|Looking across Neklason Lake to the Talkeetnas Sunday|
Time to finish some composition projects, and start the next ones.
|Looking across Neklason Lake to the Talkeetnas Sunday|
David Lawrence, the executive vice president directly responsible for Alaskan operations has left the company. A Shell spokesman says that “Mr. Lawrence’s departure from Shell is by mutual consent.” Lawrence had been with Shell since 1984. His departure was first reported on the site started by longtime Shell gadfly Alfred Donovan. A year ago Lawrence had said that Shell’s planned Arctic drilling “is relatively easy.”
So it’s fitting that he was made to answer for the disastrous Alaskan campaign which was marred by a host of delays, accidents and mishaps. The misadventure resulted in a couple of wells being started, then abandoned, and one of Shell’s rigs, the Kulluk, being damaged in a grounding near Kodiak Island. “ Shell screwed up in 2012,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this month.So far, the local Alaska news has largely voided any implications in his having, uh, left the company. I predict more heads will roll at the Alaska operation, even though more information is coming out that Shell's shortcomings organizationally for the 2012 drilling debacle came from higher up in the company than from their Alaska crew.
According to our whistleblower source, the entire rebuild and preparation was carried out at a reckless pace and the Noble Discoverer departed on its way to New Zealand without even being certified. As a consequence of the botched processes, the ancient ship repeatedly broke-down on the high seas during the move to New Zealand. Because almost everything went wrong, the well it had attempted to drill had to be abandoned before reaching its objectives so that the jinxed drilling ship could be moved to the Arctic with all speed.IV. Another agency may begin an investigation into Shell's Arctic mishaps:
The Coast Guard has asked federal prosecutors to consider taking action on possible violations of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) committed in the operations of Shell's Kulluk drillship, said Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, head of the Coast Guard in Alaska.
Shell, which had planned to drill up to five wells offshore Alaska in 2012 and a similar number this year, has previously said it will pause its Alaska operations to regroup due to complications faced in the harsh northern environment, but it expects to resume drilling next year.
Ostebo said he had commissioned one investigation already launched into the December 31 grounding of the Kulluk and that the Coast Guard has forwarded findings of safety and environmental violations on the Noble Discoverer, Shell's other Alaska drillship, to U.S. prosecutors for possible enforcement action.
"Last week, I also referred a separate Kulluk investigation into potential MARPOL violations from 2012 to the Department of Justice for their review and potential follow-on action," Ostebo said at a field hearing convened by Senator Mark Begich.Here is a video of the field hearing chaired by Sen. Begich Wednesday:
Gay and lesbian couples should not be denied the ability to pledge their love and commitment through the civil institution of marriage. I believe that two committed adults of the same sex should be able to receive a government-issued marriage license, while religious institutions retain their right to determine which marriages they will perform.Begich went on to say, "Government should keep out of individuals' personal lives—if someone wants to marry someone they love, they should be able to. Alaskans are fed up with government intrusion into our private lives, our daily business, and in the way we manage our resources and economy."
This is Begichs last term !!!
How can politicians continue to "evolve" on the issue of gay marriage when it stands as such an obvious contradiction to evolution?
*****However, those of us who have long followed Begich's hiring as mayor of Anchorage and in the U.S. Senate, and know his staff, understand Mark has always been very welcoming and inclusive. Among his most staunch supporters among staffers and former employees have been several openly gay men and women, some of who are my friends. I remember back during the Democratic Primary of 2008, when I was supporting his opponent, Ray Metcalfe, getting several calls from gay friends (and other friends) who urged me to look more deeply into Mark's record and qualifications.
Looks like another Republican pickup in 2014, Alaska is one of the redest [sic] states in the nation, they elected Sarah Palin after all...
|Ray Metcalfe at Occupy Anchorage, September 2011|
(3)(g) Unless required by the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature, a legislator may not vote on a question if the legislator has an equity or ownership interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on a substantial class of persons to which the legislator belongs as a member of a profession, occupation, industry, or region.Senators Kevin Meyer and Peter Micciche work for ConocoPhillips. Micciche owns stock in ConocoPhillips. The governor who proposed and ardently pushed this bill is a recent employee of ConocoPhillips. Senators Meyer and Micciche should have recused themselves from the vote, if not the earlier proceedings as well.
