Friday, November 5, 2010

Dead and dying coral reefs in Gulf of Mexico blamed on April oil spill

News that large swaths of dying coral reefs have been found southwest of the wrecked oil rig responsible for the largest offshore spill in U.S. history should come as no surprise to anyone. Logic dictates that the effects of the colossal April 20 blowout and spill will be far-reaching and catastrophic, the protests of oil and fishing interests in the Gulf of Mexico notwithstanding. Scientists studying the spill's aftermath said the damage to the reefs was almost certainly due to exposure to toxic chemicals like oil, according to the New York Times. “I think that we have a smoking gun,” said Charles Fisher, a marine biologist from Pennsylvania State University heading a U.S. government-sponsored scientific mission to the Gulf. “The circumstantial evidence is very strong that it’s linked to the spill.” The damaged coral was found Tuesday by the government expedition, which launched a submersible robot to view the coral and obtain samples. Scientists expect to return to the Gulf floor in December using a Navy submersible that can carry three people to depths of 15,000 feet, the newspaper said. An estimated 5 million barrels of crude flowed into the Gulf for months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April, killing 11 workers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obama blames economy for election losses but misses the point

U.S. President Barack Obama's statement yesterday that the majority Democrats had taken a "shellacking" in Tuesday's election because of the tepid economic recovery was shocking. Sure, if in the two years since Barack Obama took office with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the U.S. economy had completely turned around and U.S. industries were crying for more workers, the opposition Republicans probably would not have won 60 seats to control the House of Representatives. Economic success would most likely have enabled the Democrats to retain a portion of the popularity they achieved in 2008, when Obama led his party back into the White House on a wave of public disgust over the performance of the Bush administration. But for all his vaunted political skills, Obama has repeatedly misread the American public since taking office. U.S. voters did not turn the Republicans out of the White House merely because the economy had been disastrously mishandled by his predecessor, they elected the first black president to repudiate the seemingly gleeful lawlessness of the Bush administration. The George W. Bush presidency broke a long list of the country's most-cherished legal principles and traditions -- eviscerating the constitutional separation of powers, overruling the U.S. Bill of Rights, disrespecting the sovereignty of other nations, ignoring the Geneva Conventions. For all the good Obama has been able to accomplish in reforming the way the country regulates itself, he has decidedly failed to address the biggest problem -- the one that has left the United States unsure of how to function. Bush and other officials in his administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, must be called to answer for their abuses of power. An investigation doesn't necessarily mean anybody is guilty of anything, although it seems so, it just means the United States is not afraid to examine its conduct and make corrections when warranted. The Congress should set up a commission, with the power to compel witnesses to testify, to figure out what went wrong during the Bush administration and how to prevent it from happening again. That is the only way for the United States to regain its footing as an international leader and for Obama to redeem his presidency.