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Not Just the Atlantic: Obama Leasing Millions of Gulf Acres for Offshore Drilling

By: Steve Horn Thursday July 24, 2014 9:39 am

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog 

Deepwater Horizon

Deploying the age-old “Friday news dump,” President Barack Obama’s Interior Department gave the green light on Friday, July 18 to companies to deploy seismic air guns to examine the scope of Atlantic Coast offshore oil-and-gas reserves.

It is the first time in over 30 years that the oil and gas industry is permitted to do geophysical data collection along the Atlantic coast. Though decried by environmentalists, another offshore oil and gas announcement made the same week has flown under the radar: over 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and gas reserves will be up for lease on August 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana at the [Mercedes-Benz] Superdome.

On July 17, the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)  announced the lease in the name of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy.

“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, BOEM…today announced that the bureau will offer more than 21 million acres offshore Texas for oil and gas exploration and development in a lease sale that will include all available unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area,” proclaimed a July 17 BOEM press release.

The release says this equates to upwards of 116-200 million barrels of oil and 538-938 billion cubic feet of natural gas and falls under the banner of the U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement.

That Agreement was signed into law on December 26, 2013. It served as a precursor to the recently-passed Mexican oil and gas industry privatization reforms, which have opened the floodgates to international oil and gas companies to come into Mexico for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

Tourist Hot Spots Port Isabel, South Padre Island for Sale

According to BOEM’s Proposed Notice of Sale Package, dozens of blocks sitting in close proximity to both Port Isabel and South Padre Island will be auctioned off during the August 20 lease. Both Port Isabel and South Padre Island are vacation and tourist hot spots, which were visited during a recent vacation by this writer.

(click to embiggen)

In total, an enormous 4,057 blocks of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas reserves are up for lease on August 20 in the Superdome.

Climate Action Plan?

The Obama Administration will auction off the thousands of blocks of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases in the midst of rolling out its Climate Action Plan, best known to some simply as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon rule for coal-fired power plants.

Ruled out of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, however, is any second-guessing of his “all of the above” energy policy.

While critics of the climate plan have noted the carbon rule is a full-fledged embrace of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for onshore oil and gas, another undeniable truism has arisen: it’s also a full-fledged embrace of offshore drilling for oil and gas both in the Gulf — and perhaps soon in the Atlantic.


Silencing the Children of Gaza

By: Siun

The video above is an ad produced by the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, in which the names of the children killed in Gaza are read. B’Tselem attempted to buy ad time on Israeli radio but were refused:

More than 600 Palestinians have been killed during the fighting in Gaza so far, including more than 150 children. Yet Israeli media is barely covering the story, other than mentioning the number of casualties. To encourage public debate in Israel on the issue, B’Tselem asked to purchase a spot on IBA Radio in order to have the names of some of the children killed read out. The radio refused, on the grounds that reading out the names of Palestinian children killed in Gaza is politically ‘controversial.’ Yet the refusal is, in itself, far from neutral: it is a powerful statement in favor of silencing public debate over the massive price that Gazan civilians are paying for this operation.

Yet while some voices are silenced, Israeli officials are not only encouraging but in fact paying others. In a report in USA Today from last summer we learned that Israeli students are offered full or part scholarships in return for posting pro-Israel comments on social media that align with government positions.

Of course, it’s not only paid posters who scramble to toe the line.

And while the propaganda wars play out, today in Gaza, a UN School in Beit Hanoun was once again shelled by Israel:

At least 15 people have been reported killed and 200 injured in the Israeli shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza which was being used as a shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside.

… Robert Turner, the director for UNRWA told Al Jazeera there was no warning from the Israelis before the shells landed. ‘This is a designated emergency shelter,’ he said. ‘The location was conveyed to the Israelis.

‘This was an installation we were managing, that monitored [to ensure] that our neutrality was maintained.’

Multiple western journalists reported the same – including Dan Rivers of ITV:

I just can’t get over what I have just witnessed at the Kamal Odwan hospital in #Gaza so many injured children

and the BBC:

Correspondents say pools of blood lay on the ground in the courtyard of the school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

There was a large scorch mark where it appeared a shell had hit, the Associated Press news agency reports.

