Friday: Admiral Says Leak Is Stemmed; House Repeals ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

BY jbreslow  May 28, 2010 at 9:42 AM EDT

shrimp boat outfitted with booms

A shrimp boat outfitted with oil booms makes its way to port Thursday near Grand Isle, Louisiana. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

BP’s latest effort to end the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico showed signs of progress on Friday as the company stopped the flow of oil and gas from a broken deepwater well, according to the Coast Guard admiral leading the government response to the accident.

“They have been able to push the hydrocarbons of the oil down with the mud,” Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The challenge ahead, Allen said, will be “to put enough into the well to keep the pressure where they can put a cement plug over the top.”

Allen cautioned, however, that the next 12 to 18 hours will be critical. “We’re very encouraged by the fact they can push the mud down,” Allen said. “The real question is can we sustain it.”

Speaking before Allen, BP CEO Tony Hayward said the “top kill” technique being used to drive down the oil was “going pretty well,” but said that it could take up to 48 hours to determine if the fix has worked.

For 18 hours on Thursday, BP paused work on the top kill after engineers found that too much of the drilling mud being pumped into the damaged well was escaping back out.

President Barack Obama will arrive in Louisiana on Friday to gauge the response to the accident — now the worst oil spill in U.S. history. He is to attend a briefing by Allen, and meet with several officials, including the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama.

On Thursday, the president responded to criticism of the government’s handling of the spill. “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” he told reporters during an East Room press conference. “My job right now is just to make sure everybody in the Gulf understands: This is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about. The spill.”

House Votes to Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Late on Thursday, the House voted to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay men and women from military service. The 234-to-194 vote came just hours after the Senate Armed Services Committee also voted in favor of a repeal.

The measure to overturn the Clinton-era policy — a key campaign pledge for President Obama — must now be approved by the full Senate. However, no change to the policy will take place until the Pentagon completes a review of how its repeal would impact soldier readiness. That report is due to Congress in December.

70 Killed in Pakistan

At least 70 people have been killed in Pakistan after gunmen opened fire on two mosques during Friday morning prayers in Lahore. The attacks targeted members of the minority Ahmadi Islamic sect, a group that considers itself Muslim but under Pakistani law has been declared non-Muslim. The sect, seen as heretics, has also been barred from proselytizing or identifying themselves as Muslims.