Oil slick too quick as fears rise over impact

OIL from the BP blowout is degrading rapidly in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and becoming increasingly difficult to find on the water surface.”The light crude oil is biodegrading quickly,” the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, said.However, both the near- and long-term environmental effects of the release of several million barrels of oil remained serious and to some extent unpredictable, she said.”The sheer volume of oil that’s out there has to mean there are some pretty significant impacts. What we have yet to determine is the full impact the oil will have not just on the shoreline, not just on wildlife, but beneath the surface.”Her assessment came as the outgoing chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, caused fresh US anger after he complained he had been ”demonised and vilified” after the disaster.The comments by Mr Hayward, who resigned on Tuesday after his handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster was heavily criticised, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggled to restore its reputation.”I don’t think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP,” the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said.Politicians called on BP to renounce any claim for a tax refund following reports it planned to cut its US tax bill by $US9.9 billion ($10.9 billion), about half the amount pledged to aid victims of the disaster, by deducting costs related to it.Mr Hayward’s departure was a drastic move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill, which is set to cost the British group $US32 billion.Mr Hayward was also the target of anger over his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, said the hearing, scheduled to take place today, had been postponed after witnesses, including Mr Hayward, had refused to attend.The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse
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Negatives worth a fortune, but family smells a rat

FRESNO, California: Old glass negatives bought by a painter for $US45 at a garage sale a decade ago have been authenticated as the work of the photographer Ansel Adams and are worth at least $US200 million ($223 million), the owner’s lawyer says.However, the family of the photographer, who died in 1984, is sceptical about the claims, with one associate saying it was an ”unfortunate fraud”.Rick Norsigian, 64, a painter and antiques collector, said that after he bought the glass negatives he noticed they resembled Adams’s photographs of Yosemite National Park.A lawyer for Mr Norsigian, Arnold Peter, said a team of experts he had assembled had concluded the 65 negatives were from Adams’s early work, which had been believed destroyed in a fire in 1937.”These photographs are really the missing link,” Mr Peter said. ”They really fill the void in Ansel Adams’s early career.”Adams is best known for his striking black-and-white photographs, mainly landscapes of the American west.An art appraiser, David Streets, conservatively estimated the negatives’ value at $US200 million, based on current sales of Adams prints and the potential for selling reproductions.One of the experts, Patrick Alt, said he believed the glass plates were shot by Adams because ”there was no one else other than Ansel in that time period doing this quality of work”.But not everyone is convinced. Matthew Adams, the photographer’s grandson and president of the Ansel Adams Gallery, said there is ”no absolute proof as to who did take them”.Mr Norsigian’s lawyer said handwriting experts had identified writing on the negative sleeves as that of Adams’s wife, Virginia. But Matthew Adams said there were inconsistencies in the handwriting and a lot of misspelled Yosemite place names.”She grew up in Yosemite. She was an intelligent, well-read woman. I find it hard to believe she would misspell those names,” he said.”It’s an unfortunate fraud,” said Bill Turnage, managing director of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. He said he was consulting lawyers about suing Mr Norsigian for using a copyrighted name for commercial purposes.Tribune Media Services,Associated Press
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All 152 aboard die as Pakistani jet crashes into mountains

ISLAMABAD: A passenger jet crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital in poor weather yesterday, killing all 152 people on board and blazing a path of devastation strewn with body parts and twisted metal wreckage.Officials said initial Interior Ministry reports that five people survived the crash were wrong.Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene as a helicopter hovered above. The army said it was sending special troops to aid the search.”I’m seeing only body parts,” Dawar Adnan, a rescue worker with the Pakistan Red Crescent, said by telephone from the crash site. ”This is a very horrible scene. We have scanned almost all the area, but there is no chance of any survivors.”The search effort was hampered by muddy conditions and smouldering wreckage that authorities were having trouble extinguishing by helicopter.GEO television reported yesterday evening that the flight recorder had been found.The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but the Defence Minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, said the government did not suspect terrorism.The Airblue plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7.45am for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during cloudy and rainy weather.Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and yesterday’s flight was believed to be carrying mostly Pakistanis.The crash site covered a large area on both sides of the hills, including a section behind Faisal Mosque, one of Islamabad’s most prominent landmarks, and not far from the Daman-e-Koh resort.At the Islamabad airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information.Pakistan last suffered a fatal air crash in July 2006, when a Pakistan International Airlines Fokker F-27 suffered engine problems and struck a power line after taking off from Multan, in Punjab province, killing 45 people.In 1989 a PIA Fokker F-27 crashed in the Karakoram Mountains, killing 54.Associated Press, Bloomberg
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Airport ‘hostile’ to women