Political activist Ray Metcalfe says he is preparing an initiative for the 2014 ballot that would restore a modified version of the state's current oil-tax regime should the Legislature adopt Gov. Sean Parnell's oil-tax cuts.
"The objective here is to have petitions in hand so that if Parnell gets his way and passes something onerous, when the dust settles you've got people ready to put something on the ballot," Metcalfe said Tuesday. "I think (the cuts) would be reversed if it were placed on the ballot."
Metcalfe, a former Republican legislator in the 1980s who created the Republican Moderate Party as a protest to the Republican drift to the right and then joined the Democratic Party, said his initiative was mainly copied from Senate Bill 50, the Democratic response to Parnell. Neither Senate Bill 50 nor its House counterpart, House Bill 111, have had any hearings in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature, though the bills were introduced more than a month ago.
Malcolm Roberts, a long-term aide to the late Gov. Wally Hickel and a founder of the oil-industry watchdog group Backbone, said Metcalfe's efforts could be "round two" in the fight against Parnell's tax cuts contained in Senate Bill 21 and House Bill 72.
"There's still a battle that may be winnable to get enough votes to stop Senate Bill 21," Roberts said. He and other Backbone members were in Juneau earlier this week trying to convince senators to vote against the bill.
"Let's not give in to this bill till we've actually lost it, and then we'll go from there," Roberts said.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a lead author of the Democratic tax measure, said he'd back Metcalfe, depending on what eventually emerges from the Legislature.
"I think he's going to find widespread support -- I don't think the people of Alaska support what's happening in the Legislature," said Wielechowski, from East Anchorage. "If it takes a popular citizens movement, an uprising from the people of this state to show that we're sick and tired of a Legislature that's not going to listen to us, I'm going be behind it 100 percent."
Metcalfe said he has two versions of the initiative that he could spring after the Legislature finally votes, assuming it passes Parnell's tax cuts relatively intact.
One of the initiatives would actually raise oil taxes, he said. The other would reduce the current progressive rate of tax increase as oil prices rise -- but it wouldn't cut taxes even as much as the Democratic SB 50 would, he said. Unlike supporters of Parnell's tax cuts, he says that Alaska's tax rates are competitive in the world, and more favorable to industry than in some fields in Mexico and Iraq.
He has the initial round of 140 sponsor signatures for each measure, 40 more than required, he said, but hasn't decided which one he will finally offer. Metcalfe said he's also looking for two prime sponsors in addition to himself to make up the initiative committee.Former representative Metcalfe wrote an op-ed back in February, detailing years and years of oil company manipulation of our legislative processes. The Frontiersman and Juneau Empire carried it. The Anchorage Daily News refused. At least they carried Richard Mauer's story on Ray's initiative.
With respect to chemical weapons, we intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened.
So I’ve instructed my teams to work closely with all other countries in the region and international organizations and institutions to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed.
The broader point is that once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer and I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass causalities and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria, and the international community has to act on that additional information.I wanted to puke. Especially as it was being despicably uttered on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of our huge war crime in Iraq - shoved down the throats of Americans by the post-9/11 GWOT cabal, so directly related to the Project for the New American Century and A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, and by a media and political establishment stock full of people who intensely believed our criminal Iraqi expedition would help Israel, no matter what it did to America, let alone Iraq.
And going on to Fallujah, because I wrote about this a year ago, and then I returned to the city again this trip, we are seeing an absolute crisis of congenital malformations of newborn. There is one doctor, a pediatrician named Dr. Samira Alani, working on this crisis in the city. She’s the only person there registering cases. And she’s seeing horrific birth defects. I mean, these are extremely hard to look at. They’re extremely hard to bear witness to. But it’s something that we all need to pay attention to, because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.
And so, what this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath of—in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were—that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II. So, Dr. Samira Alani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings.
These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to. She said it’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects.
And it is ongoing.It is ongoing. 14 times greater malformation rat than experienced by the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki!
Salazar will be joined by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, who chairs the Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau, who led the assessment; and James A. Watson, Director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. In January, Secretary Salazar directed the high-level review of Shell’s 2012 offshore drilling program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – including the company’s preparations for last year’s drilling season and its maritime and emergency response operations – to identify challenges and lessons learned.I attended telephonically.
