Shell rig operator guilty of environmental and health & safety violations

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The operator of Shell Oil Corporation’s two Arctic drilling rigs, deployed in Alaska in 2012, has pleaded guilty to eight felony charges for environmental and health and safety violations during its operation of the rigs. Noble Drilling has agreed to pay $12.2 million dollars in fines and community service payments.

According to the judgement by the US Department of Justice, the vessels Noble Discover and Kulluk were involved in operations that contravened federal law thereby committing a series of environmental and maritime offences. These included “knowingly failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book and an accurate International Oil Pollution Prevention certificate,” “knowingly failing to maintain a ballast water record book” and knowingly and willfully failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of hazardous conditions aboard the drill ship Noble Discoverer.”

Greenpeace has responded to the news by pointing out that this isn’t the first time the global oil corporation has violated the regulations. In April 2014, the US Coast Guard accused Shell of ignoring safety warnings and moving one of its drilling ships in the Arctic, partly in a bid to evade paying tax. The allegation by the Coast Guard was included in its official report investigating why the Kulluck ran aground in December 2012. The most significant factor, said the report, which has been published by the US Department of Homeland Security, was the “inadequate assessment and management of risks associated with a complex vessel movement during the winter in the unique and challenging operating environment of Alaska.”

“Shell has proven time and again it can’t be trusted to manage its contractors safely” said Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Ian Duff. “That Shell engaged Noble Drilling, a company now guilty of eight felonies, is the clearest indicator yet. Letting Shell back into such a precious and risky environment as the Arctic would be sheer madness, yet that’s what Shell wants to do next summer. Surely now President Obama has to think twice about approving Shell’s next venture in the Arctic, which the government’s own scientists say has a 75 percent chance of causing a large spill.”

Conducting operations in these waters at this time of year involves extreme risks from giant floating icebergs and stormy seas. Furthermore, the Arctic region’s remoteness and extreme climate together with dynamic sea ice exacerbate the risks and consequences of oil spills and complicates cleanup operations in the event of a disaster. According to another report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, oil spill contingency plans generally underestimate the probability and consequence of catastrophic blowouts, particularly with regard to drilling in the Arctic Ocean. An oil well blowout in this region could devastate an ecosystem that is already under stress and cleanup technologies and systems are, as yet, unproven in the Arctic Ocean environment.

Despite these concerns, the company has pressed ahead with plans to conduct exploratory operations in the Arctic in 2015.

One senior US politician has recommended that Shell be punished for its ‘reckless’ behaviour.

A Shell spokesman said the company was still reviewing the report but had already implemented lessons learned from an internal review of its 2012 operations.

By Robin Whitlock

Possible new law of nature on the way

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The world of physics is excited about strong but early evidence about the behavior of muons, paricles identical to electrons only 200x more massive (heavier), which once born take 2.2 microseconds to decay into an electron, and which spin like tops. In a new, extremely precise measurement, they were made to wobble using magnetic fields but they unexpectedly wobbled quite significantly faster than the Standard Model suggests they would. They might spin so fast due to an unknown force caused by an unknown particle, and this is what is so exciting.

“We found that a muon … is not in agreement with our current best theory of physics at the subatomic level, and … it potentially points to a future with new laws, new particles and new forces in physics which we haven’t seen to date,” said Professor Mark Lancaster at U of Manchester.

“The main goal of the experiment is to make the measurement and compare with the theory, and if they disagree then it’s telling us that there’s something in nature which is not in the theory,” explained James Mott at Fermilab.

The four known forces of nature (gravity, electricity, two nuclear forces: strong and weak interactions) have left scientists without an answer for some observed phenomena, such as the speed at which galaxies spin (faster than the best model suggests). Therefore, they continue to search for glitches in their already-tight models which might point them things they don’t yet know about.

The most recent work was done at Fermilab (Muon g-2 experiment), but a similar experiment was already done earlier at the Large Hadron Collider. These tools accelerate particles in large rings at close to the speed of light.

The evidence needs more tests for greater certainty, particularly to rule out the possibility of a systematic error, and particularly with a new, independent experiment, but physicists will be chasing this line of experiment eagerly.

“This is outstanding confirmation of experimental technique, and very, very suggestive of the possibility of new physics,” noted scientist David Hertzon of U of Washington.

By the editors

#AnomalousMagneticDipoleMomentOfTheMuon #QuantumElectrodynamics

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People in Kachin state demonstrate against China

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YANGON, Myanmar – The people in the Pharkant area of Kachin state demonstrated against China this week, drawing a cross on the Chinese flag and burning a picture of Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing.

“China stands with the military leader,” shouted the demonstrators.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Aye Yarwaddy

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Myanmar military council arrests the artist Zarganar

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YANGON, Myanmar – The artist Zarganar was arrested by the Myanmar military council from his home in Tarmwe township, Yangon this morning.

Zarganar is not only a director but also a comedian famous for political jokes since the 1988 democratic revolution.

Zarganar was arrested by the Myanmar military many times before 2010.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Zarganar page

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Kayin IDPs struggle to get for food

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YANGON, Myanmar – Kayin internally displaced people are desperate for food, clothing and shelter, hiding in the forest from the air strikes of the Myanmar military.

The IDPs fled to neighboring Thailand, but Thai government turned them back. However, Wednesday morning the Thai government opened Maeseli jetty in Maehaungsaung district to sending rations and medicines over the border to Kayin state, according to a Thai media.

By Htay Win

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Twenty Myanmar celebrities charged with incitement

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YANGON, Myanmar -They were charged under the country’s media law with inciting government employees to join the popular civil disobedience movement (CDM) through social media.

Celebrities took part in the NLD election campaigns and are thought to have played a large part in influencing the public, particularly Myanmar’s youth, to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi.

By Htay Win
Photo credit Myanmar celebrity

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