New butterfly ‘Aprilis follis’ has been discovered. It emits a strange strawberry scent when disturbed.
In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, 1 April tradition is often known as “April fish” (poissons d’avril in French or pesce d’aprile in Italian; or Aprilvis in Dutch). This includes attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed.
Now not just April fish, but also an April butterfly.
DON’T FORGET IT IS APRIL FOOL’S DAY You’ve been warned — be on the lookout! [HuffPost]
BP is a British global energy company that is also the third largest global energy company and the 4th largest company in the world. As a multinational oil company (“oil major”) BP is the UK’s largest corporation, with its headquarters in St James’s, City of Westminster, London. BP America’s headquarters is in the Two Westlake Park in the Energy Corridor area of Houston.
The company is among the largest private sector energy corporations in the world, and one of the six “supermajors” (vertically integrated private sector oil exploration, natural gas, and petroleum product marketing companies). The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
The company has been convicted of two felonies for environmental crimes, including one felony for which BP pleaded guilty in connection with the Texas City refinery explosion in 2005 that caused 15 deaths, injured 180 people, and forced thousands of nearby residents to remain sheltered in their homes.
On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in excess of 200,000 gallons of oil (approx. 5,000 barrels) leaking every single day after a blow-out preventer designed to stop oil from flowing out during an emergency failed to activate. The spill was expected to continue until the blow-out preventer could be activated or another containment method implemented. Though 115 workers were evacuated from the site, eleven missing workers were presumed dead. On 28 April 2010, the US Coast Guard set fire to some sequestered portions of oil which had leaked from the uncapped well located five thousand feet below the Gulf of Mexico.
Climate-sceptic US senator given funds by BP political action committee
Sen Jim Inhofe, who opposes climate change regulation, has received $10,000 from PAC funded by donations from US staff at oil group
Sunday 22 March 2015 17.14 GMT
One of America’s most powerful and outspoken opponents of climate change regulation received election campaign contributions that can be traced back to senior BP staff, including chief executive Bob Dudley.
Following his re-election, Inhofe became chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee in January, and then a month later featured in news bulletins throwing a snowball across the Senate floor.
Before tossing it, the senator said: “In case we have forgotten – because we keep hearing that 2014 is the warmest year on record – it is very, very cold outside. Very unseasonal.”
The BP PAC is funded by contributions from senior US executives and company staffers who sent in contributions to the PAC totalling more than $1m between 2010 and 2014. Over the same period the committee paid out $655,000 to candidates, with more than 40 incumbent senators benefiting.
Dudley has personally given $19,000 since June 2011 to the BP PAC – very close to the $5,000-a-year maximum allowable by law. Although Dudley is resident in Britain, he is eligible to give via the BP PAC because he is a US national.
Yet, BP and Dudley have long called for world leaders to intervene and impose tough regulatory measures on the fossil fuel industry. Publishing its 98-page research paper, Energy Outlook 2035, last month, BP warned: “To abate carbon emissions further will require additional significant steps by policymakers beyond the steps already assumed.”
While the sums channelled to Inhofe’s campaign represent only a small proportion of the BP PAC’s election spending and the senator’s own campaign funds, they show how unafraid the committee has been to spread its donations to the most controversial candidates. According to the BP PAC website, it financially supports election candidates “whose views and/or voting records reflect the interests of BP employees”.
Records suggest Inhofe’s 2014 campaign was a funding priority for the BP PAC, ranking as one of the top recipients of committee funds when compared with disbursements to other serving senators.
This was despite Inhofe’s senate battle not being a close one. His opponent, Matt Silverstein, who Inhofe beat comfortably in last November’s midterms, had a tiny campaign war chest by comparison.
BP was asked whether it was appropriate for the PAC to make campaign contributions to such a vocal opponent of action on climate change, or for Dudley to be contributing towards such payments.
In a statement BP replied: “Voluntary donations [by staff] to the BP employees’ political action committee in the US are used to support a variety of candidates across the political spectrum and in many US geographies where we operate.
“These candidates have one thing in common: they are important advocates for the energy industry in the broadest sense.”
The company declined to comment on Dudley’s own donations.
PACs exist in the US where companies and trade unions cannot give directly to the campaigns of those running for office. Instead funds are pooled from staff – often senior executives – into a PAC, and disbursed by a committee board, often in a manner sympathetic to the company’s lobby and other interests.
But Tillerson and other peers have not been as outspoken as BP and Dudley in calling for state intervention to tackle climate change, making the BP boss’s links to Inhofe campaign finance more controversial.
Last week Obama said it was “disturbing” that Inhofe had been made chair of the senate environment committee. In broader criticism of unnamed political opponents, he then went on to say: “In some cases you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry. And there is a lot of money involved.”
Inhofe is unabashed about election campaign financing he receives from the industry. In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, he wrote: “Whenever the media asked me how much I have received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, my unapologetic answer was ‘not enough’.”
According to data compiled from public filings by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Inhofe’s campaign raised $4.84m between 2009 and 2014, with $1.77m coming from PACs, many of them sponsored by fossil fuel companies.
