
Amidst the worst environmental tragedy for the US, there is another sleeping giant that is being awakened by those great liberal hearted Hollywood folks. And thank goodness because someone has to help the White House get some good environmental press. Enter stage right -- Pierce Brosnan, aka 007. He, in concert with his environmental warrior wife Keely, is leading the charge to save the whales now. Dovetailing on his celebrity -- this group is lobbying hard for the White House's attention now before the moratorium on commercial whaling is lifted later this month.

It is preposterous that the White House wandered into these waters after the President's pledge to the environmental community. What were they thinking? Every U.S. president since Reagan has upheld the standards banning commercial whaling. Please let's not reward the bad behavior of countries like Japan, Norway and Iceland for violating international law.

Thank goodness these folks are here at the right moment in time. This campaign, is a blessing. First and foremost it will prevent the further endangerment of the whales of our universe. White House; these folks may be your secret weapon -- the Humane Society, the NRDC and of course 007 and Keely -- are giving you a gift that can keep on giving complete with gift wrap.

Mr. President -- sir, you need the environmental community now more then ever; and the environmental community needs you. There are bad things happening with Big Oil that are not your doing. We know that these wheels have been turning for a long time. The goop just keeps falling on your lap. So let's not let the whales be sacrificed amidst all the confusion and commotion. Please pay attention. We need you and you need us.

Go to the Save The Whales Now website to sign the petition and follow the developments as we try to get this administration to do the right thing!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Oceans Day: Coral Reef Alliance Making a Difference

In honor of World Oceans Day, I'd like to promote the work of a great organization making a positive difference in protecting coral reefs while supporting local communities at the same time.  From their website:

Coral Reef Manifesto
We believe in the majesty and mystery of coral reefs, in their ability to teach, sustain, inspire, and give life. We are their students and their protectors; we hold the knowing that if reefs die, we all die—plain and simple.

And the reefs are dying, every day. They are being overheated by the rising temperatures of climate change, overfished by commercial fisherman, and overlooked by ambitious developers and tourism operators. But we can change this—together.

We hold the hope for reversing this crisis and believe in the power of community to make change, to find common ground, and to heal. Coral reefs are the oldest biological communities on the planet. And to save this community, we must awaken others and remind them that we are all connected—to the reefs and to each other. We must build alliances and forge connections; we must unite to protect this precious resource.

Founded in 1994, the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) is the only international organization working exclusively to unite communities to protect our planet’s coral reefs. We focus on three fundamental catalysts for change:

* marine protected areas (MPAs)
* marine recreation tourism
* local communities

By engaging stakeholders from all three groups—MPA managers, marine tourism operators, and local residents—we build partnerships that establish lasting change and promote coral reef health around the world.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cleaning Oiled Birds in the Gulf Oilmageddon

If you've been following the Gulf Oil spill you probably saw yesterday's heart wrenching photos of the oil drenched birds. See some photos here. The CNN video below shows the efforts to clean those birds found yesterday. Also see the video from the International Bird Rescue and Research showing how they clean the oil from the birds. Once clean and recovered, the birds being cleaned in the Gulf area are to be released into the Tampa Bay area. The clean up efforts to help the birds is being led by the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research of Delaware, in conjunction with the International Bird Rescue Research Center.
Cleaning oiled birds video:

To learn more about or support the rescue and clean up of the birds, see their websites:
Tri-State Bird and Rescue:
Experts from Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research are leading the wildlife rescue efforts following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Tri-State's oil spill response team has been on the Gulf Coast since the last week in April and is working with their West Coast colleagues, International Bird Rescue Research Center, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to manage the rehabilitation of oiled wildlife. These response leaders are receiving additional support from other rehabilitators and wildlife and environmental organizations.
International Bird Rescue Research Center website:
A team of bird rescue specialists from International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) has been deployed along the Gulf Coast to help with an all-hands-on-deck effort to rescue seabirds caught in the Mississippi Canyon 252 - Deepwater Horizon uncontrolled oil leak.
IBRRC is working with Tri-State Bird Rescue, the lead oiled wildlife organization on the ground, to set up and staff rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Alabama Mississippi and Florida, where the growing oil slick is expected to impact birds. We now have more than 20 members of our Oil Spill Response Team working on the Gulf Oil Spill.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Will Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Affect the Caribbean?

