ThinkFast: June 24, 2010

BP replaced a cap on its broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico “after a deep-sea blunder forced crews to temporarily remove what has been the most effective method so far for containing” the massive spill. The cap captured 700,000 gallons of oil in one day before a robot bumped into it late yesterday morning.

Donald Valdrine, the BP manager aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded nine weeks ago, “has been placed on leave while at least four federal agencies probe the disaster.” Just hours before the disaster, Valdrine “overruled objections” from Transocean representatives “about how to finish the well.”

BP is moving ahead with a new “controversial and potentially record-setting project” to drill three miles off the coast of Alaska. Regulators exempted BP’s project, “Liberty,” from President Obama’s offshore drilling moratorium because “it sits on an artificial island… built by BP” and thus qualifies as “onshore.”

62 percent Americans now say that America is on the wrong track in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. “And for the first time in the survey, more Americans disapprove of how the president is handling his job than approve,” with 48 percent disapproving and only 45 percent approving.


“A growing number of centrist Democrats say they’re open to trimming Pentagon spending in the face of record budget deficits and mounting public debt.” Defense makes up “more than half the country’s discretionary spending” and Liberal Democrats have for years called for cuts “to no avail,” but the now “opposition is softening.”

President Obama’s choice of Gen. David Petraeus to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander in Afghanistan “was quickly embraced on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, with Senate confirmation expected within days.” “Republicans quickly sang Petraeus’ praises and didn’t begrudge Obama’s decision to remove McChrystal.”

A new report by the Commonwealth Fund of the health care systems of seven major industrialized countries ranks the United States “dead last” in the quality, efficiency, and equity of its health care system. “As an American it just bothers me that with all of our know-how, all of our wealth, that we are not assuring that people who need health care can get it,” Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis told the press.

The CIA has hired Xe Services, the private security contractor formerly known as Blackwater, “for protective services [and] guard services, in multiple regions.” The revelation of the $100 million contract comes one day after a federal commission criticized the State Department for granting Xe a $120 million contract to guard U.S. construction sites in Afghanistan.

Al Gore, who announced on June 1 that he and his wife Tipper are separating, was accused in 2006 of forcing “unwanted sexual contact” with a massage therapist. The woman reported the incident to police, who determined at the time that “they lacked enough evidence to proceed with an investigation.”


And finally: The U.S. soccer team provided some levity during a tense moment in the White House yesterday. As journalists waited for Obama to announce his McChrystal decision, the U.S. scored its game-winning goal against Algeria. A White House aide came on the intercom in the press room and began chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” as journalists whooped it up. The White House twitter feed also sent out the USA chant.