Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rig owner eyes relief well to divert gas off coast

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ? The owner of a natural gas drilling rig aflame off of Louisiana's coast said preparations were under way for the possible drilling of a relief well to divert gas from the site and bring the well under control.

Adam Bourgoyne, a former dean of Louisiana State University's petroleum engineering department, said such an effort is a complicated task that could take weeks to complete.

The relief well team has to figure out questions such as where to intercept the well bore and what tools will be needed. The surface team has to figure out whether it's safe to get onto the platform, how much debris there is and how it can be removed, he said.

"Sometimes, if the well control blowout preventers are intact, they might be able to get on-site and put down enough water and so forth," said Bourgoyne, now a consultant.

Because the well involved is a natural gas well, not an oil well, experts said the pollution threats are far less than those posed by some previous accidents.

Federal inspectors said a light sheen was spotted around the rig on Wednesday evening, though authorities said it quickly dissipated and the fire aboard the rig continued to be fed by natural gas. A sheen was spotted shortly after the blowout began Tuesday but it, too, quickly dissipated.

Gas wells often also have oil or other hydrocarbons as well as natural gas. Officials and scientists agree the latest mishap should not be nearly as damaging as the BP oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico, that sent crude oil oozing ashore in 2010.

"A gas well's not going to result in any kind of major pollution ? perhaps not even significant pollution if it's burning," Bourgoyne said.

University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha "Mandy" Joye also said the pollution and health dangers posed by a gas well are quite different than those posed at the well where the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up in 2010, killing 11 people and spewing millions of gallons of oil for weeks.

"The biggest danger from gas is that it is extremely flammable. At high concentration, gas exposure can cause health issues (vomiting, headaches, and worse) but such high levels are not likely to be reached in warm, shallow waters," Joye wrote in an email response to questions. She planned a trip to the area later this week to take water samples for analysis.

Tuesday's blowout, which prompted the safe evacuation of 44 workers, occurred at a drilling rig adjacent to a natural gas platform that wasn't producing gas at the time. The rig was completing a "sidetrack well," which drills into the same well hole under the platform. Such wells are used to remedy an obstruction or to access a different part of the gas reserve.

Gas spewed throughout the day and ignited late Tuesday night. The cause of the blowout was under investigation, one being overseen by the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

By Wednesday evening, the derrick and drill floor structure had collapsed. A fireboat was pumping water on the rig in an effort to keep as much of it as cool as possible.

The Coast Guard maintained traffic restrictions within 500 meters of the site and the Federal Aviation Administration restricted aircraft up to 2,000 feet over the area. The blowout and fire were not expected to affect Thursday's opening of the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, a major tourist draw on the state's only inhabited barrier island, said Jefferson Parish Council member Chris Roberts.

"We are singularly focused on coming up with an action plan that would regain control over the well," said James Noe, an executive with Hercules Offshore Inc., which was operating the rig for Walters Oil & Gas, an exploration and production company.

Natural gas ? mostly methane ? is far more soluble than oil, meaning it more easily dissolves, dilutes and disperses than crude oil, said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science and a member of the federal panel that investigated the BP oil spill. That means concentrations would be far less lethal to the marine environment, he said.

Joye said the accident, the second blowout off the Louisiana coast this month, does raise concerns about whether more regulation is needed.

"I believe that BSEE is taking rig safety very seriously, but more active rigs give rise to more opportunity for problems. Accidents can happen," she said.

Environmentalists in Louisiana said the accident proves the need for strong oversight of offshore operations.

Darryl Maleck-Wiley of the Sierra Club said, "Once again this is highlighting the dangerous nature of oil and gas operations in the Gulf and that we need aggressive inspection programs of these operations by the federal government."


Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Stacey Plaisance in New Orleans contributed to this report.


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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mass. police officer releases photos of 'evil' Boston bombing suspect

Courtesy Boston Magazine

A sniper trains his beam on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Photo by Sean Murphy.

By Matthew DeLuca and Becky Bratu, NBC News

A Massachusetts State Police officer released photos of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that depicted him bloodied and lit up by sniper rifle sights in the aftermath of a massive manhunt, saying he wanted to show "the real Boston bomber.?

The release of the photos came amid uproar about a Rolling Stone magazine cover story image that some said glamorized the accused killer.

Tactical photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy said the hundreds of images of the manhunt for Tsarnaev in April that he gave to Boston Magazine show someone not ?fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.?

The photographs released to Boston Magazine by Murphy show some of the hundreds of heavily armed police officers who scoured Watertown, Mass., in the search for Tsarnaev after his older brother Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police. In some of the more than one dozen photographs published by the magazine, law enforcement officers dressed in camouflage gear and helmets surround the white boat in a backyard where Tsarnaev was ultimately found injured but alive.