UPDATE of June 17, 2010: Excerpt from Jamaica-Gleaner:

Oil-Spill Threat - Are Our Waters Safe?
. . ."All efforts to stem the flow of oil from the underwater well have failed and there are concerns in the Caribbean that the oil slick will reach its shores eventually, given the flow of currents," said the CARICOM secretariat - The Gleaner, June 10, 2010

So are we really in danger of the slick globs of oil that has so far washed up on all the shores bordering the Gulf of Mexico, ruining our pristine white sands and fragile coral reefs? While some may say no and others yes, this is just a look of the factors that could make the situation a possibility, and they include: ocean current patterns and weather patterns. . . the oil is drifting north and spreading along the coast of the US southern states, far from the Caribbean flow and the loop flow, at the moment, however this is projected to change over time. With the dispersion of oil though spreading quicker north then south it is expected to reach The Loop current eventually. This will result in a more rapid flow of the oil slicks to other regions that are in proximity to this flow, and other tangential currents, the more important question is where will it flow? . . . as the oil disperses further from the spill site it will likely travel southward to join The Loop Current and follow this stream along the Atlantic coast away from the Caribbean. The major part of the oil spill is not expected to flow latitude of the northern tip of Cuba, and not easterly enough to affect all the Bahamian islands, therefore using the surface current flow model only, we can safely conclude that Jamaica is in the clear, at least at this stage. . .

Hurricanes in the mix

The spill occurred well over a month before the June 1 start of the hurricane season, so the amount of oil leaked into the gulf of Mexico is estimated at 30,000 to 40,000 barrels a day, that is well over 80 million gallons of oil since the deepwater accident. To compound the problem, this season is predicted to be one of the most active seasons in recent years with 14-23 named storms (winds 39mph or higher)eight-14 hurricanes (winds 74mph or higher)three-seven major hurricanes (winds of at least 111 mph). Blow shows a history of hurricane paths of strength three and above that has passed though the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The diagram shows that generally the hurricanes will follow a north-westerly path much like the direction of the surface and deepwater currents, which it drives. Thus if any hurricane were to occur, it may actually act like a cleaner pushing oil slicks away from the Caribbean back into the Gulf of Mexico, or it may accelerate the flow into the The Loop current flow.

Still good idea to plan

While the imminent threat to solid beaches and wildlife at this time seems unlikely, it is still better to plan rather than wait and see, we need to formulate a response plan in any event to protect the beaches that sustain the economy and wildlife. Read Full Article Here.

UPDATE to this post June 16, 2010 from Go-Jamaica:

Jamaica's Coast Could Be At Risk

Jamaica’s coastal waters and marine life could be at risk of severe oil pollution from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico during the present hurricane season.

Peter Knight, the head of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) told the Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) today that while the chances of the pollution remained low, the likelihood of this happening could not be ruled out.

He was responding to questions about NEPA’s preparations to handle the oil spill in the event of seepage into Caribbean waters.

The oil spill has already affected coastal waters in the US gulf states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

“There is a national oil spill plan spearheaded by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and NEPA is a supporting agency,” said Peter Knight.

However, Knight admitted that NEPA lacks the necessary technical expertise.

However, he says the agency has been working with the University of the West Indies (UWI).

In Cuba, officials have been busily making preparations to protect the coast as the BP oil spill continues to make its way through the Gulf of Mexico.

Spill-fighting experts from the communist state’s oil-rich ally, Venezuela, have already been dispatched to the island to provide assistance.

Some forecasts predict gulf currents will carry the oil to Cuba, which is 145 km south of Key West, Florida.

UPDATE to this post June 15, 2010:
From the Associated Press:
Cuba preparing for possible arrival of oil spill
By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ (AP) – 4 hours ago
HAVANA — Cuba's civil defense chief said Tuesday that authorities are preparing coastal residents for the oil spill fouling the Gulf of Mexico, and a top military official said its possible arrival would be "a disaster."

It still is unclear whether some of the millions of gallons of spilled crude will reach Cuba, though government scientists appeared on state television within days of the April 20 rig explosion that touched off the spill to say the island was not immediately at risk.

So far there has been no apparent impact on tourism to the island's breathtaking north coast beaches.

"In Cuba we have had small spills involving tankers on our coasts, but we've never had to confront anything of this magnitude," Gen. Ramon Espinosa, vice minister of the armed forces, said at a government meeting on natural disaster preparedness. "Nonetheless we are documenting and studying. We are preparing with everything in our power."

Espinosa provided no details on preparations, but added that "for Cuba it would be a disaster" if the spill hits.

Some oil has already reached the coast of Florida, and scientists worry that crude will get caught up in the loop current, a ribbon of warm water that begins in the Gulf of Mexico and wraps around Florida.

