BP officials have admitted that members of its staff manipulated official images posted on its Gulf of Mexico Response Web site, and promised to stop the practice. The most recent photo, apparently taken from inside a helicopter cockpit, was altered to make it look as though the helicopter was flying.
The Committee has arisen just in time for the 2010 mid-term elections campaign season, and right in the middle of what have been, albeit weak and mostly a public relations stunt, a push for peace talks, mediated by the Obama Administration, between the Benjamin Netanyahu-lead Likud coalition of the Israeli government, and the Palestinians. Even the facade of Obama pushing for negotiations for a two-state solution and holding both sides of the conflict accountable, though, is too much for this new committee, which explains why it has arisen from the dust.
Quick refresher: Marcellus Shale is an extensive underground formation of shale in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and other states in the region that has received renewed attention both because of new estimates of the quantity of methane gas believed to be under these rocks, and because of the significant environmental concerns that have been raised about the method of extracting the gas from the shale. "Hydrofracking" is a process in which a fluid is injected at high pressure into oil or methane gas deposits to fracture the rock above and release the liquid or gas below. The process uses enormous amounts of drinkable water, along with toxic chemicals. It also releases radioactive materials and other hazardous substances within the shale deposits, a fact that has raised significant environmental and health concerns.
Front group king Rick Berman, who has worked in the shadows for years, is starting to draw closer scrutiny from the IRS, the media and the public for the unique, self-dealing business model he developed to champion for big business. Berman, a former lobbyist, set up six nonprofit organizations with innocuous names like the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute. Despite their nonprofit designation, together these groups provide as much as 70 percent of the revenues of his for-profit enterprise, Berman and Company. The Center for Consumer Freedom, for example, took in $1.5 million in revenues in 2008, of which 93 percent went to Berman and his firm. The American Beverage Institute took in $1.7 million, of which 82 percent went to Berman and his firm. None of his non-profit groups have independent offices or staff, and all of them pay Berman's for-profit business for services like accounting, copying, writing, operating Web sites, placing opinion-editorials, and bookkeeping, which is managed by Berman's wife, Dixie Lynn Berman. Rick Berman sits on the boards of his organizations, holds a total of 24 positions within them, and he serves as Executive Director for most of them. Sounds fishy, right?
As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to dominate headlines around the world, public outrage is being focused more intensely upon BP and its gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward. But amidst this crisis, the public should not forget the atrocities committed by other massive oil companies. For example, Royal Dutch Shell's drilling operations have been spilling oil into the Niger Delta in Nigeria since 1958. Because Nigeria is an impoverished nation and oil revenues fund a majority of government operations, Shell and other companies have been able to drill and pollute without serious oversight for all these years. It is estimated that 13 million barrels of oil have spilled into the delta, making life even more difficult for the region's destitute residents. Shell blames the constant spills on attacks from "rebels," who are in fact minority ethnic groups who feel they have been exploited and displaced by foreign oil companies. But Shell would never consider pulling out of the region or finding ways to avoid ethnic strife. Instead, Shell has proceeded with business as usual, and spilled a record 14,000 tons of crude oil into the delta last year.