Is there anyone in Big Oil who doesn’t lie all the time?

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Exxon Mobil said on Friday that a pipeline that failed two weeks ago, leaking oil into the Yellowstone River, routinely transported a heavier and more toxic form of crude than the company and federal regulators initially acknowledged.

The Silvertip pipeline carries so-called tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, as do the U.S. pipelines of most major oil companies, Exxon spokeswoman Karen Matusic told Reuters.

Matusic said the tar sands crude was present along various segments of the pipeline but not at the spill site in Montana.

“Oil from Canada was in the line, but not that area that was affected by the breach. The oil that spilled out, that oil came from Wyoming,” she told Reuters, referring to sweet crude produced in oil fields at the Montana-Wyoming border.

Tar sands oil or bitumen, derived from tar sands or oil sands, contains more toxic components than the sweet, or low sulfur, crude that Exxon and government regulators initially said flowed in the Silvertip…

The news comes amid an intensifying debate over TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $7 billion pipeline to carry more than half a million barrels a day of tar sands crude from Alberta to U.S. refineries in the Midwest and the Texas Gulf Coast…

Citing a University of Nebraska study released this week, activists say spills from pipes weakened by the corrosive and abrasive agents in tar sands crude would contaminate water supplies for hundreds of thousands of Americans and destroy bottomlands in the nation’s midsection vital for endangered birds like the whooping crane…

Environmental groups on Friday pointed to the July 1 rupture of the 69-mile Silvertip, which spilled what Exxon estimates at 42,000 gallons of oil, or 1,000 barrels, into the Yellowstone River west of Billings.

Officials with the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said on Wednesday they had just learned that the Silvertip carried oil from Canada.

Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of the synthetic petroleum product could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has faulted Exxon for failing to tell the state exactly what kinds of crude ran in the pipeline or spell out what hazardous chemicals were in the mix now contaminating riverside properties and sickening at least five residents.

How old were the licenses for the pipeline? Anyone checking up on the reality of what’s transported? Frankly, the “new and improved” regulators seem to be a trusting and gullible as their predecessors.

Google’s first science fair is won by girls, girls, girls


Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose and Naomi Shah

If Google’s first science fair is any indication, the top scientists of the future will be women. Google has announced the fair’s winners, and they are all young women.

Shree Bose, age 17, from Fort Worth, Tex., won the grand prize for developing a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients who have developed a resistance to chemotherapy. Naomi Shah, 16, from Portland, Ore., found ways to improve indoor air quality and decrease people’s reliance on asthma medications. And Lauren Hodge, 14, from Dallastown, Pa., researched the effects of different marinades on potential carcinogens in grilled chicken.

“As a girl, to see that my gender actually is going to come into this field that’s been so dominated by men is exciting to me, and to be a part of that is even more exciting,” Ms. Bose said in an interview.

Surprisingly for Google, a computer science company, the winners each did bioscience projects. But the entries were wide-ranging, as was the science fair. Teenagers from all over the world could enter the fair in areas from computer science to space exploration. Unlike other science fairs, like those of Intel and Siemens, students entered online instead of presenting their projects in a school gymnasium.

Ten thousand students from 91 countries entered 7,500 projects in the science fair, including transforming recycled cans into solar ovens, building robotic prosthetic limbs and developing 3-D indoor navigation for blind people. For a clue about what tomorrow’s scientists care most about, the most popular category was earth and environmental sciences.

Google invited 15 finalists to its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters this week. The winners received scholarships, internships at Google, CERN and Lego, and for Ms. Bose, a trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Explorer.

Bravo! You have to wonder if anyone from Congress was watching?

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Greece’s crisis lays heat on politicians cozy with Orthodox Church


Who holds the keys to the Treasury?

The Greek Orthodox Church owns more land than anyone except the state, employs thousands on the public payroll, has a stake in the nation’s biggest bank, but campaigners say its tax payments are derisory.

The Church vehemently denies accusations it is one of Greece’s biggest tax dodgers and says it is playing a vital social, economic and spiritual role in this time of hardship…

The Greek Orthodox Church has long enjoyed a privileged, some would say cozy, status when it comes to taxes in a country where it is responsible for the sole official religion, with one critic calling its complex finances at best opaque.

But the sovereign debt crisis that has rocked the Greek state, thrown hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and forced painful cuts in salaries, pensions and benefits, has raised fresh questions about the Church’s tax position.

More than 100,000 people have joined a Greek Facebook page “Tax The Church,” and 29,000 have so far signed an online petition urging the state to harness “the huge fortune of churches” to reduce Greece’s crushing budget deficit.

“The Church must pay its share of the tax burden,” said former finance minister Yannos Papantoniou. “It is totally unreasonable in this situation that they contribute so little…”

Church finances, lands and other concerns are so labyrinthine they are hard to penetrate, analysts said. The Church’s total tax payment is not made public, and Father Timotheos said churches are responsible for their own taxes…

The state at the moment pays the salaries of about 9,000 black-robed priests, including about 100 metropolitans who run the Church, as well as the pensions of retired clergy…

It’s the third rail of Greek politics. If you touch it, you die,” the adviser to Papandreou said, comparing the issue to the high voltage electrified rail on some train tracks.