This review has confirmed that Shell entered the drilling season not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans. The lack of adequate preparation put pressure on Shell’s overall operations and timelines at the end of the drilling season. Indeed, because Shell was unable to get certified and then deploy its specialized Arctic Containment System (ACS) – which the Department of the Interior (DOI) required to be on site in the event of a loss of well control – the company was not allowed to drill into hydrocarbon-bearing zones. Shell’s failure to deploy the ACS system was due, in turn, to shortcomings in Shell’s management and oversight of key contractors. Likewise, additional problems encountered by Shell – including significant violations identified during United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) inspection of the Noble Discoverer drilling rig in Seward last November, the lost tow and grounding of the Kulluk rig near Kodiak Island in late December, and violations of air emission permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – also indicate serious deficiencies in Shell’s management of contractors, as well as its oversight and execution of operations in the extreme and unpredictable conditions offshore of Alaska.
I am a life-long Alaskan raised in a military family and the mother of four sons. Brought up in the Mat-Su, I am blessed to have married my high school sweetheart and created a large family together in the place we love. Recently, we chose the pristine beauty of Sutton to buy our first home and raise our energetic boys. With a humble chunk of land, we are raising chickens and vegetables, while teaching our sons the value of hunting and fishing for our food. Living off the land and building character through hard work and perseverance is one of the best gifts living in Alaska has to offer.Come join us Saturday. Meet some local friends. Enjoy refreshments. Sample from our wine cellar. Donate to Jamey!
I am also blessed to have enjoyed a career improving the futures of families and community. Eighteen years ago I started my career as a therapist for autistic children. Since then, I worked for many years with adults and children with disabilities to ensure they have the chance to be productive, happy, and healthy members of our community. I have spent the last 10 years helping families with victimized children overcome trauma to become healthy adults. In addition, I advocate for abused children in court to help find them safe, permanent homes.
In addition to my professional life, I have enjoyed a long and fulfilling career as a community service volunteer. I served as President of the Board for a local parent resource center for several years, I volunteered on various budget and administrative committees for the local school district, and I volunteer to work with abused children.
Whether volunteering my time or working as a professional, I give my time to the community because I feel strongly that our greatest asset is our people. I want to create a future here that will bring health and happiness to our children and grandchildren.
|ConocoPhillips' jack-up Arctic drilling rig, being constructed now|
ConocoPhillips on Thursday revealed that it is moving ahead with plans to drill up to two exploratory wells in Alaska’s arctic waters in 2014 where rival Royal Dutch Shell suffered a number of setbacks this past year.Meanwhile, another player in Arctic drilling isn't poking fun at the Keystone cops at Shell. They are engaged in serious contemplation, something outside of the corporate culture toolkit at Alaska Shell:
ConocoPhillips proposed exploratory drilling program, presented during NOAA’s annual Arctic Open Water Meeting, will focus on the “Devils Paw” prospect located 80 miles offshore in the shallow waters of Chukchi Sea, Alaska. The company says it intends to drill one or two exploration wells during the open water season of 2014 in water depths of approximately 140 feet.
ConocoPhillips’ plan calls for drilling to be conducted using a jack-up rig and a number of support vessels including tugs and barges, ice management and oil spill response vessels, and fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
Reuters reports that the rig to be used is being built by Noble and will be designed for extreme weather conditions.
“We’re not going to bring up a 30-year-old piece of equipment,” said Mike Faust, ConocoPhillips’ Chukchi program manager, during the meeting in Anchorage. Faust also admitted that the company will take Shell’s experience into account, but added that there are a number of differences that set ConoccoPhillips’ program apart including a prospect that is further south, where ice melts earlier in the season.
ConocoPhillips’ exploration plan is currently under review by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
This week a top executive with Norway-based Statoil said it would be willing to walk away from Arctic offshore drilling if exploration in the harsh and remote environment proves too risky.
In an interview at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Tim Dodson, Statoil’s executive vice president of global exploration, acknowledged the numerous challenges associated with Arctic offshore drilling and reiterated his company’s cautious approach to exploration in the region.