As the reaction grew to this news — and the photos of the killed and wounded spread (see this from NBC News for example) — the IDF issued a belated series of claims, first that:

In recent days, Hamas has fired rockets from an area of Beit Hanoun where an UNRWA shelter is located.

And then:

Last night, we told Red Cross to evacuate civilians from UNRWA’s shelter in Beit Hanoun btw 10 am & 2 pm. UNRWA & Red Cross got the message.


Today Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun. The IDF responded by targeting the source of the fire.

And finally:

Also today, several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.

Given that UNRWA says specifically that:

…during the course of the day they had been trying to negotiate a window of time with the Israeli army for civilians to leave the area because of the heaving fighting.

But Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (Unrwa), said it was never granted.

And that all other reports were of Israeli shelling not a rocket, it’s hard to take the IDF at their word.

Can State Lawmakers Count on Federal Funds for Highways and Health Insurance Subsidies?

By: WI Budget Project Thursday July 24, 2014 8:07 am

Today’s Circuit Court Ruling Reinforces the Inconsistencies in State Lawmakers’ Reasoning

Photo of a car driving along a Wisconsin highway, under two exit signs

Can Wisconsin afford its road construction projects?

Should state lawmakers turn down federal funds whenever there’s a risk that the funding in question could be cut in future years? If so, why is Wisconsin proceeding with major highway and bridge construction plans at a time when Congress is using short-term gimmicks to keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent? And why did Wisconsin cut BadgerCare eligibility in half for parents, based on reliance on federal funding to subsidize the federal health insurance Marketplace?

That last question has gotten little attention over the past year, but it will be raised more often following a ruling today by a subset of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of the three judges participating in that ruling concluded that federal subsidies for the health insurance Marketplace can only go to people in states that set up their own Marketplaces. If that ruling is upheld, it would be a huge problem for Wisconsin – considering that 90% of the Wisconsinites who have purchased plans from the federal Marketplace are receiving federal subsidies, and those subsidies cover 74% of the cost of Marketplace premiums.  (Read more about the DC Circuit Court’s ruling in this NY Times article.)

The stakes are even higher in Wisconsin than in most of the other 35 states relying on the federal Marketplace, because Wisconsin lawmakers decided in the budget bill to cut in half the BadgerCare income ceiling for parents. About 70,000 fewer parents over the poverty level are now enrolled in BadgerCare (compared to December 2013), and it was assumed by state policymakers that most of those adults would move into subsidized Marketplace plans.

Over the past year, we have heard prominent Wisconsin policymakers express concerns about taking federal funding to expand BadgerCare because a future Congress might renege on the commitment to provide the increased Medicaid funding. Ironically, those policymakers pushed through an alternative plan that costs state taxpayers more, covers fewer people in BadgerCare, and relies on federal Marketplace subsidies that might be at greater risk than Medicaid funding.

It’s important to note that a different federal court ruling today upheld the Marketplace subsidies, and that federal assistance isn’t going to be suspended in Wisconsin any time soon. Although I think it’s unlikely that federal courts will uphold today’s ruling by the DC Circuit Court, it isn’t the only source of risk for Marketplace subsidies; many of the same conservative lawmakers who oppose continuation of the increased Medicaid funding have also supported repealing the ACA and Marketplace subsidies.

The arguments for turning down federal Medicaid funding because its future isn’t completely certain seem inconsistent and a bit disingenuous, considering that state lawmakers approved BadgerCare changes that rely on another funding stream in the Affordable Care Act and are also are happily taking federal highway funding.

By Jon Peacock

Over Easy

By: bgrothus
An Amur leopard lounges

Leopards and humans welcome at Over Easy.

Good morning, all. Ruth is traveling today, so this is my effort at a substitute post. I am super-busy lately, and I don’t really have much time to hang about. So please do your part to keep the conversation going as I won’t be able to be here long.

