Thursday: Containment Cap Replaced; Gen. Petraeus Returns to Spotlight

BY Hari Sreenivasan  June 24, 2010 at 9:08 AM EDT

Engineers repositioned the cap on BP’s broken oil well late Wednesday after crews were forced to remove what has been the most effective method for containing some of the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The logistics coordinator aboard the ship that has been siphoning the oil told the Associated Press that the system was working again, but it would take time before for it to “get ramped back up.”

Also on Wednesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration opened more than 8,000 square miles of previously closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico because no oil has been observed there.

According to NOAA, the still closed area covers 78,597 square miles, about 32.5 percent of the Gulf’s federal waters. Here is a map of the area.

Other headlines on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster:

The Hill: “The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that provides subpoena powers to a White House-created commission that is probing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.”

The New York Times: “[T]hree miles off the coast of Alaska, BP is moving ahead with a controversial and potentially record-setting project to drill two miles under the sea and then six to eight miles horizontally to reach what is believed to be a 100-million-barrel reservoir of oil under federal waters.”

The Washington Post: “Around the gulf, social service providers are dealing with a rising tide of mental health crises….In southern Louisiana, where the impact was felt first, about 1,500 people have received counseling services from Catholic Charities.”

Gen. McChrystal Out; Gen. Petraeus In

On the same day Gen. David Petraeus was picked to be the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, NATO’s death toll for June reached 80, the most suffered in a single month. The previous record was 75 in July 2009.

While much is being said about the change in leadership, many, like Alan Greenblatt of NPR, have pointed out:

“President Obama’s decision to name Gen. David Petraeus as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was the clearest possible signal he could send that American policy there will not change anytime soon.”

Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh says the switch changes nothing:

“Obama’s real problem: the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy that McChrystal championed and Petraeus virtually invented may be fatally flawed, at least as it’s practiced in Afghanistan.”

So what is different? According to the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karen DeYoung:

[I]n turning to the nation’s most prominent general, Obama has embraced a commander who may become a formidable advocate for slowing, or arresting outright, the pace of troop reductions next summer.”

Politco’s Ben Smith and Jen DiMascio take look at “Five key dates ahead.” The first will be Petraeus ‘ confirmation hearings:

“[T]he expected Petraeus love-fest should give administration policy a bit of breathing room — at a moment of rising doubts, especially among liberal Democrats….Petraeus may provide cover for Obama to slow down a withdrawal, said a State Department official from the Bush administration.”

Medvedev to Meet with Obama at White House

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet with President Obama at the White House Thursday, as part of a U.S. trip meant to showcase warmer relations and shore up economic ties between the two countries. Earlier this week, Medvedev visited high-tech companies in Silicon Valley and met with executives from Google, Apple and other firms. Medvedev is aiming to attract U.S. investors as he tries to build a Russian version of Silicon Valley outside Moscow.

Americans Convicted of Terror Charges in Pakistan

Five American men were convicted by a Pakistani court Thursday of conspiring to commit terrorist acts and were sentenced to 10 years in prison. The five, all Muslim men in their late teens and 20s from suburban Washington, D.C., were arrested in Pakistan in December. American Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said, “We respect the decision of the Pakistani courts.”

Australia Gets New PM as Rudd Steps Down

Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stepped down Thursday in the face of sinking public approval ratings and opposition from within his own party. He was replaced by his deputy Julia Gillard, who became Australia’s first female prime minister.

With additional reporting by Lea Winerman