After spending $23 million on Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, Statoil had planned to begin drilling in 2014, but delayed those plans by a year after watching Shell’s struggle to comply with safety and environmental standards and navigate the challenging conditions — all before drilling into any oil-bearing zones. Now, Dodson said, that may be pushed back even further:
We’ve [said] we wouldn’t drill before 2015. Whether that means we drill in 2015, or maybe not until 2016 or whether we’d drill at all, I think maybe the jury’s still a little bit out on that.
One key reason for Statoil’s reluctance to rush into Arctic offshore operations is the cost involved. Shell has spent approximately $5 billion on equipment and preparations, only to see its state of the art oil spill response equipment “crushed like a beer can” in a routine test off Puget Sound. And both of the company’s specialized Arctic drilling rigs were so badly damaged in accidents last year that Shell will tow them to Asia for substantial repairs — delaying its own exploration plans until at least 2014.
In the aftermath of Shell’s debacles, the Department of the Interior is nearing the end of a 60-day review of the company’s Arctic Ocean drilling program, the results of which are expected as soon as the end of this week.I'm not sure that the failed containment dome on the Arctic Challenger was actually "state-of-the-art." We wouldn't even know how badly the apparatus had failed had it not been for a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Seattle's KUOW. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility have ongoing FOIA's and a lawsuit, regarding the same failed tests, which may reveal even more about Shell's rush to get something going, no matter what the cost - financially or environmentally - in 2012.
Feel sick to my stomach a lotHere, American author and poet Alice Walker, reads from Corrie's writing in such a way as to bring out the poetry in it:
from being doted on all the time,
by people who are facing doom.
You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers
I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers
outside our house
and you and me inside.
Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses
the livelihoods for 300 people.
Then the bulldozers come and take out
people’s vegetable farms and gardens.
This happens every day.
I think that I should at least mention that
I am also discovering a degree of strength
and of basic ability for humans to remain human
in the direst of circumstances.
I think the word is dignity.
I wish you could meet these people.
Maybe, hopefully, someday
One senator has indicated she may put up a barrier to the confirmation however. Ranking senator, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has said she might hold up the nomination to ensure approval of an Alaskan road to connect a remote Aleutian village to an all-weather airport used for medical evacuations. The road would need to pass through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a sensitive environmental area. The project has been denied for more than 30 years by the Fish and Wildlife Service. They said last month that they would again deny a proposed land swap that would enable the road to be built.Here is a link to Jewell's written statement, submitted before the hearing.
|Noble Discoverer aboard Xiang Yun Kao - image by Ronn Hemstock for Seward City News|
Shell’s damaged Kulluk drill rig has arrived in Unalaska, a week after leaving Kodiak. The rig will towed to its specialized dock in Captain’s Bay later this afternoon.
Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith says the heavy-lift vessel that will be picking up the rig is on its way as well. The Xiang Rui Kou left China on Sunday, according to its automated tracking system. Once the heavy-lift vessel arrives, it will empty its ballast tanks, sink below the Kulluk and lift the drill rig onto its deck.
The rig will then head to dry dock in Asia for repairs. Smith says as of today, no shipyard has selected.II. DOI Shell Arctic 60-Day Review and Senate Sally Jewell Confirmation Process to Start:
SD-366 Senate Dirksen Building 10:00 AM
The purpose of this hearing is to consider the nomination of Sally Jewell to be the Secretary of the Interior.
The hearing will be webcast live on the Committee's website, and an archived video will be available shortly after the hearing is complete.
Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing. The overflow room is SD-608.
Guided by powerful tugs, Shell Oil’s drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, began its slow but steady journey from the Alaska Railroad Dock to the waiting semi-submerged transport ship around 6:30 am on Saturday morning. Calm seas helped make this delicate operation much easier.
By early afternoon, the rig was temporarily secured in place, and the transport ship began to pump out the ballast water.
By evening, the rig rode high and dry on the cargo deck, lights blazing.
Over the next few days, welders, including graduates of the AVTEC welding program, will secure the rig to the ship for the month-long journey across the North Pacific Ocean to the repair facility in South Korea.I do like that Shell is using people from the AVTEC school for the hard tie-down. I'll be surprised if the journey takes an entire month, but it is possible.
MOTHER Nature made the point the Obama administration chose to ignore two years ago as it was processing an application by Shell Oil to proceed with oil and gas development in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
The Arctic Ocean is a rough place to do business.