TWO female air traffic controllers have accused their government-owned employer of allowing ”extreme” sexual discrimination and bullying, with claims a manager told one of the women to have an abortion with a coathanger.The women are seeking more than $1 million each in damages from Airservices Australia as part of an action in the Federal Court in Melbourne.”What the proceedings I think will do is to shed some light on a workplace culture that has been extraordinarily hostile [to women],” said their lawyer, Josh Bornstein, a principal at Maurice Blackburn.Mr Bornstein said a separate action would be brought in the Human Rights Commission.Both women, Jacki Macdonald and Kirsty Fletcher, have been long-time employees of the male-dominated Airservices Australia at Melbourne Airport. The women say they were exposed to pornography that a manager distributed around the office and suffered regular bullying and abuse.They also allege they were denied access to training and professional development, were belittled for being pregnant and were the victims of false allegations. When they both separately complained in April and May 2008 they were ignored.In a brief statement, a spokesman for Airservices Australia did not reject or respond directly to the claims. ”The matter is being taken seriously by Airservices management. Our investigations have only just been completed and the matter is in the hands of respective legal advisers,” he said.Ms Macdonald, who fought back tears as she spoke yesterday, said she had worked for more than 18 years at the organisation and the harassment had caused her and her family great distress.She said when she told a manager she was pregnant in 1996, he told her that did not suit the roster and that he had ”a coathanger in the back of his car”. When she later complained she was told the manager had had ”a bad day”.That manager has been sacked, but Mr Bornstein said it was too late and other senior managers should have done much more.
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Cracks appear in historic building

The historic headmaster’s residence of old Bathurst Public School in Howick Street has been evacuated by TAFE personnel after a large crack developed in the structure, most likely caused by the drought.
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Acting Bathurst TAFE campus manager Patrick Healy said there is no indication at this stage how serious the problem is and staff using the building have been moved out as a precautionary measure. Small pieces of internal plaster have been dislodged.

The building is classified by the National Trust. It’s also an item of heritage on Bathurst City Council’s Local Environment Plan and is on the National Estate Register of the Australian Heritage Commission as part of the Technical College annex group.

Department of Public Works engineers are preparing a report to determine the extent of the damage and what remedial action is appropriate.

Despite being cordoned off, Mr Healy said the historic building is not in imminent danger of collapse.

Bathurst City Council is to acquire the headmaster’s residence and the adjacent school building to house the Somerville Collection of fossils and minerals and establish a world class museum.

Bathurst City Council director of corporate services David Sherley said council does not yet own either building – the site transfer has not taken place and TAFE up until the crack appeared, still used the headmaster’s cottage.

Mr Sherley said council has undertaken extensive work in the former school building, but has not yet started work renovating the headmaster’s cottage.

“The issue of the cracking was raised with them [TAFE]. What they’re doing with respect to that, I don’t know,” Mr Sherley said.

He would not be drawn on the prospect of council taking responsibility for the building knowing it has developed this large structural crack.

“We would be very interested in seeing any reports about the cracking,” he said.

Margaret Glen of the National Trust said the building was of great historical significance to Bathurst and efforts must be made to restore the building.

She said discussions she had with senior council officers indicated the building could be saved.

Ms Glen said the area bounded by Howick, William, Russell and George streets was particularly significant to Bathurst and the old schoolmaster’s residence was one of the important buildings remaining in that precinct.

The building is adjacent to the old school (built in 1876) on one side and the former site of the Bathurst School of Arts Hall (later the City Theatre) where the 1896 People’s Convention was held.

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