Gulf Coast oil spill: Day 43 update
President Obama meets Tuesday with the co-chairs of his BP Oil Spill Commission at the White House before making a statement about the ongoing federal response to the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and spill.
The president tapped Bob Graham, the former Democratic Florida governor and senator, and William K. Reilly, who led the Environmental Protection Agency during the first Bush administration, to conduct a top to bottom review of the spill, its causes and aftermath.
Some other highlights of the ongoing response and reaction:
• Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. visits the Gulf Coast region today as the Obama administration starts distancing itself from BP. As colleagues Joel Achenbach and Jerry Markon write, a criminal investigation or civil action against the company "would create the unusual situation of the federal government weighing charges against a company that it is simultaneously depending on for the most critical elements of the response to the record oil spill." Awkward!
• Retired Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen begins daily press briefings today in an effort to demonstrate a unified government response.
• As he faces growing calls for his resignation, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made his eighth trip to the Gulf Coast region to meet with BP officials and government officials and scientists. News reports suggest the secretary did little to push reforms at the Minerals Management Service after a few public moves at the start of his tenure. Meanwhile, Bob Abbey took over Friday as acting director of MMS and will also keep his post at the Bureau of Land Management.
• About 26 percent of the Gulf of Mexico -- or 61,854 square miles -- is now closed to fishing. NOAA has extended the northern no-fishing boundary to the Mississippi federal-state water line and portions of the Alabama federal-state water line. The new restrictions coincide with the start of the red snapper season.
• The Department of Health and Human Services has dispatched a federal mobile medical unit to Venice, La. that will provide medical care to responders and coast residents, according to the department.
• Reporters get their first look today at a floating hotel and tent lodging for response workers in Port Fourchon, La.
• The Obama administration may have the legal right to extend environmental reviews of drilling operations beyond the current 30-day limit, thanks to a 2008 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
• A day after it was announced that BP's "top kill" effort had failed, making this gulf-dependent region feel even more helpless, many residents did the only thing they knew to do: pray.
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• Cabinet and Staff News: President Obama's no good, very rainy Memorial Day. Supreme Court justices are big baseball fans. A Q&A with the man in charge of the nation's national cemeteries. Ben Bernanke says global recovery depends on emerging markets and central banks. Strobe Talbott on Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell at a Hillary Clinton event. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reminds troops that a "don't ask, don't tell" repeal is still months away.
• Many Capitol cops thrive on overtime: At least 124 cops make well over $100,000 in overtime, thanks to an incredible demand for overtime and growing security needs.
• Service members in Iraq mark Memorial Day: They thought about their families waiting for them to come home. They thought about the fallen comrades lost in the past seven years of occupation and war.
• Seoul weighs shift in U.S. military ties: American and South Korean leaders plan new war games and strategy sessions in face of rising tensions with the North.
• Aircraft mishap injures 10 in New York park: Strong winds generated by the propellers of a U.S. Marine Corps aircraft knocked tree limbs into a group of spectators at a Memorial Day military demonstration on Staten Island, injuring 10.
• American troops leave Haiti: The bulk will depart Haiti on Tuesday, leaving United Nations forces and civilian groups to help the country rebuild its devastated capital in the wake of January's deadly earthquake.
• Pentagon procurement officer describes overhaul in contracting: Edward M. Harrington deals with big bucks.
• U.S. rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills: The military's workhorse rifle -- used in battle for the last 40 years -- is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban's more primitive but longer range weapons.
• House kills Republican effort to cut federal pay: On Friday it essentially killed Republican efforts to freeze the salaries of federal workers next fiscal year.
• Shuttle bus services under scrutiny: Agencies are wasting millions of dollars a year ferrying Washington-area employees on shuttle buses that are often two-thirds empty. So the Obama administration is looking at consolidating use of the shuttle buses as a way to save money and cut carbon emissions.
IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT:
• ICE steps up immigration enforcement efforts: If there's an issue in America now more politically divisive than immigration reform, it's hard to know what it would be.
• Setting impossible standards on intelligence: A Senate analysis of the intelligence community's handling of the would-be Christmas bomber bears a closer reading in the wake of the replacement of Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence.
OFFICE OF CONSUMER INFORMATION AND INSURANCE OVERSIGHT:
• Appointments of federal watchdogs suggest more tough scrutiny for insurers: Health insurers now must reckon with a foursome of longtime industry watchdogs who are helping steer the federal government's effort to overhaul the private insurance market.
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