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Posts Tagged ‘shifts’

Fishermen fear for livelihoods as Gulf focus shifts

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

US spill chief Thad Allen failed Thursday to reassure desperate fishermen about their Gulf of Mexico oil clean-up jobs, while BP began the legal wrangling in a massive civil trial.

As engineers prepared next week’s vital operations to permanently kill the capped BP well, Allen met with parish presidents and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in New Orleans to discuss how to safeguard local jobs going forward.

With little oil now floating in the Gulf, there are fears the popular “Vessels of Opportunity” program that employs fishing boats to skim crude off the surface of the sea might have to be scrapped.

Kerry Parfait, a skimming boat worker, stands near idle boats after they were forced to port because of Hurricane Alex in June 2010 in Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

Allen pledged to redeploy as many skippers as possible to other tasks, but could give no firm indication of how many of the 1,500 boats would still be working in the Gulf after next month.

“Obviously as we transition into a point where there’s not the threat of a spill, the involvement of Vessels of Opportunity is going to necessarily change,” he said after the meeting.

Allen said that over the next 10 days he would work with parish presidents and the governor to hammer out a plan for the fishermen and what to do with the program through to the end of August.

A large portion of the Gulf waters remain closed to commercial and recreational fishing and with lingering doubts about seafood safety, fishermen could effectively end up losing their jobs for a second time.

“The fishermen have missed a year, and we don?t know what the impact is going to be next year, or the year after that,” said Marty O?Connell, an environmental scientist at the University of New Orleans.

Many are worried it could be months or even years before they can fish again, and there are no guarantees the fish will be there in the same numbers when they do, or that they will be safe to eat.

“If BP uses the capping of the well as an excuse to minimize its clean-up operations, then shame on them,” said Mike Frenette, whose five boats in Venice, Louisiana missed an entire summer’s fishing due to the disaster.

Frenette had to apply four times before getting two of his five boats onto the program, which pays between 600 and 3,500 dollars a day, depending on the size of the boat.

“All that our Vessels of Opportunity work is doing is counting against our compensation claim. We?re not making any money, here, we?re just trying to keep our heads above water.”

Many disgruntled fishermen are expected to seek compensation for lost earnings and personal injury in the courts, and in Boise, Idaho on Thursday lawyers for disaster victims opened the first stage in a massive civil trial.

The hearing brought together a wide array of people and players linked to the disaster triggered by an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana.

Plaintiffs range from the families of the 11 workers killed in the explosion to Gulf fishermen whose catch has been contaminated by the spill, threatening them with financial ruin.

A seven-judge panel will decide over the next few weeks whether to consolidate the litigation into one or several cases, and where the trial or trials should take place.

BP and other firms named in the claims argued for the venue to be the oil headquarters of Houston, Texas, but victims’ lawyers said it should be somewhere closer to those hit hardest by the disaster, like New Orleans. Joining BP in court were Transocean, which leased the rig to BP, Cameron International, which manufactured the blowout preventer, the device which should have shut down the well but failed to work properly, and Halliburton, the oil services company which had finished cementing the well only 20 hours before the rig exploded.

BP hopes to begin a “static kill” operation as early as this weekend to plug the capped well with drilling mud and cement. Five days later a “bottom kill” through a relief well should finish the job once and for all.

A cap stopped the flow on July 15 after between three and 5.2 million barrels (117.6 million and 189 million gallons) had gushed out, making it likely the disaster is the biggest ever accidental oil spill.

Source: SGGP

Obama to sign health plan as fight shifts to US Senate

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2010 at 5:17 am

US President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama will sign his historic health care overhaul into law at the White House on Tuesday before waging an all-out push to win over wary US voters ahead of November elections.

With an eye on the same critical mid-term contest, the president’s Republican foes in the US Senate were poised to make political war on the last piece of his blueprint for near-universal coverage.

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Obama had never been happier than late Sunday, when the House of Representatives passed the core of his plan. Related article: History of US health care reform battle

“I haven’t seen the president so happy about anything, other than his family, as long as I’ve known him and worked with him,” Axelrod told CNN on Monday.

“Even election night he was not as excited as last night.”

On Thursday, Obama will launch the first of a series of campaign-style events on the bill’s behalf in Iowa, the state that propelled him on the road to the White House.

Despite unanimous Republican opposition to the bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her tactics to pass the controversial measure.

“You strive for bipartisanship when you can. When you find your common ground, that’s great. If you don’t find your common ground, you have to stand your ground,” she told ABC television.

