Tuesday: Concern Remains on Oil Cap; Senate to Vote on Jobless Benefits

BY Tom LeGro  July 20, 2010 at 9:36 AM EDT

The federal government and BP continue to keep a close eye on the cap over the broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The cap, though still mostly holding in oil, has some scientists worried.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports: “Bubbles have been spotted on the seabed about three kilometers away from the well, a few hundred meters from the well, at the base of the original blowout preventer on the well, and coming out of a gasket in the flange on the capping stack that was installed last week.”

Oil is also seeping into the Gulf from the seafloor about two miles from the well, and small amounts of oil and gas started coming from the cap late Sunday.

Nonetheless, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, is granting BP permission to keep the cap in place.

Allen said BP and federal officials don’t believe the bubbles are problematic because pressure continues to rise in the well.

Engineers are using underwater cameras and monitoring pressure and seismic readings to see whether the well will hold or spring a new leak, one that could rupture the sea floor and make the disaster worse.

Meantime, testimony grew heated Monday at the panel investigating the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20.

“[L]awyers for various companies connected to the rig attempted to place blame on one another and angled to expose maintenance problems they say existed before the April 20 accident,” the Times-Picayune reports.

Unemployment Benefits

After incoming West Virginia senator Carte Goodwin is sworn in Tuesday to succeed Robert Byrd, who died last month, Democrats will have enough votes to overcome Republican opposition to extend jobless benefits.

The measure is expected to pass later Tuesday, and the House would take it up Wednesday and then send it to President Obama for his signature.

For more politics news, read our new daily post, “The Morning Line,” by political editor David Chalian.

Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment for Afghan police and soldiers to take charge of security nationwide by 2014. Karzai spoke at an international conference in Kabul.

The BBC’s Ian Pannell reports:

“This was described as a landmark conference: It was certainly the first to be held in Afghanistan, where violence, insecurity and fighting continue in large parts of the country. … The ultimate challenge for the VIPs gathered here was to work out how to change that and get to the point where Afghanistan can stand on its own, allowing foreign troops to leave.”

Toyota Subpoenaed

A federal grand jury in New York has subpoenaed Toyota, seeking information on steering-related defects in its vehicles and possibly widening an investigation into the automaker’s handling of a 2005 recall, reports the New York Times.