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News Wrap: Gulf Oil Cap Holding Tight on 3-Month Mark of Rig Blast

July 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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As Tuesday marked the three-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blast, the cap on the oil well appeared to be holding tight.
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HARI SREENIVASAN:Today marked three months since that oil well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded out of control. But federal officials reported a new containment cap is still holding, and they gave BP the green light to continue the pressure test for another 24 hours. Scientists were still monitoring small leaks around the well, and retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said seepage detected two miles away is not from this well.

ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN (RET.), national incident commander: We have five
very small leaks in and around the blowout preventer and the stack itself.These are leaks through flanges or gaskets, not unlike an oil leak you might have in your car, very small drips, I would say.

We don’t consider them consequential to — to — involving the integrity of the wellhead. Moving beyond that, where we find anomalies where there’s a difference in density located by the acoustic sensors or the seismic sensors, we
go out and investigate those with ROVs. The most prominent one to date has been three kilometers away, which we attribute to another facility that was producing some time in the past. But we found nothing that would be consequential towards
the integrity of the wellhead to date.

HARI SREENIVASAN:Allen said he’s consulting with BP on pumping heavy
mud through the cap to help plug the well. That so-called top kill procedure
would be in addition to relief wells to be used for the same purpose.

The furor over BP and the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset
Ali al-Megrahi, was a prime topic at the White House today. President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron were questioned about it repeatedly after their meeting.

The British prime minister turned aside calls for his government to
launch a new inquiry into the al-Megrahi’s release.

DAVID CAMERON, british prime minister: The role of BP and any lobbying
they might have done is an issue for BP and an issue that they should explain themselves.

I mean, the decision to release Megrahi, though, was a decision made by
the Scottish government, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the Scottish government were in any way swayed by BP.

HARI SREENIVASAN:For his part, President Obama said it is important to
get all the facts.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think all of us here in the United States were surprised, disappointed, and angry about the release of the Lockerbie bomber. So we welcome any additional information that will give us insights and a better understanding of why the decision was made.

HARI SREENIVASAN:Al-Megrahi got a life sentence for bombing a Pan Am
jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. All 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground were killed.

Last year, Scottish officials sent Megrahi home after eight years behind bars. Doctors said he was dying of prostate cancer, but he remains alive.

Cameron led Britain’s Conservative opposition at the time. He recalled
his objections today.

DAVID CAMERON: Look, I’m not standing here today and saying it was a
bad decision to release Megrahi because I’m here. I said this a year ago, at the time, that it was a bad decision. It shouldn’t have been made. This was the biggest mass murderer in British history and there was no business in letting him out of prison.

HARI SREENIVASAN:BP acknowledges it lobbied for a broader prisoner
transfer with Libya to further commercial interests. It denies raising al-Megrahi’s release specifically.

But amid the Gulf oil spill, the issue has raised hackles in Congress.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer spoke yesterday.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D-N.Y.): No matter how powerful the
corporation or how important the foreign government, a blood deal is a blood-money deal. And we’re going to hold people accountable.

HARI SREENIVASAN:Cameron met with congressional leaders late today.
There’s a Senate hearing on the matter late next week.

That bill to restore benefits to the long-term unemployed has cleared a
major hurdle in the Senate. Democrats mustered 60 votes to end a filibuster today. The 60th vote came from Carte Goodwin moments after he was sworn in as the new senator from West Virginia. He replaced the late Robert Byrd.

Two Republicans also voted to end the filibuster. Other Republicans
said they wanted budget cuts elsewhere to pay for the $34 billion the bill will cost.

Wall Street pieced together another day of gains, despite some
disappointing earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 75 points to close just under 10230. The Nasdaq rose 24 points to close at 2222.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended that Elena Kagan be
confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Chairman Patrick Leahy praised Kagan’s legal knowledge, judicial independence, and consensus-building skills.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), Judiciary Committee chairman: Solicitor
General Kagan didn’t serve in the judicial monastery, but I would suggest that her work outside probably is an additional qualification.

Solicitor General Kagan demonstrated impressive knowledge of the law and fidelity to it. She spoke of judicial restraint, her respect for our democratic institutions, and her commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law.

HARI SREENIVASAN:One Republican, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina,
joined all 12 Democrats voting for the nominee. He said Kagan wouldn’t have been his choice, but that he believes she will serve honorably. Other Republicans, like Jeff Sessions of Alabama, complained Kagan lacks a robust legal and judicial background.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R-Ala.): That’s the kind of legal experience,
the day-in and day-out practice of law, that forces clarity of thought. And that’s the kind of experience that separates the lawyer’s lawyer from the political lawyer. Ms. Kagan doesn’t have that kind of experience. She just doesn’t.

HARI SREENIVASAN:Senate Democrats hope to confirm Kagan before
Congress’ August recess.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Jeff.