The House also passed a stand-alone package of changes that Senate Republicans now plan to fight in hopes of bruising vulnerable Democrats ahead of the autumn ballot. Related article: Obama faces fierce ‘post-game’ battle on health care

“Democrat leaders may have gotten their votes. They may have gotten their win. But today is a new day,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I have a message for our Democrat friends: Enough is enough.”

Obama’s rival in the 2008 White House race, Republican Senator John McCain, went further, vowing in an interview with a radio station in his home state of Arizona that “there will be no (bipartisan) cooperation for the rest of the year.”

Speaking on ABC, he warned Democrats would pay “a very heavy price” politically and vowed Republicans would repeal the measure.

Overturning the plan was a mathematical impossibility in this election cycle because Republicans cannot win the two-thirds majority in the House and Senate needed to override Obama’s veto. Facts: Obama health care plan

And the Senate rules for taking up the measure make it unlikely Republicans can block it, though they could force a change that would require another politically difficult House vote.

So Republicans planned to offer some carefully targeted amendments aimed at turning up the heat on swing-district Democrats, then gauge their own members’ appetite for a free-for-all fight against the bill, two party sources said.

McConnell signaled his intent to zero in on items like planned cuts to the hugely popular government-run Medicare program for the elderly, and tax increases on the wealthy.

Democrats, riding high after ushering in the most sweeping US social policy changes in more than four decades, said they welcomed the fight and dared their rivals to take a public stand on the measure’s most popular items. Related article: What’s at stake in bill

Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign manager, David Plouffe, scoffed at the threat and vowed Democrats would not passively take their hits like a “pinata.”

“We’re going to go out there and not just talk about what we’re for, but what the Republicans are voting against,” he told ABC.

Republicans will target Democratic House members from some 50 districts carried by Republican presidential nominees McCain in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2004, said Tony Fratto, a former spokesman for the Bush White House.

“Those guys had a tough uphill climb to begin with. Some of them walked the plank and made tough votes… which put them in a tough position. And the health care votes will make it even worse,” said Fratto, now a strategic consultant.

Democrats have acknowledged the challenge, rallying money and volunteers to help vulnerable party members — led by Obama himself, who says he is all too aware of the potential political cost.

And they have defied Republicans attacking the bill to explain to voters why they oppose provisions like banning the insurance company practice of dropping people from coverage for preexisting conditions or when they get sick.

Fratto said Republicans would avoid that minefield, focusing instead on taxes and spending.

Republicans were also trumpeting legal challenges in several states to the legislation’s requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, with government subsidies to help the neediest do so.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

National survey shows major shifts in family life

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Hanoi – A nationwide family survey has found that domestic violence occurs in about 20 percent of marriages across the country alongside an increase in the rate of divorce.

The family research, a joint project between the government and UNICEF released on June 26, is based on interviews with 9,300 households in all of Vietnam ’s 64 provinces.

UNICEF Deputy Representative in Vietnam , Maniza Zaman, said implementation of the government’s recently passed Law on Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence will be instrumental in addressing the serious problem in many homes across Vietnam .

“One of the key components of these efforts should be changing societal attitudes to domestic violence, so that it is not simply accepted as a normal or acceptable part of married life, which is too often the case,” Zaman said.

The survey also found that divorce is on the rise in the country due to economic pressures, lifestyle difference and adultery. But for couples who stay together, the study showed progress in gender equality where it is now more common for the wife or both husband and wife to assume a leadership role in the family.

Additionally, for the first time, the three-generation family household has also become more popular in urban areas than rural areas, with increases in rural-to-urban migration and the cost of housing put forward as contributing factors to this new trend.

The Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Huynh Vinh Ai said the survey provides a comprehensive picture of changes in family relations and roles in the household and will be used to build up government policy.

“It highlights changes in family norms and standards under the industrialisation and modernisation process,” Ai said.

“It will be used as a scientific and practical basis for policy making to build wealthy, equitable, progressive and happy families, as baseline for the monitoring and evaluation of the family development and as the premise for further research and studies on families in Vietnam .”

UNICEF Representative in Vietnam Jesper Morch applauded the government’s support for the survey and said it shows “the vision, leadership and foresight” of the Vietnamese government.

The survey was carried out by the Family Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the General Statistics Office, the Institute for Family and Gender Studies in collaboration with the Australia Institute of Family Research with support from UNICEF.