Shell operations were pummeled in both locations last year, and last week the company called off plans for the 2013 drilling season.
Oil rigs had trouble, and so did a new tug. Harsh weather, accidents and errors combined to send the Shell rigs to Asia for repairs.
All of the early warnings were seemingly ignored during the permitting process, so high winds and seas, ice and limited visibility made the point.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico made the hazards and difficulties clear. Imagine spill response within truly harsh conditions.
Respect the lessons learned.• Needless to say, some are miffed in the Seattle area, as the mismanagement of Shell's fleet evacuation from Alaska to Puget Sound resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars worth of repair and modification contract work in shipyards down there.
An Arab-Israel student at the Ariel College in the West Bank claimed she was told to get off a bus because she "dared" to speak Arabic on her cell phone.
Hanin Muslah said that during Thursday's incident she was also subjected to a full body search.
Muslah, who is originally from the Wadi Ara area and is studying for a degree in engineering at the establishment's architecture and interior design department, said two armed security guards boarded the bus near a checkpoint as it was leaving Ariel. She claimed that the guards questioned her after hearing her speak Arabic and eventually ordered her to get off the bus.
"As I was talking on my cell I noticed they were pointing at me," said Muslah, who takes the same bus home every day.
"I started to cry. I have never been so humiliated in my entire life. They took me off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I told them, 'I'm an Israeli, just like you are, so why are you treating me like this? Why take me off the bus in such a degrading manner?'"
"I don't wear a veil or traditional dresses; I don’t look Arab," said the student, "I was taken off the bus only because I spoke Arabic." The Ariel Municipality said the guards in question work for a security company that operates "according to IDF guidelines," adding that "non-Jewish citizens, including students, pass through Ariel's gate every day."And on the same day Obama introduced the Rosa Parks statue:
Starting on Monday, certain buses running from the West Bank into central Israel will have separate lines for Jews and Arabs.
The Afikim bus company will begin operating Palestinian-only bus lines from the checkpoints to Gush Dan to prevent Palestinians from boarding buses with Jewish passengers. Palestinians are not allowed to enter settlements, and instead board buses from several bus stops on the Trans-Samaria highway.You might ask why I bring this up. OK.
At a time when sequestration is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon budget, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.
This could prove a very risky strategy at a time when millions of Americans will be feeling the bite of the sequestration debacle, from the defense budget to the school lunch program. But not aid to Israel, which will be untouched if AIPAC gets its way.Such ingrates.
Despite a barrage of attacks from British, European and U.S. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) groups, the Rolling Stones will perform their planned concert in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day, Monday, April 15.
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s leader and most recognizable member since 1963. “All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday.”
Needless to say, tickets to both concerts, Monday night in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and Tuesday night in Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv, have been sold out even as Jagger was speaking.The hoax article went further into details of the fictitious concert series.
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day.and Abby Martin's favorite fake news source, Allgemeiner, about whose punking Phan Nguyen wrote, "the reliably unreliable Algemeiner":
Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones has announced it will not cancel its planned concert in Jerusalem, to be held on Israel’s Independence Day April 15, despite pressure from anti-Zionist groups. Instead, the band decided to add a second Jerusalem concert the next day.
“We’ve been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side. All I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert on Tuesday,” said Mick Jagger, the band’s lead singer, according to the Jewish Press.and my favorite, the amazing Pamela Geller (Rep. Bob Bring ME the Donkey Lynn's BFF), who was in ecstasy over this, in her original post that lauded the Stones' courage:
ROLLING STONES TELL JEW-HATERS TO KISS THEIR ....... ADDS ANOTHER DATE TO ISRAEL TOUR ON ISRAEL INDEPENDENCE DAYand:
It is so delicious to see very cool people standing against savagery, thuggery and injustice. I'd wish I could get to Jerusalem just to see this show.When Geller's being punked was exposed by commenters to her post, she lied and turned on them. According to Phan Nguyen:
Thus—essentially saying, “I was testing you”—Geller pretended to be in on the joke. However, there are several reasons why this is implausible:
1. Geller acknowledged that it was a Purim joke. But by the time of she had posted her story on February 26, Purim was already over. It would be like making an April Fool’s joke on April 2.
