Congress eyes well blowout preventers – how timely!

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Lawmakers eager to prevent another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — and prove to voters that they’re responding to the Deepwater Horizon disaster — are insisting on new standards for blowout preventers, a last line of defense against runaway wells.

Federal regulators at the Interior Department also are mulling new rules that could boost the chances the 450-ton safety devices would stop a blowout by shearing through pipe and cutting off the oil and natural gas.

The mandates aim to respond to vulnerabilities revealed when the five-story blowout preventer at BP’s doomed Macondo well failed to block an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico over 85 days.

But petroleum engineers warn that mandates for extra triggering mechanisms and more pipe-cutting rams might not have helped stop the oil at BP’s well, and industry officials say some proposed rules might require blowout preventers too big to fit on some drilling rigs.

These are engineer-parrots trundled out in their cages to perform before politicians who, in turn, can say “see – we tried to act responsibly; but, it’s too expensive a task!” Hogwash!

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Gates would cut Joint Forces command from defense budget

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced some far-reaching proposals for restructuring the massive budget at his agency, including getting rid of the U.S. Joint Forces Command (Usjfcom).

The cuts could mean a loss of up to 3,000 jobs…

The funds could be used for providing 2 or 3 times as many useful, productive jobs.

“We must be mindful of the difficult economic and fiscal situation facing our nation,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. “As a matter of principle and political reality, the Department of Defense cannot expect America’s elected representatives to approve budget increases each year unless we are doing a good job, indeed, everything possible to make every dollar count.”

Sounds like Gates is taking advantage of the opportunity to clear out bureaucratic dross. Guaranteed to piss off the pork brigade.

The proposal to eliminate Usjfcom, which is based in Norfolk, Virginia, met with opposition from both the state’s U.S. Democratic senators…

Eliminating Usjfcom is just one of a wide-ranging series of proposals presented by Gates. Others include:

— Eliminating some of the 65 military boards and commissions to cut the budget for them by 25 percent in fiscal year 2011;
— A review of all Defense Department intelligence to eliminate needless duplication;
— Reducing funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year for each of the next three years;
— Seeking to stop “Brass Creep,” a term former Sen. John Glenn used for situations when higher ranking officers were doing jobs that lower ranking officers could handle…

Gates was adamant that the Pentagon must change its way of thinking about money.

And, uh, that means Congress might have to do the same.

Faking cancer for cash!

A miracle? Not really…

Canada — A Burlington woman who police say pretended to have cancer to raise money for herself appeared briefly in a Milton court Monday morning. Ashley Anne Kirilow is facing three counts of fraud under $5,000.

On Saturday, Kirilow’s father said he had no plans to post bail for his estranged daughter and no family members were present at her bail hearing.

Because no one showed up to act as her surety, Kirilow’s bail hearing was put over until Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. to give her more time to secure bail money.

Kirilow appeared briefly in court dressed in a pale, peach-coloured frock and blue runners. Her light brown hair, now grown out, was tucked behind her ears…

Jackie Musial, 21, came from Oakville with her friend Meredith Dejonge, 25, to attend Kirilow’s bail hearing in Milton.

Both women say they were friends with Kirilow and were stunned to learn they had been lied to.

The two women aren’t exactly sure why they felt compelled to attend Kirilow’s bail hearing but they both wanted to see the woman they once considered a friend…

Musial said she never suspected Kirilow might have been lying about her illness. The woman was a convincing patient, she said, and would frequently update her Facebook status from the “hospital” or end online conversations by saying she had to go for a chemotherapy treatment…

But now, Musial wants nothing to do with Kirilow. “Everyone’s going to know her as the girl who faked cancer,” she said.

It’s hard to escape when it’s tattooed on her hands,” she added, referring to the markings Kirilow had tattooed on her hands in tribute to her alleged cancer.

Folks, I’m a firm believer in charity. Please, check out who and what you’re giving your money to!

The most controversial trial at Guantanamo

The upcoming trial is one of Guantanamo’s most controversial cases. Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is the only Westerner still being held at this military prison; he was detained in Afghanistan at the age of 15. He’s now 23.

International law says children captured on the battlefield must be treated as victims, and not as perpetrators. Child-soldiers are supposed to be rehabilitated and given the chance to re-enter society.

Omar Khadr hasn’t been treated as a victim nor has he been rehabilitated because the United States says he isn’t a soldier and al-Qaeda isn’t an army.

It’s been widely reported that the US would have preferred to have reached a plea deal with Khadr, rather than have his case go to trial.