In other photographs, the bleeding accused bomber slumps out of the tarp-covered boat with a laser beam from an officer?s sniper rifle trained on his forehead.

Murphy said in a statement to Boston Magazine that he released the photographs after being outraged by a photo of Tsarnaev printed to accompany a Rolling Stone cover story earlier this week, calling the image ?an insult.?

?An image like this on the cover of Rolling Stone, we see it instantly as being wrong,? Murphy said in the statement published on Boston Magazine?s website. ?What Rolling Stone did was wrong. This guy is evil. This is the real Boston bomber. Not someone fluffed and buffed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.?

Three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 200 injured when blasts from two homemade bombs rocked the finish line of the Boston marathon on April 15. Tsarnaev appeared for an eight-minute hearing in federal court on July 11, where he pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment.

The court appearance was attended by scores of bombing survivors and their families. More than a dozen officers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police force stood outside the courthouse in apparent homage to Officer Sean Collier, who died in a shooting in the course of the manhunt.

Family members of the survivors said the defendant appeared to smirk and appear indifferent to the court proceedings, speaking only to enter his plea with an accent reflecting his Chechen background.

The editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine wrote in a post later on the publication?s website on Thursday that Murphy had been relieved of duty, but not fired. His status of duty was to reviewed next week, editor John Wolfson wrote.

Murphy, who described himself as a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, was relieved of his gun, badge, cameras, and police identification, according to Wolfson?s post. He was also reportedly ordered not to have any further communication with the press.

NBC News was not able to immediately verify the report, and calls for comment to the Massachusetts State Police were not returned. In a statement, a spokesman for the state police said that the release of the photos was not authorized.

?Today?s dissemination to Boston Magazine of photographs of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and police activity related to his capture was not authorized by the Massachusetts State Police,? spokesman David Procopio said in a statement Thursday night, according to the Boston Globe. ?The department will not release the photographs to media outlets.?

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz called the release of the photos ?completely unacceptable,? according to the Boston Herald.

?We have spoken with the Massachusetts State Police, who have assured us that the release of the photos was unauthorized and that they are taking action internally in response,? the spokeswoman said.

The editors of Rolling Stone have defended the cover photo of Tsarnaev, which was headlined ?The Bomber? and included a tagline that called the man ?a monster.? Stores including CVS and Tadeschi Foods have announced that they will not sell the issue on their newsstands.

?Our hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them and their families,? Rolling Stones? editors said in a statement. ?The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens.?

But for many in Boston, Murphy said in his statement after releasing the photographs, the wounds from the 19-year-old Tsarnaev?s alleged actions are still raw.

?These were real people, with real lives, with real families,? Murphy said. ?I know from first-hand conversations that this Rolling Stone cover has kept many of them up ? again.? It?s irritated wounds that will never heal ? again. There is nothing glamorous in bringing more pain to a grieving family.?



This story was originally published on


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Saturday, July 13, 2013

6 Big Mistakes Companies Make in SoLoMo Marketing Efforts ...

hello-missed-opportunitiesIn an increasingly digital marketing world that where the lines are blurred between search, social, local and mobile marketing, it's hard to keep pace with all the changes that take place, big or small. A lot of these changes, and how quickly they happen, can overwhelm any marketer dedicated to the space, let alone a small business owner who has a hundred other items on their agendas when running their business.

So what's a local business to do?

While it's tough to keep up with everything, here are six big mistakes that you can avoid that will help keep you on the right path even with all these constant changes.

1. No Phone Number on Homepage

According to BIA/Kelsey and vSplash's survey, more than 60 percent of small businesses miss a huge opportunity by not including their phone number on their website or homepage.

In today's more mobile, smartphone-based world, it's even more important that your business's phone number be actual text on a page and not incorporated into a graphic or a banner. Why?

Our smartphones are actually "smart" in that they can recognize the format of a phone number and turn it into a "click to dial" link. If your phone number is in a graphic, a smartphone can't recognize the phone number, it only sees the graphic.

2. Not Claiming Social Media Profiles

You're likely overwhelmed by the number of social media sites that are present on the Internet today, and each day there's a new "go to" site listed in the news, it's tough to keep on top of that.

The truth is, you don't have to be engaging in every social site on the Internet, but you should be claiming your social media profiles on them. This means listing your address, phone number, website URL, and any other information you'd like someone to see know.

It also saves you from having to battle with getting your name back from either a competitor or a fan who could be misrepresenting your company. Trying to rightfully reclaim a social media profile that should legally be yours is a process that can take months and time you can't afford to waste.

Registering your profiles on social media sites is no longer a daunting task as it used to be either, with tools like KnowEm, you can register your profiles in mere minutes.

3. Monitoring Their Business Name

Not everything happens in the comments on your blog, website or on Facebook. People can talk about you, your products or employees anywhere on the web where there is a box to type in and button to press.