2. Geller didn’t quote directly from the original Jewish Press article but instead based her post on Robert Miller’s Joshuapundit article. To this day, Miller appears unaware that the story is a hoax and his post stands uncorrected. There is no indication that Geller had seen the original article in The Jewish Press before she posted.
3. Despite claiming that she was proving a clever point, Geller later removed the posting from her website and also deleted her tweet referencing it. What’s the point of making a point and then deleting all references to the point?II. So The Rolling Stones aren't going to Israel in April, after all. How about Obama in March, especially if he doesn't have an Israeli Government with whom to meet?
President Barack Obama's historic first visit as US leader to Israel this month could be in jeopardy after Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to plead for extra time to cobble together a new coalition government.
The Israeli prime minister was granted a two-week extension by Shimon Peres, Israel's president, after missing Saturday's deadline to reach agreement with rival parties following January's inconclusive general election.
He now has until March 16 to form a government – otherwise Mr Peres will ask another party leader to lead coalition talks.
White House officials have said Mr Obama will call off his visit if no government is in place by then.
The US president is scheduled to arrive on March 20 for a two-day trip that will also include the West Bank city of Ramallah.If you find Israeli party politics bewildering, you are not alone. I suppose Netanyahu himself is bewildered by the maze he helped build, and in which he is now all but trapped:
Netanyahu's Likud-Beitenu won 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats - an eroded lead that forced him to cast a wide net for partners while juggling their disparate demands.
During the 28-day period, Netanyahu managed to forge a pact only with the party of former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, whose six-member faction "The Movement" has given him 37 seats, way short of the minimum 61 needed to confirm a new coalition.
In a brief statement following his meeting with Peres on Saturday night, Netanyahu hinted that at least one potential coalition partner refused to sit alongside others.
Netanyahu has faced demands from the parties that placed second and fourth, Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), to slash mass exemptions from military conscription and cut welfare stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews.
In coalition talks on Friday with Bayit Yehudi, Netanyahu's chief negotiator said the right-wing party was unwilling to sit alongside ultra-Orthodox parties but Bayit Yehudi officials denied this.At Mondoweiss, Annie Robbins has provided an excellent, detailed analysis of Netanyahu's pickle, which most likely adds up to no Israeli ruling coalition by the date set for Obama's trip. She observes that in spite of gains by moderate factions in the January election, the hardliners seem to hold the last trump. Playing it - accepting the notion of outright annexation of Palestine without giving the non-Jewish Palestinians any citizenship rights - will isolate Israel internationally, certainly from Europe and most of Latin America.
|Xiang Yun Kou in Resurrection Bay - image by Jackie Wild|
[T]o get the drillship from point A in Alaska to point B in Korea, the immense vessel Xiang Yun Kou pulled into the waters near Seward Thursday to dry-haul the Noble Discoverer to its Asian destination.
But the Discoverer won’t be leaving right away. On Thursday morning, Coast Guard spokeswoman Ensign Victoria Swinghamer said the plan to raise the Noble Discoverer wouldn’t occur “for a few more days.”
The Coast Guard also planned to inspect the Xiang Yun Kou upon its arrival to ensure it would be prepared for its long trip across the Pacific with the Noble Discoverer atop its 583-foot-long, 141-foot-wide cargo deck. The Coast Guard cutter Mustang hovered near the Chinese ship on Thursday, along with the tug Junior.Here's a look at the Xiang in its submerged state, ready to take on a load:
Keppel Offshore & Marine Technology Centre (KOMtech) and ConocoPhillips are jointly designing a first-of-its-kind “ice-worthy” jackup to operate in the Arctic seas.
The jackup will have dual cantilevers to optimize drilling operations within a limited time frame. It will be capable of operating in a self-sustained manner for 14 days and be equipped with a hull designed for towing in ice. The rig also will be able to resist the impacts from multi-year ice floes and ridges, as well as withstand a certain level of ice thickness.
“The features of this jackup rig make it a cost-effective and promising drilling solution for the Arctic offshore,” Dr Foo Kok Seng, KOMtech director, said. “We believe that this joint project will achieve significant breakthroughs in offshore Arctic drilling.” The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.Here is an artist's conception of the finished rig, the Gemini: