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Wednesday: Oil Spill Nearing Florida Coast; Japan’s Prime Minister Resigns

NASA photo of oil spill

In this May 31 photo from NASA, the oil slick is seen off the coast of Louisiana with a portion flowing south from the accident site. Photo by NASA via Getty Images.

As BP presses ahead Wednesday with its temporary fix to contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — one that officials warn may temporarily increase the flow by as much as 20 percent — oil was landing on the shores of Alabama and Mississippi and is nearing the Florida coast.

The operation began Tuesday when the company deployed robotic submarines 5,000 feet below the surface to saw through what is left of the damaged well’s riser pipe. The next step will be to lower a tight-fitting cap over the pipe and eventually siphon the oil to the surface.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said that “oil containment, rather than capping the well” is now the mission until BP puts a relief well in place. BP says it could be August until a new well is ready.

Meantime, while oil continues to push into Louisiana’s marshes, it has for the first time reached the shores of Alabama and Mississippi. In Alabama, “red-brown oil” hit a small island near the mouth of Mobile Bay, while in Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour said a two-mile-long, three-feet-wide strand of crude has been spotted on the barrier island of Petit Bois.

Oil is nearing the Florida coast, as well. Officials there confirmed an oil sheen Tuesday about nine miles from Pensacola beach, where the summer tourism season is just getting started. The latest projections say oil could hit there sometime late this week.

The Justice Department has opened a criminal probe into the spill. The inquiry “may prove crucial in making sure those responsible for the disaster pay the cost of repairing the damage,” says the Times-Picayune. “Just as important, any company or individual who broke the law should be brought to justice and face stiff penalties.”

The spill makes the case for big government, says CNN’s Donna Brazile. “In short,” she writes, “make sure Big Government is big enough to keep Bigger Business in check. Or who knows what price we’ll pay.”

“We sincerely hope that President Obama does not use the oil spill — like he used the financial market meltdown as a pretext for the stimulus — as an excuse for some radical power grab over the U.S. energy industry,” Brian Wynne counters in the National Journal’s Energy and Environment blog. “The government does not even control the oil industry in the former Soviet Union.”

“With as much as 34 million gallons of oil inking the Gulf of Mexico, ‘Yes we can’ has been downgraded to ‘Will we ever?'” Maureen Dowd says in the New York Times.

Japan’s Prime Minister Resigns

For the fourth time in as many years, a Japanese Prime Minister has announced his resignation. Yukio Hatoyama said Wednesday he will step down less than one year after taking office. Hatoyama was elected in September, but saw his approval ratings plummet after breaking a campaign pledge to close an American military base on the island of Okinawa.

CNN’s Business 360 posts this job ad for Japan: “WANTED: CEO to lead a blue-chip country slightly past its prime.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time is covering several angles to this story, including potential replacements, the effects on Japan’s global relations and reactions on the web.

Karzai’s Peace Conference Interrupted by Rockets

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai began a national peace assembly on Wednesday aimed at trying to persuade insurgents to lay down their weapons. As the president spoke, however, three rockets fired by Taliban militants landed just 110 yards from the Kabul university where the so-called peace jirga is being held. The conference continued, with Karzai telling the audience, “Someone is trying with a rocket perhaps … Don’t worry about it, let’s proceed.”

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