You also can't be everywhere at once, nor can you afford to spend 8 hours of your day scouring sites for what people are discussing issues about you. That's where a simple to use tool like Trackur comes in.

Tools like Trackur scour blogs, forums, message board, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so on, for the keyword(s) or key phrase(s) you put in. What's even better is that these tools can send you daily updates that compress the data into easy to read reports, only taking you minutes to get a handle on what's going on and possibly alerting you to problems or, better yet, opportunities.

4. No Email Contact on Homepage

Just like the issue stated before with businesses not having a phone number listed on their home page or website, an email contact information is just as important. Rather than hunting around your site for a contact form, some customers just prefer to email you.

If you're afraid of too much spam, then this can be put into an image or graphic. Just make it visible and easy to find.

In today's "drive-through" society where quickness and ease are top priorities when getting people to speak or engage with you, being able to find an email contact is important.

5. Ignoring Social Media or Removing Negative Comments

ostrich-head-in-sandIgnoring social media in today's world is likely one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. Whether it's Facebook or a niche forum or message board, people will engage about you. It can be good or it can be bad, but burying your head in the sand and ignoring it won't make it go away.

In the same token, removing the negative, such as comments and postings, will not only not make the issue go away it will mostly like do the opposite, inflame the situation.

In today's world, people expect your company to be engaging on social media sites. In fact, 85 percent of them do, according to a study done by Vocus. They also expect you to address their complaints, in a study done by American Express 25 percent of customers who complain online expect you to reply to them within 1 hour.

6. Website Isn't Mobile Ready

Last, but by no means least important on this list is having a mobile ready website. According to a study done by BIA/Kelsey and vSplash, more than 93 percent of SMB websites aren't mobile compatible and won't render successfully on mobile devices or smartphones.

People are increasingly reliant on their smartphones and go to them to get information. If your site isn't mobile ready, your business is missing out, not only by it not rendering on a smart phone but also by it possibly not appearing in mobile search results.

ClickZ & Efectyv Marketing

ClickZ and Efectyv have come together for a second time to create a follow-up survey that dives deeper into measuring the importance of Convergence Analytics in the current online marketing environment. Be part of the future of business intelligence: Take part in the survey ?


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Parade Held For Veterans In Belle Harbor Ahead Of Adaptive Water Sports Festival

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NY1 VIDEO: Despite challenges brought on by Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaways will be hosting a water sports weekend for veterans who are still recovering from war, and a parade for these veterans kicked off the weekend Thursday.


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Friday, July 12, 2013

UK's industrial badlands are surprise ecology hotspots

PETER SHAW clambers over an ash pile outside one of the UK's larger power stations. I follow as he treads carefully to avoid the profusion of orchids, tests the thin soil for signs of earthworms, and lifts a metal sheet, revealing a grass snake and a slow-worm. No adders today, but they are here somewhere.

This is Tilbury, east of London. It is one of hundreds of forgotten biological treasures in the UK's "brownfield badlands". The nation that gave birth to the industrial revolution is now the home of a remarkable wildlife revival on these old industrial sites.

"Brownfield sites are as important for biodiversity as ancient woodlands, yet we are encouraging people to build on them," says Matt Shardlow of UK invertebrate conservation organisation Buglife.

The UK government recognises brownfield sites as a development opportunity. In England alone, such sites cover 62,000 hectares. Much of that land has little ecological value and is suitable for redevelopment, Shardlow admits, but hidden among the wastelands are gems where rare and endangered species can be found.

Shaw, a biologist at the University of Roehampton in London, shares that view. He has been coming to Tilbury for more than 20 years. It is always different. This time we find bird's foot trefoil flowers doing well. "These brownfield sites routinely support more scarce wild species than farmed land," says Shaw. They have one in six of the UK's rare insects, for instance.

Paradoxically, it is the very features that would seem to make the sites hostile to wildlife ? chemical pollution, abandoned buildings, thin soils ? that create a multitude of ecological niches ripe for colonisation. The level of ecological variation found at Tilbury and other brownfield sites is no longer found in the intensively managed and homogenised countryside. These sites have, in effect, replaced lost heaths and meadows as wildlife habitat.

Unfortunately, says Shardlow, few of the UK local councils that decide the fate of the sites employ ecologists to assess which should be preserved. Without that input, ecologically valuable sites may be redeveloped, or not afforded proper care.

We find an example of how important that care is a couple of kilometres from Tilbury, at West Thurrock Lagoon. The lagoon, leftover from a demolished riverside power station, is one of only two known UK sites that supports a rare invertebrate, the distinguished jumping spider (Sitticus distinguendus).

