Pipeline problems in Prudhoe.

Pipeline problems in Prudhoe.

Pipeline problems in Prudhoe.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 8 2006 3:49 AM

BP: Bad Plumbing

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Todayall lead with BP shutting down the Prudhoe Bay oil field—the nation's largest—after the company discovered the pipelines were darn corroded. With Prudhoe supplying 2.6 percent of all U.S. oil needs, oil jumped 3 percent yesterday to nearly $77 per barrel, nine bucks away from inflation-adjusted record set in 1981. The Washington Post   goes across-the-top with Prudhoe but in the traditional lead spot goes with Republican Congressman Bob Ney—aka "Representative No. 1" in the Jack Abramoff fun—announcing he's decided not to run for re-election. Ney was reportedly "reminded" by House Majority Leader John Boehner that, as the Post puts it, "with a son in college and a daughter nearing college age, he will need money," and it sure would be a pity if Ney ran then couldn't land a gig as a lobbyist.

BP said it isn't sure how long Prudhoe will be offline, but analysts guessed it will be a few months. The West Coast will be hit hardest since that's where most of the Prudhoe oil goes.

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The other thing nobody knows: what the impact on gas prices will be. The administration has suggested it'll open up the strategic petroleum reserve to make up for the loss. That, combined with a bit of luck, could keep prices from kicking up too much. "This isn't a $4 deal because there is a way to replace the crude oil, and gasoline inventories are at a comfortable level out here," said one analyst. "There's a lot of flexibility."

The Post suggests BP was negligent and didn't take care of the pipelines. "They have known about these problems for a long time and promised for many years to fix them, and they haven't done so," said one local environmental lawyer. BP's pipeline had a major leak in March. Government-ordered inspections that followed—five months later—turned up the corrosion. According to the WP,the EPA is launching a criminal investigation. 

The Wall Street Journal says the problem may ultimately be wider: Oil companies have tended to underinvest in infrastructure.

Somewhere between 30 and 45 Lebanese were killed yesterday in a  particularly heavy day of airstrikes. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting; Hezbollah fired about 150 rockets into Israel.

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France and the U.S.'s proposed two-resolution solution to the crisis is now up for rejiggering after Arab countries lined up behind Lebanon and denounced the deal, namely that Israel gets to stick around until international forces come in.

France seemed open to renegotiating and the U.S. less so. As U.N. Ambassador John Bolton diplomatically put it, "It's not as though we drafted this resolution in a closet somewhere and suddenly sprang the text on any member government."

As the NYT emphasizes, the Lebanese government voted unanimously to send 15,000 Lebanese troops into the Hezbollah-controlled south. There are plenty of unknowns about the decision, but Haaretz flags what seems like the key: Hezbollah, as part of the government, endorsed the move. And oh, the troops won't be looking to disarm Hezbollah: One Lebanese minister said Hezbollah will be allowed to stick around the south "as a party that represents an entire segment of the population."

A front-page Post dispatch says Israel bombed the last bridge across the Litani River, meaning the once-resort town of Tyre is now isolated with no way out. "The city is completely cut off from the rest of the world," said a Red Cross spokesman, who added that Israel hasn't given the agency permission to use convoys in the south for the last three days.

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Israel announced a curfew of 10 p.m. in southern Lebanon. The Post quotes an Israeli general as warning, "If you hear that there are several people in destroyed houses or something like this, then they must be supporting Hezbollah."

A front-page LAT piece looks at the "strikingly weak hand" the U.S. now has in the Mideast thanks to an antipathy toward negotiating with adversaries, plus of course the fact that the war in Iraq has gone so well. "There were days when there were ambassadors going back and forth and they were more engaged on the Palestinian issue," said one "U.N. diplomat." "But today they've burnt their bridges. It started with Iraq, but it's been deepened by the lack of engagement on Palestine and now Lebanon."

The LAT and WP go inside with a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a contingent from populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr's militia. A "two-hour gun battle" ensued, and three Iraqis were killed. The raid purportedly surprised Prime Minister Maliki, who said he was "very angered and pained" by it.

Given that the U.S. has recently been ratcheting up pressure on Sadr while the cleric has increasingly been threatening to unleash his forces, the fighting seems worth a bit of coverage. In the NYT's case, that coverage consists of three sentences, 23 paragraphs into a stuffed story.

A one-paragraph brief in the NYT notes that the last seven months in the U.S. have been the hottest on record. "The long-term trend we're seeing cannot be explained without the influence of greenhouse gases," said a scientist from a U.S. weather agency

PoseurIn Sunday's NYT Magazine, Bernard-Henri Lévy offered a dispatch from Israel detailing his take on the war. A snippet:

Maybe we shouldn't say "rocket" anymore. In French, at least, the word seems to belittle the thing, and implies an entire biased vision of this war. In Franglais, for example, we call a yapping dog a rocket, roquet; the word conjures a little dog whose bark is worse than his bite and who nibbles at your ankles. ... So why not say "bomb"? Or "missile"? Why not try, using the right word, to restore the barbaric, fanatical violence to this war that was desired by Hezbollah and by it alone? The politics of words. The geopolitics of metaphor. Semantics, in this region, is now more than ever a matter of morality.

A rocket is self-propelled and unguided. And, also unlike a bomb or a missile, rockets are exactly what Hezbollah has been raining down on Israel.