In an effort to keep with the tradition Ruth honors, here are some links to international news. I am writing this on Wednesday morning, so maybe there will be other avenues that can be added in the comments either as updates or more bad (or please Universe, something good for a change) news.

While looking around for something different, I came across this account of a female warlord in Afghanistan. What a life! Also, women in charge not any different, sometimes.

Seeking refuge in Gaza is an on-going struggle. The children are terrified. Not so much in Israel, lapdog Kerry’s pronouncements to the contrary.

Censoring the reporting on Gaza. This has to change. E-mail MSNBC.

Ali Abunimah from Electronic Intifada was on Democracy Now. I could not believe my ears either. “The monotony of massacre. . .” It is really tiresome.

And it cannot go unmentioned, in Arizona, another botched execution. How can there be hope?

Baby kittehs. Rare.

Wednesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Wednesday July 23, 2014 8:11 pm


Baby goat with a piece of straw in its mouth

After the news today, I thought you needed a baby goat. You’re welcome.

Tonight’s music video is “Beauty In the World” by Macy Gray.

HIV researchers are calling for the decriminalization of sex work, according to an article published today in The Verge.

Currently, 116 countries around the world have laws against prostitution, reports Reuters. ‘These additional layers of stigma and criminalization that make it such that governments don’t want to engage, and that’s a loss to all of us,’ says Stefan Baral, a physician epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. The researcher was among those who presented their work last night, and called for increased support for sex workers. More specifically, however, his study discusses the lack of research on male sex workers and HIV.

‘When you think of a sex worker, the most common picture that comes to mind is a female sex worker,’ says Baral. This is problematic because ‘we end up in a dynamic where we know very little about male sex workers.’ His study shows that part of the problem surrounding past interventions is that researchers have often tried to target male sex workers by targeting the larger population of men who have sex with men. But male sex workers often don’t identify as either sex workers or gay men, Baral says — largely because of the combined stigma of these labels — so a lot of the interventions that target both groups never reach them. ‘Often what’s happened is that people want to oversimplify and generalize the epidemic,’ Baral says, but the reality is that different subpopulations require different forms of interventions. “We need to accept that.’

[...] In addition to discussing barriers to interventions, her study makes use of mathematical models to demonstrates which interventions are likely to lower HIV infection rates in female sex workers. Among her team’s conclusions is the idea of combining methods like pre-exposure prophylaxis — also known as the anti-HIV pill Truvada — with early HIV treatment. Such a tactic “could reduce HIV infection rates among sex workers by up to 40 percent.” This finding, she explains, might be linked to the fact that Truvada is taken orally, which means it can be used without a partner’s knowledge. ‘Female condoms are, to a certain extent, user controlled, but you still need your partner’s agreement. And male condoms rely heavily on male involvement,’ she says. Truvada, on the other hand, ‘can be taken covertly’ if need be.

Bonus: What Google Autocomplete Thinks About Religion, from Addicting Info.

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Like Shadows Into the Night

By: Isaiah 88 Wednesday July 23, 2014 6:30 am

Psalm 5:9 . . .

Not a word from their mouths can be trusted; their hearts are filled with malice . . .

Benjamin  Netanyahu (Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין "בִּיבִּי" נְתַנְיָהוּ (help·info); born 21 October 1949) is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party,

Netanyahu. Engulfed in a fever of spite, while beyond his tunnel vision reality fades, like shadows into the night.

Does Netanyahu, does Likud, does Israel even know what reality is anymore?

Here’s some reality for them–80 percent of the dead in Gaza are unarmed civilians.

I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I’m getting very weary of Israelis lecturing the whole world about Hamas. They’re in no position to be lecturing anyone about anything.

M. F. Gilbert MD, Letter from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza . . .

Last night was extreme. The ‘ground invasion’ of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying – all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent. The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza’s hospitals are working 12-24 hour shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads . . . they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding human beings . . . treated like animals by ‘the most moral army in the world.’

My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian ‘sumud’ gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace.

Dr. Gilbert: “Mr. Obama, do you have a heart? I invite you to spend one night, just one night with us in Shifa . . .


“Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.”

“I am convinced, 100%, it would change history. Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.”

Tragically, walking away is what Obama does. He walked away from investigating Bush/Cheney war crimes, he walked away from real healthcare reform, he walked away from prosecuting Wall Street bankers, he walked away from the Bill of Rights, he walked away from everything that matters.

He knows who he answers to, and it’s not us. He knows what the real agenda is, so do all the corporate media hacks in this country who call themselves journalists. They know what they’re expected to say and they say it. Over and over again.

On rare occasions, a miraculous event occurs and an actual journalist appears on television.

For about two minutes.

Then they’re gone . . .

MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal broke the unspoken rule of mainstream media punditry this week, and denounced the bias towards Israel that is endemic in Western media. She appears to have been blacklisted for her efforts. Days earlier, CNN reporter Diane Magnay was pulled from Israel and reassigned for tweeting her disgust at threats of violence she received by Israelis watching the assault on Gaza from a hill and cheering as the bombs dropped.

Israelis sitting in their lawn chairs, cheering as the killing in Gaza began.

The response of Naomi Levery, a young Israeli citizen, was very different . . .

One Dimensional Press, One Dimensional Policy

By: Synoia Thursday March 17, 2011 9:41 am


GLENN GREENWALD: American media officials are incredibly subservient to American political officials. That’s been—you know, American media figures are. But when it comes to Israeli political officials, it’s virtually cringe-inducing to watch how accommodating and deferential and submissive they become.

There’s a fundamental problem in our world today: neither our governments nor our press are doing their jobs. Both groups seem to be working for someone else, because governments are either trying to conceal their motives (hence their love for secrecy) or they try to obfuscate by presenting a false motive for their actions. The press is worse than useless, because they go along with the desire of the politicians to hide their motives and conceal their bad behavior from the people. The press behaves more like a cheering section than “the fourth estate,” whose job is to inform the people. As the old champions die off or retire, they are not being replaced. The news media are more concerned with entertaining their audience than they are with informing them. Poor show, as the Brits would say! Shame on you!

Because of the move from news to entertainment (“infotainment,”) the media insist that every news story supports their print media arm, their TV “news” arm, and their Internet facilities. Production values become more important than the information value. The news media have abandoned their traditional role, to seek ratings, and governmental approval. No wonder they are incapable of informing the public!

Writing a REAL story requires work. First, there’s the research – give the readers/viewers some background to clarify how the current situation developed. Second, report the story. Tell everything you now, as clearly and concisely as you can. Third, offer a reasonable view of alternative actions, solutions, etc. Fourth, if the story is a continuing one, keep people aware of the changes. Assign blame when you know the truth. Don’t speculate, and when politicians speculate or offer unproven assertions, remind the audience that’s what they’re doing. Do not let the politicians spin the story. When there’s more than one possible cause or person responsible, list all of them, and give your best view as to which one is most likely to be right, and why you think so. Reporters, it’s YOUR JOB to keep the public informed, and make sure that they are getting the truth, to the best of your ability. If you don’t know how to do that, you belong in the entertainment industry, not the news industry.

Let’s get away from “If it bleeds, it leads.” Focusing on emotional reactions to events, instead of focusing on the events themselves may lead to winning a ratings war, but by spending the time exclusively on pictures of pain and suffering, you deny your audience the information they need to judge the situation for themselves, and to hold the politicians accountable for their sins. A pundit spouting opposing views in the name of “balance” isn’t news, either – it’s THEATER! When was the last time you felt better informed after hearing a Democrat and a Republican yell at each other in front of the camera? We need experienced reporters, who can build a coherent story, and who can show how the situation developed, and assign responsibility, the way Edmund R. Murrow, or Walter Cronkite could, or maybe Dan Rather. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to create an informed report, and then publish it. Even if some politician is going to be upset, no… ESPECIALLY if a politician is going to be upset. That’s your job! Think of Woodward and Bernstein, who led the crusade regarding Watergate and corruption in the Nixon White House.