BP’s PAC was more active in the US 2014 election cycle than any other for more than a decade. Despite insisting it is non-partisan, 69% of contributions to federal election candidates in recent years have been to Republican politicians. This is a stronger bias than most other corporate PACs, according to the CRP.
There are, however, other leading recipients who have attracted criticism from climate change campaigners, including Republican House speaker John Boehner and fellow Republican, Sen Mike Enzi from Wyoming.
When asked his views on climate change in January, Boehner said: “We’ve had changes in our climate, although scientists debate the sources, in their opinion, of that change. But I think the real question is that every proposal out of this administration with regard to climate change means killing American jobs.”
“I don’t see [Obama] as trying to control pollution. I see him trying to put business out of business,” Enzi said last year.
Campaign contributions is just one aspect of US political engagement linked to BP and its staff. Filings show the oil and gas group spends millions on lobbying efforts.
The CRP classifies BP as a “heavy hitter”, ranking it among the top 140 biggest overall donors to federal elections since 1988. Its PAC ranks as the six largest such body with a sponsor company that is ultimately part of a non-US multinational.
Those on the PAC board, deciding how to spend staff donations, are senior executives and lawyers at the company. The board’s vice-chair is Bob Stout, BP’s Washington-based head of regulatory affairs, who also sits on the group’s global policy making body. Dudley does not sit on the PAC board.
According to its website, the PAC makes donations to “candidates who support the principles of free enterprise and good government, support a fair and reasonable business environment for the energy industry and share our philosophy that energy diversity advances energy security.” It says staff contributions are encouraged but stresses they are voluntary.
The first BP PAC contribution to Inhofe’s 2014 campaign was a given on 12 March 2012. This $1,000 donation came just two weeks after the publication of Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax, cementing his credentials as the most outspoken denier of climate change in US politics.
Publicising the book, the senator gave a radio interview on Voice of Christian Youth America. “God is still up there,” he said. “The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what he is doing in the climate to me is outrageous.”
BERLIN: Several senior Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have for the first time said Germany should consider paying reparations to Greece for Nazi crimes committed during World War Two, breaking ranks with Angela Merkel’s government which has ruled this out.
Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, due to meet Merkel in Berlin on Monday, has accused Germany of using tricks to avoid reparations. One of his ministers raised the prospect of seizing German property to compensate victims of a Nazi massacre.
While Berlin says it has honoured its obligations, including a 115-million-deutschemark payment to Greece in 1960, some mainstream politicians have contradicted the government and say it is impossible to draw a line under the highly-charged issue.
In 1960, famous Dutch comedian Wim Kan spoke about the small amount of German reparations also paid then to other Hitler-occupied countries like the Netherlands. Mr Kan himself during World War II was imprisoned in camps of Hitler’s then Japanese allies. Wim Kan spoke: ‘The German government said: “The suffering [of the nazi occupation] cannot be expressed in money”. So, they have not done so’.
“We should make a financial approach to victims and their families,” said Gesine Schwan, a respected member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who share power with Merkel’s conservatives.
“It would be good for us Germans to sweep up after ourselves in terms of our history,” she told Spiegel Online. “Victims and descendants have longer memories than perpetrators and descendents,” said Schwan, twice nominated as a candidate for German president.
Germany, keen to avoid setting a precedent by reopening the issue, argues that the 1990 “Two Plus Four Treaty” signed by then-East Germany and West Germany and the four World War Two allies before German reunification drew a line under future claims.
Resentment runs deep. Nazi forces destroyed scores of Greek villages and killed more than 20,000 civilians between 1941 and 1944. In a chat show on ARD television on Sunday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said it was about morals, not money.
“Personally I would be happy if one euro is paid. As long as there was a recognition that this moral debt has been settled,” he said, adding that he was speaking as an individual.
A further question hangs over an “occupation loan” forced on the Bank of Greece which some experts put at 11 billion euros.
Schwan said the occupation loan must “of course be repaid”.
The pampered lifestyle that Limburg’s former Catholic Bishop, Tebartz van Elst, had envisaged for himself in his self-designed palatial residence not only failed to amuse his parishioners – it also embarrassed a Pontiff famous for siding with the poor.
Almost a year on from Bishop van Elst’s abrupt departure, his former diocese now finds itself landed with an architectural white elephant.
“We want to move away from the headlines and get back to the realities of everyday life,” insisted Limburg diocese spokesman Wolfgang Rosch who said that the church was keen to “de-mystify” the building, “The residence needs to be filled with life and become accepted,” he added.
However, the diocese insists no final decision will be taken about the future of the palace until a replacement for Bishop van Elst is installed. It will be up to the new bishop to decide what to do with the building.
But as the church maintains that a new bishop will not be appointed until 2016 at the earliest, the immediate future of the palace remains uncertain. There have been suggestions that the building could be used as a centre for religious seminars or even as an extension to the diocese’s overcrowded museum next door. Parishioners’ proposals that it be used as a refugee home have so far come to nothing.
