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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.

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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.

“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.

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

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.

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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.

“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.

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“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.

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.

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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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Alternet 2020

Pandemic modelers warn that Trump’s lies may increase the spread of COVID-19

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

Epidemiologists model how an infectious disease outbreak may spread within and between communities. The computer models are based on research into past epidemics, the virulence of a pathogen,the  severity of the illness it causes and various other factors. But these scientists assume that leaders will offer a coherent response to the crisis, and that people will modify their behavior appropriately. Trump, the conservative press and the Republican base are upending those assumptions.

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Doctors and nurses suffer near-impossible conditions in a defunded health system

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The doctor who said this continues to show up daily, caring for patients in need. Her health — and that of millions of other doctors, nurses, their families and the patients they care for — is put at risk when our leaders de-fund the health system that protects us all. She and other front line health workers, covering extra shifts and working overtime in this historic pandemic, tap into reserves of strength and resilience in hopes that the long overdue staff, equipment, space and systems arrive before the cases of COVID-19 surge out of control.

This article was originally published at Salon

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Trump’s Fox and Friends COVID-19 interview devolves into a mad rant — here are the 6 craziest moments

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President Donald Trump called into "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning to discuss his administration's work on handling the coronavirus pandemic -- but it quickly devolved into an angry rant in which he attacked his political foes.

During the lengthy hour-long interview, the president frequently drifted off topic to make outlandish statements about the media, the Democratic Party, and even the history of American foreign policy, among other topics.

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