The Canadian has refused, and in a letter to his lawyer dated May 27 Omar Khadr wrote, “I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here, it seems that we have done everything but the world doesn’t get it so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison”…

He seems frustrated and has suggested he plans to boycott his trial. It’s worth mentioning that Omar Khadr has often claimed he’s been tortured. He’s said that military interrogators threatened him with gang-rape and murder if he didn’t co-operate and at an earlier hearing a former US Army sergeant seemed to confirm that claim…

Some people view military trials as a test of a judicial process that’s faced international criticism and been revised several times by higher US courts. For Omar Khadr, the next few days are about his future, not the system.

Notes from the reporter follow

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A Dung Beetle that seats four

Methane as a source of automotive propulsion isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s taken manufacturers a long time to figure out how to clean it up enough to let it power an engine long-term. GENeco thinks they have figured it out and has presented this Volkswagen Beetle as proof of concept. Dubbed the “Bio-Bug,” it basically runs on human excrement – seriously.

This Beetle’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has been converted to run on methane gas produced by human excrement and can still top 183 kilometers per hour (about 114 miles per hour). We’ll try to avoid any fährt jokes. Methane is essentially similar to compressed natural gas, but has some unique challenges. “Previously the gas hasn’t been clean enough to fuel motor vehicles without it affecting performance,” said Mohammed Saddiq, the head of GENeco.

He added: “However, through using the latest technology our Bio-Bug drives like any conventional car and what’s more it uses sustainable fuel. If you were to drive the car you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car.”

The Bio-Bug actually uses regular unleaded gas on start-up, but switches over to methane automatically once it’s running. It was built by England’s The Greenfuel Company for GENeco, a division of one of Bristol’s largest sewage treatment plant. That plant, Wessex Water, claims that it will take but 70 toilets to power the Bio-Bug for a year.

Bravo! I won’t even include a smartass remark about Congress and crap.

The stuff in your McNuggets that is also used in Silly Putty probably won’t hurt you. Let’s eat!

U.S. McNuggets curiously… um… different than their European cousins

U.S. McNuggets not only contain more calories and fat than their British counterparts, but also chemicals not found across the Atlantic…

American McNuggets (190 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat for 4 pieces) contain the chemical preservative tBHQ, tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based product. They also contain dimethylpolysiloxane, “an anti-foaming agent” also used in Silly Putty.

By contrast, British McNuggets (170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat for 4 pieces) lists neither chemical among its ingredients…

McDonald’s says the differences are based on the local tastes [Ed.: ROFLMAO!!! Too true, we Americans love our Silly Putty.]: In the United States, McNuggets are coated and then cooked, in the United Kingdom, they are cooked and then coated. As a result, the British McNuggets absorb less oil and have less fat…

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor and author of “What to Eat,” says the tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysiloxane in the McNuggets probably pose no health risks…

I know that this is another “The U.S. leads the world in…” story. I just haven’t found the hook yet.

US and Vietnam celebrate military and economic relationship

Photo from an earlier visit to Hong Kong

Cold War enemies the United States and Vietnam demonstrated their blossoming military relations Sunday as a US nuclear supercarrier floated in waters off the Southeast Asian nation’s coast.

The USS George Washington’s stop, which comes 35 years after the Vietnam War, is officially billed as a commemoration of last month’s 15th anniversary of normalised diplomatic relations between the former foes. But the timing also reflects Washington’s heightened interest in maintaining security and stability in the Asia-Pacific amid tensions following the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which killed 46 sailors. North Korea has been blamed for the attack, but has vehemently denied any involvement.

Last month during an Asian security meeting in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also angered China by unexpectedly calling on the Communist powerhouse to resolve territorial claims with neighbouring Southeast Asian countries over islands in the South China Sea.

China claims the entire sea and the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands over which it exercises complete sovereignty. But Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have staked claims on all or some of the territory, which straddles vital shipping lanes, important fishing grounds and is believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Clinton announced that the US has a national interest in seeing the claims resolved…

Maybe Hillary thinks Lyndon Johnson made the Gulf of Tonkin part of Texas?

The aircraft carrier’s visit is particularly symbolic as it floats off the coast of central Danang, once the site of a bustling U.S. military base during the Vietnam War, which ended April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of the US-backed capital of South Vietnam, reuniting the country.

Some 58,000 Americans and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese were killed during the war.

The US is now Vietnam’s top export market and Americans are the country’s No. 1 foreign investor. Two-way trade reached $15.4 billion in 2009.

Of course, if the United States hadn’t been occupied with being the cop of the world – that trade, cooperation and commerce could have started decades ago.

We always forget that VietNam was one of the Asian nations that fought on our side against Japan through World War 2. Even though they were occupied beforehand by France as a colonial “property”.