Friday, July 23, 2010

In the news...

First, an update on the Gulf situation:

"Storm Threat Forces Ships to Leave Work at Oil Spill Site"

By late Thursday evening, Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who leads the federal response effort, said many vessels at the well site were preparing to leave now that a tropical depression had developed into a tropical storm, Bonnie, that was headed into the gulf.

Among those preparing to evacuate, he said, was a drill rig that is working on a relief well, which is considered the ultimate way to seal the well

At the well site, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, most work was halted during the day in advance of the storm’s arrival.

“While this is not a hurricane, it’s a storm that will have some significant impacts,” Admiral Allen said.

Mr. Wells said the storm would delay operations 10 to 12 days, depending on its severity and how close it passed by the site. That would push back completion of a relief well to the middle of August, he said.

"Jindell declares emergency preparing for storm"

Forecasters' "cone of error" includes the entire Louisiana coast, so at this point it's difficult to tell where it might go, he said. Landfall is expected around 2 p.m. Sunday.

The biggest worry, state officials said, is that winds and high tides would drive the Deepwater Horizon oil far up into Louisiana's marshes, which serve as nurseries for much of the nation's seafood. If that happens, it could also enter coastal homes and camps.

"There's a potential for winds and waves to drive oil inland," Jindal said. With 427 miles of coast already affected, "we don't need additional oil in our marshes."

Parishes with low-lying areas that usually flood during storms are expected to issue evacuation orders today as the disturbance moves closer to the state.

For a deeper and more speculative read - which analyzes the potential impact of the storm, we have this article:

"Abandoning the Capped Oil Well: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"

What could possibly go wrong?

One expert warns that increasing pressure might have an unintended danger:

Bill Gale, a California engineer and industrial explosion expert who is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, said… that gas hydrate crystals could be plugging any holes in the underground portion of the well, and they could get dislodged as pressure builds.

In other words, there may have been a destruction of a portion of the steel well casing which was temporarily plugged by methane hydrate crystals. Leaving the well cap may slowly raise the pressure in the well to the point where the hydrate crystals are dislodged, in which case the well might really start leaking.

But remember that the "top hat" containment dome failed because it got plugged up with methane hydrate crystals.

And remember that there's a lot of methane down there. Indeed, while most crude oil contains 5% methane, the crude oil gushing out of the blown out well is 40% methane.

Disturbing those [methane hydrate] deposits — say, by drilling an oil well through them — can turn that solid methane into a liquid, leaving the ocean floor unstable, explained [Carol Lutken of the University of Mississippi, which is part of a consortium with SRI which has been conducting methane research in the Gulf of Mexico for years].

Now to Israel. It looks like we are on the verge of another round of flotillas headed towards Gaza:

"Israel urges Lebanon and world: Stop new Gaza flotilla or we will"

In letter to Security Council, UN envoy Gabriela Shalev says activists are trying to inflame Mideast, calls on international community to halt planned aid convoy in order to prevent 'any escalation.'

Israel is urging Lebanon and the international community to prevent two ships from sailing to the Gaza Strip from a Lebanese port, warning that efforts to break the blockade of the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory would be stopped.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, accused organizers of the aid ships Junia and Julia of "seeking to incite a confrontation and raise tensions in our region."

In letters to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Shalev said, "Israel reserves its right under international law to use all necessary means to prevent these ships from violating the ... naval blockade."

She called on Lebanon's government to "demonstrate responsibility and prevent the two ships, Junia and Julia, from departing."

"Israel and Lebanon remain in a state of hostility," Shalev said, "and such action will prevent any escalation."

Shalev highlighted that "all goods that are not weapons or material for war-like purposes are now entering the Gaza Strip through appropriate mechanisms that ensure their delivery as well as their civilian nature."

She said the organizers of the Junia and Julia are "aware of these channels to deliver aid to Gaza but similar to previous attempts by others are seeking confrontation."

"Israel launches campaign to halt Lebanon flotilla bound for Gaza"

Israel launched a diplomatic effort yesterday to keep the latest planned flotilla from sailing from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli ambassadors to ask senior officials in the United States, United Nations, European Union and Egypt to pressure Syria and Lebanon to stop the flotilla, which Israel deems a "provocation" in light of its recent decision to end its civilian blockade of Gaza.

Syria has been included because senior Israeli officials say it is helping to organize the flotilla. Hezbollah is also involved, they charged.

"This is a clear and organized provocation," one official said.

Officially, the flotilla is being organized by Palestinian businessman Yasser Kashlak, who last month tried and failed to organize another flotilla from Lebanon. The two ships are slated to sail from Tripoli by the end of this week.

Israel's message to international diplomats is that it views this flotilla particularly gravely because it is sailing from the port of an enemy country.

The first flotilla was a PR bonanza for Israel's enemies - so the process will be repeated. It will be interesting to see how this story develops - we'll be keeping a close eye.

Below is a story that receives almost zero attention, and it is a story worth repeating - because we need to remember how the current Gaza situation came about:

"I'd make them drag me out by my hair"

In this story, we read about a first-hand account of Israeli citizens were forced to uproot from their homes and leave their communities, so that Gaza could be given to......well, to be factual - Hamas.

Five years since she walked out of her Gaza home screaming and crying, Shuli Yisraeli still hasn’t fully internalized that she will never see it again.

“I know that everything was destroyed,” she said on Thursday, as she sat in the small one-room community center in the town of modular homes that the government has set up for evacuees in Kibbutz Ein Tzurim.

She spoke with The Jerusalem Post as she and her next-door neighbor Tamar Maman waited for the start of a small ceremony held on Thursday night in Ein Tzurim to mark five years almost to the day, according to the Hebrew date, since they were pulled from their homes in Netzer Hazani, in Gush Katif.

The Western date was August 18, 2005.

The rest of this heartbreaking story is worth reading, and it almost serves as some kind of bigger symbolism for Israel and her situation in the Middle East today, and again, as mentioned, this story is rarely covered.

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