In the interim the diocese has decided to open Limburg’s scandal palace to the public. Guided tours of the residence are planned. The property has also been opened to the media, albeit at an embarrassing moment for Germany’s Catholic church: last week the archdiocese of Cologne disclosed it was worth €3.35bn, making it richer than the Vatican.
Bishop van Elst did not skimp on money either. He was a fan of high-end architectural modernism: each of the steps on the winding staircases in his palace are individually illuminated, window frames are bronze, walls are rustic bare stone, the palace library is a vast expanse of back lit glass shelves.
The bedrooms are decked out with iPads let into the walls which enable would be sleepers to close the curtains, switch off the lights or call up the evening prayer on screen, at the mere touch of a finger.
The most expensive item in the scandal palace, it turns out, is a Japanese Koi fish breeding pond which cost €213,000.
The Bishop eventually filled two removal trucks with his belongings on his departure to Rome, where he now holds an advisory post in the Vatican. His portrait may still hang in his empty palace, but he is unlikely ever to return to Limburg.
This video shows German comedian Stefan Raab as Bishop van Elst.
Hundreds of Syriza supporters gathered in the centre of Athens to watch the first exit polls of the Greek elections, Sunday. Early reports suggest that the left-wing coalition party Syriza could form the next Greek government with a significant majority.
A federal judge ruled Thursday that BP’s maximum fine resulting from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill would be $13.7 billion, significantly lower than the $18 billion fine called for by prosecutors.
“Today’s ruling is a major victory for BP and reduces by billions their potential liability,” law professor David Uhlman told Bloomberg News. “A fine in excess of $10 billion remains possible but is now less likely.” BP’s stock rose 6 percent Friday on the New York Stock exchange in the first day of trading after the announcement.
Judge Carl Barbier ruled that 3.17 million barrels of oil were released during the incident. That figure, which will be used to determine the fines levied against BP under the federal Clean Water Act, is well below the 4.19 million barrels sought by Justice Department prosecutors.
Barbier’s ruling is below even the estimates offered by BP witnesses during the trial. This is because he had earlier ruled that BP would not be held liable for 810,000 barrels of oil that were skimmed off the surface, refined and sold. The numbers supported by both BP and federal prosecutors were adjusted downward to reflect this consideration.
The $13.7 billion maximum fine BP now faces is less than the $18 billion fine sought by prosecutors. However, even the maximum fine sought by the prosecution would have been a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $24 billion in profits the company made in 2013 alone.
Thursday’s ruling by federal judge Carl Barbier also stated that BP did not worsen the impact of the spill by lying about its true extent. This is in spite of the fact that the rate of flow from the crippled platform was covered up for months, in full collusion with the Obama administration. The company initially told the public that the flow rate was only one to five thousand barrels per day, and as late as June of that year supported the federal government’s estimate of no more than 19,000 barrels a day, a fraction of the now officially accepted figure of 62,000 barrels per day.
The size of the fine will be determined in a non-jury trial set to begin January 20. The company is apparently optimistic about its chances. A spokesman for BP wrote in an email to the media that the company does not expect Barbier to impose the current maximum fine.
The potential fine may be even further reduced, as BP seeks to capitalize on vagaries in the law to reduce the maximum fine even further. Under the Clean Water Act, liability for an oil spill is capped at $3000 per barrel. However, BP currently faces a maximum penalty of $4300 per barrel under additional Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, which is how the $13.7 billion figure was computed. The Coast Guard also requires fines of up to $4000 per barrel. Defense attorneys are seeking to reduce the fines to the lower $3000 figure, arguing that using separate agency guidelines would be a recipe for “legal chaos.” If successful, this would mean that BP would face a maximum fine of merely $9.5 billion.
The company’s lawyers have been filing appeals constantly throughout the proceedings, banking on the complexities of the case to shield themselves from liability. Thursday’s decision came mere days after BP narrowly lost an appeal in the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals against Barbier’s original ruling in 2012 that the company is liable for penalties under the Clean Water Act at all. BP is also currently appealing Barbier’s ruling that it is guilty of “gross negligence,” which that opens the company up to the maximum fines under the Clean Water Act.
The court proceedings have taken place under conditions where the Obama administration has continually sought to shield the company from prosecution. While the oil was still flowing, Obama created the Gulf Coast Claims Facility with the aim of shielding BP from lawsuits from coastal residents. In order to receive the program’s miserly payouts, claimants had to waive their right to sue the company. The administration is now returning BP to the fold in oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, removing the company last year from an EPA ban on new drilling leases in federal waters.
BP is eager to minimize its exposures to further penalties as it begins to feel the pressure from recent developments in global oil markets. BP’s third quarter earnings last year fell by 25 percent, making it one of the first major multinational oil company to feel the impact of the decline in oil prices, which have since collapsed to $50 per barrel. The company has also been hit hard by Western sanctions against the Russian oil industry, where it is the biggest foreign investor.
But as Thursday’s ruling makes clear, BP has little to fear from a government that has no interest in seeing them receive anything more than a slap on the wrist.
Millions of gallons of oil settled at the bottom of the Gulf after BP oil spill: here.
BP’s missing oil is found — where else? — on the bottom of the Gulf: here.