In our current news streams, there’s MH17, the Israel-Gaza war, and all the death and misery that an infotainment organization could use to entertain their audience. Or, that a true NEWS organization could delve into, and produce enlightening commentary that informs their audience and enables the audience to see a way forward. If you’re merely an infotainment organization, go and start a new hourly series. Don’t pretend that you’re trying to inform when all you want to do is entertain.

Oil By Safer Trains? By Trucks? Better Yet, Divest

By: KateCA Wednesday July 23, 2014 11:44 am
A seemingly endless oil train of tankers passes by on tracks

Can the US make oil trains safer or is that missing the point?

Just a few weeks ago, the public learned that Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway had states sign confidentiality agreements “or otherwise pledged not to release [specific] information” about the millions of gallons of volatile crude oil rolling by rail through US countrysides, communities and cities.  Immediately, in some affected places, people began organizing protests (here, here and here) against these shipments of crude oil with visions of the Lac-Megantic conflagration still fresh in memory.

Just as public concern about the safety of oil by train is escalating,  the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and an advanced version of the same regarding improved standards for shipping highly-flammable oil by rail. Included in the proposed new standards are “a classification and testing program for mined gases and liquids and new operational requirements for high-hazard flammable trains” (emphasis added). More specifically, the DOT wants the DOT-111 tank cars currently in use to be phased out or retrofitted “to comply with new tank car design standards.” The specific kind of replacement tank car will be announced in the future. These proposed regulations cover transport by rail of “most Bakken crude oil,” which primarily comes from ND and MT and is transported from there to US refineries and ports.

Today’s US railroads typically haul about 1 million barrels of oil a day, most of it Bakken crude, a “light, sweet, and superflammable [oil] with high levels of propane and methane,” which can result in fireballs and heat so intense first responders are hard-pressed to put out the fires resulting from derailments and explosions. Only recently have the railroads been put under emergency DOT orders to “tell state emergency responders . . . how much crude [they’re] hauling and the exact route.” The DOT has also issued a “safety advisory” urging that “best tank cars” be employed.

Many rail cars used to transport highly volatile oil are of the old DOT-111 variety. They have easily punctured thin skins, and are already outlawed in Canada. The Association of American Railroads “has called for hardening or updating 85 percent of the railroad cars now moving oil in the United States.” That’s around 78,000 cars, folks, it “could take” 10 years to accomplish, and there’s even the suggestion that the railroads be offered tax breaks for achieving this measure of public safety.

A new, safer tank car costs “as much as $150,000” while retrofitting the older ones costs $20,000 – $60,000 each.  (Even at the lower end of the estimate, $20,000 times 78,000 cars is quite a chunk of change.) Canada has already established a deadline of May 2017 for phasing out or retrofitting the old DOT-111s. The industry estimates there’s  “a 50,400 tank car backlog of factory orders . . . that will not be completed until the end of 2015.”

Oil by pipeline has been looking more attractive to the oil industry, though resistance to the pipelines is considerable, and growing, including among North American Indigenous communities. If the struggle to ram the pipelines through becomes too tough, will oil by train become the preferred mode of transporting the stuff, even at the price of upgrading or replacing the old DOT-111s? After considering the situation, one source actually wondered if trucks couldn’t be pressed into service.

Meanwhile, there is an entirely different movement that’s gathering steam and might have the greatest chance of ridding us of our highly-destructive oil habit: Divestiture. Earlier this month, the World Council of Churches announced “it would pull all of its investments in fossil fuels” since they “were no longer ethical.” Although non-binding on its member churches, this move by the World Council of Churches is expected to have significant impact. The Church of England has said it is considering “redirecting its investments” as the world faces the devastating prospect of global warming, and the Roman Catholic Pope Francis has also expressed his concern. Just recently, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam and many others in a two-day conference in Fort McMurray, Canada where he called Alberta’s Athabascan oilsands “‘filth’ created by greed,” urged boycotting of fossil fuels and added his strong voice to the divestment movement.

Stay tuned.