RTFA. Detailed in what history it presents. The Orthodox Church executives have always been smart enough to behave like a modern-day mafia. Keep up sufficient charitable works to maintain public political indebtedness.

Given the corruption of Greece’s political institutions, nepotism, cronyism – which is more public than identical DNA in the Orthodox Church – it hasn’t been especially difficult to appear as a force at least as capable as the government at providing assistance. Although the sum of taxes which never makes it to good works is certainly greater than a single delivery system would ever require.

Apple accounted for 20% of all US retail sales growth in Q1

Apple led U.S. retail growth in the first quarter of calendar 2011, accounting for a whopping 20 percent of all sales growth by publicly traded American retailers during the three-month period.

The data comes from retail sales expert David Berman, who told USA Today that he believes Apple’s retail success is “mind-boggling.” In the quarter which ended in March, Apple’s U.S. sales saw an 80 percent increase by $4.6 billion…

During the three-month span to start 2011, Apple’s retail sales were up 32 percent, and in-store revenue from Mac sales was up 90 percent. Revenue from retail stores was $3.18 billion, a year-over-year increase of 90 percent…

While international expansion has become a priority, Apple also has big plans for its stores in the U.S. The company’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City is currently under renovation, as the company is spending $6.7 million to replace the giant 32-foot glass cube that serves as an entrance to the underground retail store.

Though I’m a recent fanboy – I switched a few years back after a quarter-century of plodding in the wonderful world of Wintel – I post this because of discussions among investors who are already panicking themselves over what they call Bubble 2.0. That fear can be laid at their own feet if they’re foolish enough to make the same mistakes at root of the previous tech bubble: like investing in companies without a profitable business plan. The watchword among the timorous is “don’t invest in tech!”

But, Apple’s story doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What company followed them into 2nd place in retail sales growth in the 1st quarter? Um, Amazon.com.

China bans unsafe chemical from baby bottles. Good news to see them catch up to advanced countries like the United States. Oh.

Last month, China banned companies from manufacturing, importing or selling baby bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA), a potentially dangerous chemical routinely added to everyday plastic products.

China joins Canada, France, Denmark and the European Union in recognizing that this chemical is linked to a number of harmful health effects like breast cancer, heart disease, obesity, hyperactivity and other disorders.

Unfortunately, BPA is still routinely used in hundreds of consumer products sold in the United States…

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with how hormones work in the body by blocking their normal function. This chemical is so widespread that it has actually been detected in the bodies of 93% of Americans…

Despite a BPA investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency, and other numerous studies, the United States still does not have a nationwide ban of the chemical. Even though BPA has been linked to so many harmful health effects, it is still used in American products — most notably in infant and children’s feeding products.

Just this summer, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy recognizing that BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical and urged a ban on the sale of these products. The AMA also urges the development and use of safe alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans and other food can linings…

There is no good reason this country should continue to expose our children to a chemical that is known to disrupt the way our hormones work when there are safe, BPA-free alternatives available for baby bottles, sippy cups, and baby food and infant formula packaging.

We’ve blogged about these studies before. Some would be hilarious in the Darwinian sense – if these materials weren’t so harmful. But we live in a nation where lobbyists hold a lot more dollars – and therefore a lot more power – than scientists and regulatory agencies. You might consider voting for someone who thinks this is another useful change.

Bunga-Bunga gets showgirls cars, flats and jobs in politics

Silvio Berlusconi rewarded young showgirls and starlets with cars, rent-free apartments and jobs in politics, a lawyer for one of his protégés has admitted in court for the first time.

Pier Maria Corso was speaking on behalf of Nicole Minetti, 25, an Anglo-Italian former showgirl who has been accused of recruiting 32 young women as prostitutes for the prime minister’s so-called “bunga bunga” parties.

He told the court in Milan that Miss Minetti was “absolutely not a brothel keeper”, saying she was simply one of “many girls” who were part of the media tycoon’s inner circle and had benefited from his largesse.

Miss Minetti, whose mother is British, was working as a model and television starlet when she was plucked from obscurity by Mr Berlusconi and propelled into politics as a councillor for his People of Freedom party in Lombardy’s regional assembly.

She is accused of being in charge of a stable of 32 models and aspiring actresses, allocating them apartments paid for by Mr Berlusconi and despatching them to sex parties at his mansion at Arcore, a town outside Milan…

“There are those who were given a Land Rover, those who got a Smart car, those who received an apartment in the city centre and those who were elected to a regional assembly. “To be elected in this way is not a crime,” he said.

Yes, puritanism is a curse. One we specialize in – along with other hypocrisies – here in the United States. But, placing your government in the hands of an old lecher whose priorities are governed more by lust than public need – is just plain idiotic.