Drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico collapses after fire

The operator of the natural gas rig burning out of control in the Gulf of Mexico has begun preparations to move a jack-up rig to the location to potentially drill a relief well…The well suffered a blowout Tuesday morning and the rig caught fire later Tuesday night when the leaking natural gas ignited…

No one was on board at the time of the ignition and no one was injured, according to BSEE. The burning rig is southwest of Grand Isle, about 55 miles offshore, authorities said.

As the rig fire continues, the beams supporting the derrick and rig floor have folded and have collapsed over the rig structure, BSEE stated on Wednesday morning.

The Coast Guard said the rig caught fire at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday and BSEE stated that the source of the ignition remained unknown on Wednesday morning…The description of the incident…lists that 47 people had been evacuated from the rig, although that number later was corrected to 44 evacuees…

“It is definitely a gas leak. There is definitely no crude oil at all,” Frank Maisano, a media consultant for Hercules Offshore, said on Wednesday afternoon…

The blowout occurred as Walter Oil & Gas was completing work on a “sidetrack well” to prepare that well for new production, according to BSEE. A sidetrack well uses the same hole as the original well but then spreads to a new location at the same depth.

Walter Oil and Gas Corp. engaged Wild Well Control Inc. to help control the leak, Jim Noe said.

I know, I know. Deja vu all over again. Let’s hope this ain’t ending up like the last big rig fire in the Gulf. RTFA for lots of detail.

The student loan shuffle

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat of Massachusetts, spoke up for poor and middle-class Americans last week when she excoriated the federal government for making money on the student loan program. She also criticized Republicans for killing bills earlier this month that would have prevented interest rates on subsidized student loans from doubling. Rates on those loans have jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, further burdening one-third of all college students who use them to pay for an education.

During the last decade, Congress sensibly replaced a system of variable-rate loans with fixed rates that allowed families to know what their loans would cost. It set the rate on both subsidized and unsubsidized loans at 6.8 percent, but later ordered the rate on subsidized loans — two-thirds of which go to families with incomes under $50,000 — to gradually decline by half. The refusal of Republicans in both houses to renew the lower rate means that students who start college this fall and finish in four years will be saddled, on average, with an extra $4,000 in debt.

This increase in costs comes at a time when college debt has already reached record levels, damaging the economy and hobbling young graduates. It also draws attention to the fact that the federal government is making quite a lot of money from the loan program. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new, higher rate would earn the government about $184 billion over the next decade, after taking into account program costs, including potential defaults…

The government should not be making money off the backs of struggling student borrowers. In the long term, the loan program needs to be restructured so that the loans are closely linked to the government’s actual cost of borrowing, which could reduce rates for students.

A Senate compromise bill that is supposed to address the harmful rate increase falls well short. The bill, supported by the White House, would temporarily lower interest rates, while raising rates in future years to make up for lost federal revenue…Ms. Warren got it exactly right when she said the bill pits students against one another, requiring future college students to pay for the financial break enjoyed by students who precede them. “I think this whole system stinks,” she said, summing it up.

The Senate bill should pass only if it includes a provision, offered by Ms. Warren and Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, that would cap most loans at the rate of 6.8 percent. If Republicans resist that, the Senate should leave the loan rate exactly where it is. Congress should not make matters worse than they already are.

Bad enough the whole of Congress doesn’t revolt over the idea of government making profit from a service that benefits the whole nation. There is nothing this land needs more than education. A quality that has only continued to diminish over the past half-century.

Elizabeth Warren has it right and the scumbag Party of NO is guilty as ever of trying to keep down ordinary American families and their children. Lay some heat on your elected representatives in Congress and make it clear to these layabouts that we need more than lip service to lead the fightback against the Great Recession. Let’s do it with an educated generation.

Nightclub urinal tells patrons when they’ve had one too many

Alcohol and driving definitely don’t mix, but those most in need of having their keys taken away are the worst judges of how much they’ve had to drink. As part of an anti-drink/drive campaign by Singapore’s Zouk nightclub, DDB Group Singapore developed the Pee Analyzer: a system fitted to urinals that tests patrons’ alcohol levels every time they take a trip to the bathroom…

The Analyzer is a series of bespoke urine testing devices that can reset instantly for consecutive readings from multiple patrons. These devices are paired with an RFID reader and when patrons park their car, they exchange their car keys for parking cards containing RFID tags. These tags can then be used to identify the patrons and record their alcohol levels.

If a patron is above the legal limit while contemplating the wall, the system notes the RFID tag and, in keeping with a nightclub atmosphere, a bright message is flashed above the urinal suggesting that the patron take advantage of the club’s drive home program or call a cab. Another RFID reader at the valet station flashes similar warnings when the patron presents their parking cards so the valets can make the same suggestion for a ride or cab.

The results of the campaign saw 573 drivers warned in two weeks. Of these, 342 used the drive home service or called a cab.

When I saw the headline I thought this might be a humorous post. Except it makes good sense. A better reason.

Dutch court blocks extradition of terror suspect to the United States – concern over torture and civil liberties

A Dutch court has blocked the extradition of a terrorism suspect to the United States amid concern about American collusion in his torture.

The 26-year-old man, known only as Sabir K, is accused of taking part in attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

He says he was tortured in Pakistan after his arrest there in 2010, and that the Americans knew about it…

The suspect, who is a Dutch citizen of Pakistani origin, was returned to the Netherlands after his arrest and immediately taken into custody.

The appeals court in The Hague said he could not be extradited to the US “because too much is unclear regarding the role of the American authorities in Sabir’s torture“…

The BBC’s Hague Correspondent Anna Holligan says the judgement is significant as it appears to acknowledge that the US may have been aware of torture techniques used against suspects overseas – something Washington has always refused to comment on.

Chickens coming home to roost.

No doubt our government will follow standard operating procedure [Imperial version, latest edition] and bluster, try to bully the Netherlands government into making illegal procedures legal. After all, it works well here at home.