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Struggle to get oil off stricken New Zealand ship

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TAURANGA, New Zealand — Salvage workers struggled to begin pumping oil from a stricken container ship off the New Zealand coast as approaching foul weather threatened to disrupt the recovery.

Meanwhile, authorities began to reopen sections of popular beaches near where the cargo vessel Rena ran aground 11 days ago after a volunteer army removed more than 600 tonnes of oiled sandy waste.

The government is seeking a meeting with the shipping firm that chartered the Rena, saying it was not happy with their response to New Zealand’s worst maritime pollution disaster.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce said he had called for talks on Monday with the Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s second largest container shipping firm, saying “they have to step up and be part of this exercise”.

The Rena remained teetering on the reef, but in calm waters, and Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) on-scene commander Nick Quinn said it was hoped to begin pumping oil to a nearby tanker on Sunday.

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“The speed of the operation will depend on a range of factors including weather, the stability of the vessel and the viscosity of the oil. This will be a long process,” he said.

Salvage personnel have said that their main difficulty without power from the ship’s engines was heating the fuel, which has cooled to a dense consistency, making it harder to pump.

Although the forecast was good in the immediate future, rising seas were forecast for Monday night.

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It is believed 1,346 tonnes of oil remain on board the vessel, which was carrying 1,673 tonnes when it ploughed into the Astrolabe Reef early on October 5.

The spilled oil has killed about 1,000 birds and has been washed up on once pristine beaches, bringing thousands of volunteers to the seashore to mount a clean up campaign.

The mass effort to clear away hundreds of tonnes of sludge allowed authorities to reopen public access to a small section of beach on Sunday, although Quinn warned that changing tides and weather conditions could bring more oil ashore.

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“People shouldn’t panic if they do see some oil around there. It’s been three days since we got any fresh oil off the ship and so the oil that is out there is weathered and less toxic than any fresh oil,” he said.

“We are here for the duration of this response. When oil turns up on the shore, we will get it clean and open to the public as soon as we can. And if we need to, we will do that again and again.”

The Rena was off course when it ran aground and the New Zealand government has accused the captain of attempting to take a short cut on his way to the port of Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

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The captain and the officer on navigational watch when the Liberian-flagged ship ran aground have been charged with operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

While the salvage operation continued, the New Zealand navy was patrolling the area locating containers which had fallen from the teetering vessel and posed a hazard in the shipping channel.


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‘Washington is no longer functional’: Brian Williams admits he’s sad to report that ‘our government is broken’

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MSNBC anchor Brian Williams on Tuesday reported that America's federal government is broken.

"This was day 908 of the Trump Administration and while there is no joy in it, one way of summing up today is this: Our government’s broken, our politics are broken, Washington is no longer functional, and the cracks in our society are deepening," Williams reported.

"Much of this day was taken up by the discussion of racist statements by the president. Then tonight came the news that had so many people thinking back to when we were different, the death just tonight of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens at the age of 99," he said.

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Trump ignored being condemned by Congress and instead praised Republicans on Twitter for defending his racism

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President Donald Trump celebrated on Tuesday night despite the House of Representatives having voted earlier in the day to condemn his racist statements.

By a final vote of 240 to 187, Congress voted for a resolution saying, "Trump’s racist comments have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

The resolution said Congress “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should “go back” to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as “invaders,” and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”

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The tortured madness of Donald Trump: It’s clear the president is out of his mind

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Where’s Shakespeare when we need him? Only the Bard of Avon could do literary justice to the tortured madness of Donald Trump, who fluctuates between petulant self-pity and weird self-praise.

His brags are especially weird because they usually involve achievements he hasn’t made. It’s as though his saying something makes it true — even though everyone except his most naive devotees can clearly see that he’s either hallucinating or lying. In June, for example, at a rally launching his reelection campaign, he retrumpeted an old campaign promise to “drain the swamp,” assuring the adoring crowd that “that’s exactly what we’re doing right now.”

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