California acts to counter coastal oil spill

California Gov Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday night to speed up relief efforts as officials in in Santa Barbara County continue to wrestle with the effects of a fast-spreading oil spill. With more than 100,000 gallons spilled, 20,000 gallons are thought to have reached the sea, covering up to nine miles of coastline, after leaking from an onshore pipeline near Refugio State Beach.

Reuters reports that the incident “may be the biggest oil spill to hit the pristine but energy-rich Santa Barbara coastline in 46 years.” But it is much smaller than the 3 million-gallon spill in 1969 which sparked the popularization of the environmental movement in the US.

The EPA is investigating the cause of the pipeline rupture, while the Los Angeles Times reported that “the spill happened after a series of mechanical problems caused the line to be shut down.” The CEO of Houston-based operator Plains All-American Pipeline said “We deeply regret that this incident has occurred at all. We apologize for the damage it has done to the environment.”


Separately, as lawyers in New Orleans reached a series of settlements totaling over $200m related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a new report linked that incident to the deaths of Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico.


* WORLD * Diplomats from the US and Cuba meet for a fourth time on Thursday morning in Washington, where talks will focus on next steps towards re-opening embassies in their respective capitals.

A “treasure trove” of artifacts from Osama Bin Laden’s final hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan, were declassified on Wednesday, revealing that his reading material included work by Noam Chomsky and Bob Woodward, as well as books about the Illuminati. Among the documents was also what appeared to be an Al-Qaeda job application form.


Florida postal worker Doug Hughes, who landed a Gyrocopter on the lawn of the US Capitol last month faces up to 9 1/2 years in prison after being charged with two felonies and four misdemeanors (including misuse of the US Postal Service logo). The 61-year-old Hughes told USA Today the stunt was “absolutely worth it” and that he is still committed to his cause of ending abuse of the campaign finance system.

“I don’t believe a jury of 12 people is going to convict me of a felony when my intention was not do anything except to get Congress to work for the people.”

We’ll see.


* POLITICS * Rand Paul made a ten-and-a-half hour speech – there was some debate over whether it was technically a ‘filibuster’ – on the Senate floor attacking government surveillance programs and opposing renewal of the PATRIOT Act, which is due to expire at the end of the month.

While the legislative gamble on the Act by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears poised to proceed, Presidential candidate Paul’s team skillfully used the event to connect with potential supporters.

On the subject of GOP Presidential politics, Fox News, which will run the first primary debate in August, appears to have decided how it will solve the issue of how many – and which – candidates among the growing field get to take part. The Washington Post reports:

The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland.

The rule could trigger an early rush of spending by lower-tier candidates seeking to boost their standing in national surveys before the pivotal first forum.

CNN, which hosts the second GOP debate the following month, later said it would take a slightly different approach, dividing the debate into two parts, with “two different sets of candidates: those who rank in the top 10 according to public polling, and the remaining candidates who meet a minimum threshold of 1 percent in public polling,” according to Dylan Byers at Politico.


* CULTURE * Apparently a local NBC affiliate was a little unsure who won The Voice. It’s ok – it can be hard to tell these folks apart.

And finally, of course, Wednesday night was David Letterman’s final Late Show.

James Poniewozik writes at Time how he left us, laughing:

Letterman’s last Late Show was nostalgic but not maudlin, gracious but not mournful, valedictory but not a eulogy. Letterman’s last minutes behind the desk were as heavy on the laughs as on the thank-yous, an hour-plus of an entertainer being an entertainer and enjoying it. It was true to Dave, it was fun and it was terrific.

The show finished, brilliantly, with Dave’s favorite band playing Dave’s favorite song over what was simply a perfect montage – years in minutes. Everlong.




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