U.S. and Cuban officials have put aside nearly 50 years of frigid relations to hold working-level talks on how to respond. Espinosa said he had no information on any concrete cooperation.

Speaking on the sidelines of the same event, Ramon Pardo, head of Cuban civil defense, also said he could not comment on discussions with Washington.

But Pardo said Havana "is taking all precautions: the preparation of the coast, vigilance, creating all necessary conditions, preparing the people who live on the coasts that could be impacted."

Both Espinosa and Pardo said the island will rely on the expertise of Venezuela, one of Cuba's top allies and a major oil producer.

Update June 12, 2010 from Caribbean Net News:
Low probability oil spill in gulf could affect BVI
TORTOLA, BVI -- The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) is closely monitoring efforts to contain the thousands of barrels of oil, as well as gas, spewing into the gulf of Mexico for nearly two months although there is a low probability that the British Virgin Islands is under any threat.

The Regional Activity Center/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center (REMPEITC), in consultation with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have advised of the low probability that this spill will affect the Caribbean.

However, as its trajectory nears the loop current, it has the potential to affect Florida, the northern coast of Cuba and the Bahamas. Should any oil reach the waters of the Caribbean Islands, it is expected to be weathered, with the volatile or harmful effects having been evaporated.

REMPEITC has advised that the greatest current impact for the Caribbean is anticipated to be tar balls reaching the beaches. In a report issued by Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Coordinating Unit to member countries this week, reported they are unable to identify any international convention or funds which will cover compensation for the current emission of oil from a deepwater well for an affected Caribbean state.  Read rest of article here.

UPDATE to this post June 11, 2010 from Caribbean Net News:
BRIDGETOWN, Barabdos (AFP) -- Caribbean officials voiced worry Thursday at the prospect of the mammoth Gulf of Mexico oil spill reaching their islands' famously pristine beaches, in a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Noting the "very sobering" analysis from Bahamian Foreign Minister T. Brent Symonette on what would happen if the oil reaches the powerful loop current -- which could sweep the spill past Florida to soil beaches of the Bahamas, Jamaica and beyond -- Clinton said: "We earnestly hope that does not happen."

Antigua's Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer noted the clear "anxiety in the region" about the spill smearing the island nations' idyllic, tourism-dependent shores.

Fresh US government figures released Thursday showed that between 20,000 and 40,000-plus barrels of oil were pouring from BP's ruptured Gulf well -- more than twice the government's previous estimate -- darkening the specter of what is already the worst oil spill in US history.

Clinton, here to meet her Caribbean counterparts and other regional leaders, admitted meanwhile that "our understanding of and preparation for dealing with a disaster like this is out of date."

Adding there were ways to deal with oil tanker accidents but not "catastrophic" blowouts in deep-water drilling, Clinton said there was a need "to start now to get better prepared to deal with something of this magnitude in the future." Read rest of article here.

UPDATE to this post June 10, 2010:
Article in the Jamaica Gleaner today, "Oil Slick Fears Grow for Jamaica"
 Failure to plug a deep-sea well which has spilled tens of millions of gallons of oil along the United States Gulf Coast could have disastrous effects on Jamaica's already depleted fish stock, a local marine specialist has warned.
While British Petroleum works feverishly with its latest strategy to stem the flow - with a containment cap which is capturing 630,000 gallons (2.4 million litres) a day and pumping it to a ship at the surface - Dr Karl Aiken, senior lecturer in the University of the West Indies' Life Sciences Department, says time is running out.

"Once it hits this area, we're going to have problems," said Aiken.

"The issue is, the reef fish stock around Jamaica is severely overfished. In fact, it's on the verge of collapse, especially on the north coast
"The reef fishery supports 85 per cent of the fishing industry of Jamaica. Actually, it's closer to 90 per cent," he added.

Spread by gulf stream

According to the university lecturer, through a network of loops and streams, the oil may wend its way along the Eastern Seaboard before reaching Bermuda.

"Once it crosses the Florida Keys, it's going to latch on and be caught in the gulf stream at its fastest point," Aiken said.

A feeder current would then take it from Bermuda, then towards the Bahamas and, possibly, to Jamaica through the passage separating Cuba and Haiti, Aiken said.

"By September or October, it could get as far as Bermuda," he pointed out. Read rest of article here.

Update to this post June 9, 2010:
Follow reEarth: Environmental Issues in the Bahamas for their posts on the oil spill.

