As hopes of a Hollywood ending to the BP oil disaster have all but faded, AP reports that Avatar director James Cameron has met with federal officials to offer his help in terminating the leak. No, he's not proposing a junk shot of useless Avatar merchandise. Rather, according to the UK Telegraph, Cameron has already offered BP use of some of his private submersibles, big toys inspired by his big-budget bathtub epics The Abyss and Titantic. Meanwhile, Waterworld survivor Kevin Costner has gotten a surge of positive buzz for his Ocean Therapy device, a centrifuge that cleanses oil-contaminated water; BP is reportedly testing the invention. Who's next, Sting?
Certainly, BP could use all the help it can get. Beyond the failed top kill and flimsy containment barriers, there have to be more ideas out there for a last-ditch effforts to stop, contain, or clean up the spill. BP says it's already received more than 7,800 ideas via its suggestions hotline and a special page on its disaster response website. InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing project linked with NASA and the Rockefeller Foundation, has issued a challenge to innovators to come up with bright ideas ASAP. Even if the vast majority are worthless or wacky (like the notion of nuking the leak into oblivion), there ought to be a couple solid ideas in there. Let's see what happens—and then figure out why these plans weren't on oil-industry and regulators' drawing boards years ago.
A lot has happened in the month since BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, sunk, and caused the worst oil spill in US history. To help keep track of the events, we've put together a handy timeline of the disaster and some of the history behind it, from BP's green rebranding effort to the Mineral and Management Service's record of lax oversight. It's a work in progress, so check back for the latest developments and more background info in the days ahead. Slide along the timeline using the scroll bar on the bottom; zoom in and out using the slider on the left side. Or view a full-screen version of the timeline here.
Needless to say, BP has been having a spot of image trouble lately. Taking notice of this, Greenpeace has asked for ideas to redesign BP's "slick green logo" and is posting the submissions on Flickr. They're getting some good ones. Some notable entries:
As TPM reports, Arizona governor Jan Brewer has asked President Obama to help step up border security by dispatching unmanned aerial vehicles to her state. "I would also ask you," she writes, "as overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan permit, to consider wider deployment of UAVs along our nation's southern border. I am aware of how effective these assets have become in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, and it seems UAVs operations would be ideal for border security and counter-drug missions." For those who support Arizona's new anti-immgrant law and want to seal the border, her request may make it sound like the feds have been saving their best surveillance toys for the battlefield. And for opponents of beefing up the border, it may sound like Brewer has a creepy vision of turning the US-Mexico border into something like the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, with death-dealing drones circling overhead.
Yet the reality is that the drones are already there. Customs and Border Protection has a small but growing fleet of UAVs that it's been flying along the borders since the mid-2000s. It currently has six Predators (unarmed)—five of which operate from Arizona. One even crashed there in 2006. CBP credits its drones with helping bust 15,000 lbs of pot and 4,000 illegal immigrants. (And the agency hasn't been the only one watching the line from above—in 2003, the American Border Patrol, an Arizona Minutemen-type group, tested its own small surveillance UAV, the Border Hawk.)
Whether the federal UAVs are doing a good job or whether more are needed is subject to debate. But if you want to get on the government's case for not flying Predators in domestic airspace or for considering the idea in the first place, too late—that drone has flown.
Things got heated last night when Rep. Anthony Weiner went on the O'Reilly Factor to defend his claim that Glenn Beck and his sponsor Goldline are working "hand in hand to cheat consumers". (Video below.) Beck had appeared on the show Friday, hot dog in hand (hot dog=wiener, get it?), winning over Bill O'Reilly (who himself has promoted gold). O'Reilly told Weiner that his investigation of Goldline "smacks of a witch hunt" and that he was unfairly singling out the company because of its affiliation with Beck. Why, he wondered, if Goldline is so shady, does it get an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau?
For his part, Weiner gave as good as he got. He explained that he'd focused on Goldline because it's the biggest gold dealer and because it's using Beck to "gouge" consumers with overpriced investments. He also pointed out that BBB ratings are subject to grade inflation, which O'Reilly scoffed at. "Bill, you're being a shill for this company," Weiner snapped. "As long as they get an A+, I'm fine with it," O'Reilly replied.