Fast news

BP’s non mea culpa

OIL GIANT BP’s internal report into the fatal Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion appears to be a blatant attempt to spread the blame for the disaster in order to avoid hefty fines under US law.

If the US authorities concur with BP’s report then the profitable oil company would be able to restrict its liabilities under the US Clean Water Act to £3.5 billion rather than being fined £13.5 billion, based on an estimated oil spill of 4.9 million barrels.

A favourable ruling for BP would also allow it to claim back millions of dollars from rig owner Transocean and contractor Halliburton, as well as partners Anadarko and Mitsui who have refused to contribute to BP’s £5.2 billion clean up costs.

But while the feuding between different players in the Gulf of Mexico disaster continues, one thing ‘big oil’ agrees on is that the US government moratorium on deepwater drilling off America’s coastline is immediately lifted.

Driven by the lure of greater profits, big oil is continuing its highly risky deepwater operations in the pristine waters of the arctic and also in the North Sea off Britain’s coast where there is no moratorium.

Control freak

SRI LANKA’S president Mahinda Rajapakse now enjoys dictatorial powers following the national parliament’s rubber stamping of the 18th amendment to the 1978 constitution last Wednesday. This change scraps a two-term limit on the presidency and gives sweeping new powers to the president. In particular the law allows Rajapakse to appoint officials to key posts in the judiciary, police and election commission.

Since Rajapakse’s armed forces crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers’ insurgency in May 2009 (killing an estimated 10,000 civilians in the final stages of the conflict), his clique has tightened its grip on power, unleashing sectarian forces to intimidate the media and opposition politicians, and further marginalising Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

Private failure

USING PRIVATE companies to ‘incentivise’ people claiming incapacity benefit back into work has been an expensive flop. The parliamentary public accounts committee spending watchdog said that private contractors on the £760 million Pathways to Work programme have “universally failed by considerable margins to meet their contractual targets”.

Despite ‘cherry-picking’ claimants, private companies only managed to achieve a third of their targets, easily outperformed by the Department for Work and Pensions’ own Jobcentre Plus offices.

Doom and gloom

THE PROSPECT of a ‘double-dip’ recession hitting the UK economy grew after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted a further slowdown in growth to just 0.4% in the last quarter of 2010. This gloomy assessment coincides with the UK economy’s largest ever trade deficit in the three months to July, despite the lower pound which should favour exports.