See article of June 9 in The Nassau Guardian: Bracing for Oil Spill Impact

Article in The Tribune on June 7 from the Bahamas: Bahamas Could Be Spared Oil Spill for a Week
WHILE the Bahamas could be spared from the oil spill for at least another week due to favourable wind patterns, experts are warning that hydrocarbon poisoning of migrating birds and fish could threaten to destroy the regional environment.
Over the weekend, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) warned that a shift in wind patterns could lead to the oil reaching the Bahamas and Jamaica very soon.
CARICOM said on Saturday that a change in wind could push the oil past the southern tip of Florida and toward its northern member states, the Associated Press reported.
CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington said the members of the 15-nation group are concerned about how the oil spilling from an underwater well off the US coast will affect the region's tourism industry on which so many of them depend.
However, Neil Armstrong, senior forecaster at the Meteorology Office in Nassau, told The Tribune yesterday that the Bahamas should be safe for the time being.
A high pressure system in the area, he said, is keeping the spill to the north-northeast of the islands.
Mr Armstrong said it is "highly unlikely" that these favourable atmospheric conditions will change for at least another week.
While the actual oil from the Deepwater Horizon/British Petroleum (BP) spill may not reach the waters of the Bahamas for now, experts are warning that because there are no natural nor man-made barriers in place in the ocean to prevent the free movement of marine life, hydrocarbon poisoning of birds and fish migrating from the Gulf of Mexico could have a disastrous affect on the environment.  Read rest of article here.

UPDATE to this post June 5, 2010:
From an AP report in the Jamaica Observer today:
GEORGETOWN, Guyana — Caribbean countries are warning that an oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico could reach the Bahamas and Jamaica.

The Caribbean Community says a recent change in wind patterns could push the oil past the southern tip of Florida and toward its northern member states.

Secretary-General Edwin Carrington said Saturday that tourism-dependent countries in the 15-nation group are concerned about the oil spill from an underwater well off the US coast.

The issue is expected to come up at Thursday's meeting in Barbados between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and regional foreign ministers.

With the deepening crisis of this BP oil spill, many in the Caribbean are worried about whether the oil will seep down into the Caribbean. It appears that Florida's coasts, northern Cuba and the Atlantic Ocean are most likely to suffer the effects of the oil as it travels through the Loop Current.  But like everything to do with this oil spill so far, we never seem to know from one day to the next whether we have heard the worst.  Can we believe BP?  Definitely not.  They have proven themselves to be reckless, incompetent and incapable of telling the truth.  Read Kate Sheppard in Mother Jones on BP's 10 Biggest Screw Ups.  Can we trust the American Government to tell the truth?  At this late hour they seem to be continuing to downplay the flow of oil.  The following videos and articles appear to outline the forecasted path of the oil.   From Huffington Post: The National Center for Atmospheric Research, a National Science Foundation program in Colorado, has animated computer simulations showing how, once oil gets caught in the Gulf of Mexico's fast-moving Loop Current, it is likely to reach Florida's Atlantic coast within weeks. It could then move north as far as Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with the Gulf Stream, before turning east:

A CNN report outlines the risks to Cuban waters of the oil spill: A strong ocean flow called the Loop Current is dragging a portion of the oil slick toward the Florida straits. The spill emanates from BP's Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 500 miles northwest of Lopez's village.

"This is one of most difficult systems to predict," said David E. Guggenheim, a senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation -- a conservancy group based in Washington. "It's basically a river at sea, influenced by the rotation of the earth, the tides, and the weather."

Scientists fear that oil strands could break off the main slick and wash up on Cuba's northern shores.

"We're especially worried about the fate of this oil spill and how it might affect the coral reefs, the fish population, and a very large population of nesting green sea turtles," said Guggenheim.

An article in the Jamaica Observer yesterday reports on Jamaica's efforts to ready itself in the event of an oil spill in its waters:

JAMAICA is currently in need of critical equipment to clean up an oil spill should one occur in the island's territorial waters, according to director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ronald Jackson.

However, while the country would need external help both in terms of human resources and equipment to deal with such a disaster, the authorities have a plan in place and are preparing themselves as best as possible to mitigate its effects.

"The situation that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico would be way beyond our human resources and equipment capacity to manage on our own. We would have to evoke an external response in order to manage, as is the case of the United States at present," Jackson told Environment Watch.

The country's readiness to deal with an oil spill -- nothing even close in size to the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but perhaps the overturning of a tanker in the Caribbean Sea surrounding Jamaica -- is of concern, considering the importance of the marine environment to the nation's livelihood.

If your heart hasn't bled enough yet over this tragedy, look at these pictures taken today by AP Photographer Charlie Riedel of oil soaked birds. Look, and weep.