Or it was. As we clamber over the wall, Shaw gasps. Much of the lagoon has dried out since his last visit. The place is overgrown with poisonous hemlock. This is bad news for the distinguished jumping spider. Its only other UK home is another brownfield site in Kent, says Shaw. That site might not be around much longer either ? it is marked for development, and could soon be home to a huge theme park.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Living treasures of the brownfield badlands"

If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

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Club Solutions Magazine | Life Time Fitness to Open $30 Million ...

Picture 2Life Time Fitness is scheduled to open its fifth new location in the Washington D.C. area in mid-September. The new Life Time Fitness Reston will be the brand?s largest athletic club and its only ?diamond-level? facility in the D.C. region. The 114,000-square-foot, resort-like sports, professional fitness, family recreation and spa destination will ultimately cost Life Time Fitness between $25 million and $35 million.

?With our expansion in the Washington, D.C. area, we are excited to bring our distinctive, full-service fitness, health and wellness offerings to the Reston community,? says Jeff Zwiefel, the executive vice president and COO of Life Time Fitness, in a statement. ?Life Time stands in stark contrast to the typical ?club? or ?gym? which offers little more than a roomful of fitness equipment at a low-cost rate. Rather, we help our members set personalized goals and provide the right tools, support and professional guidance to achieve their objectives smartly and sustainably.?

In the next several months, Life Time Athletic Reston will add nearly 300 positions to serve members and operate the facility. The new location will also include a variety of programs and studios, health, fitness and wellness services, and hundreds of certified fitness professionals to help members ? from kids to adults, and beginners to athletes.

Life Time Fitness Reston will include more than 400 pieces of state-of-the-art cardiovascular and resistance training equipment, a rock climbing wall, stand-alone Pilates and yoga studios, an indoor-outdoor area devoted to boot camp classes, an indoor cycling studio that can accommodate up to 50 people per class, a free-weight area, personalized weight loss programs, signature group exercise programs including Strike, Core and total Conditioning, Pilates, Cycle and LifePower Yoga studios. Additionally, the club will boast full-size basketball courts, large indoor and outdoor aquatics centers complete with two-story outdoor waterslides, zero-depth-entry recreation pools, lap pools, interactive children?s play areas, two whirlpools and a full-service outdoor bistro.

This new location will also feature Life Time Fitness? newest signature program for kids, called Life Time Kids Academy, for children ages 3 to 11. The program provides access to 11 classes designed to help kids discover their passions in the areas of mind and body, fitness and agility, arts and culture and life skills.

Life Time Athletic Reston will also include LifeSpa, which offers full-service hair, nail and skin care services, therapeutic massages and LifeCafe, which serves healthy food and beverages free of trans fats, bleached flours, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and other sweeteners.


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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wall Street not thinking positively about Apple?s upcoming earnings

Apple earnings are over a week away, but anticipation of the results are dribbling out. So far, they?re showing some dampened expectations among analysts who monitor Apple?s numbers. The big thing seems to be worry about whether iPhone sales are slacking off.

Apple investors being nervous?is becoming more the rule than the exception in the past year. Sometimes it?s justified, like last quarter when profits dipped for the first time in a long time; other times,?like the handwringing that preceded Apple?s record January results,?it?s not.

Currently, there?s some worry about ? what else ? iPhone sales. It?s Apple?s most important product, and accounts for half of the company?s quarterly sales. Verizon?s ability to sell iPhone is now a particular concern, according to Bloomberg Businessweek:

Under a multiyear deal signed with Apple in 2010, Verizon Wireless is obligated to buy $23.5 billion worth of iPhones in 2013 alone, according to Craig Moffett, a telecommunications analyst who left Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. earlier this year to start his own research firm. Since the purchase commitment is more than twice what Verizon Wireless sold in 2012, the company may have a shortfall of $12 billion to $14 billion, worth $4 to $5 per share, Moffett said in the report.

The thinking is that Verizon hasn?t been able to sell as many phones as it anticipated three years ago, which means it?s buying less this year. And that could be a sign of less demand for the iPhone. (Verizon reports its earnings next week.)

If iPhone sales aren?t keeping pace with the rate of a year ago, or stay flat, as some other analysts are forecasting, that would be a new development. Even though Apple?s quarterly profits dipped last quarter, its iPhone (and iPad) sales were still ahead of their 2012 paces.

Apple doesn?t forecast its device sales, but it did offer a forecast of revenues between?$33.5 billion and $35.5 billion, which would be either even or lower than the $35 billion it reported the same quarter a year ago. In that quarter, iPhone sales were also a bit lower than what Wall Street had anticipated. Current analyst estimates are for revenues of $35.17 billion and earnings of $7.33 per share, down about $2 from the $9.32 Apple reported a year ago.

It?s possible we?ll see something similar this quarter, especially as there have been no major product launches during the quarter besides some new MacBook Airs.

Apple is scheduled to report earnings on Tuesday, July 23.


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