Sunday, June 6, 2010

Oil spill - hope

Recovering birds are kept
warm and isolated in a
special trailer in the
"Ft. Jackson Oiled Wildlife
Facility in Louisiana. A gull
taken through the cleaning
process. Photo: BP.

For more than three months, more than 80 million litres of oil have gushed from a broken oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company responsible, BP (British Petroleum), has tried many different things to stop the flow of oil, which is spewing into the gulf and threatening wildlife.

They tried capping the well, but the flow was too strong and the rig was too deep under the water. They even tried stuffing the well with golf balls, mud, fabric and human hair! That didn’t work.

Recently they tried using underwater “robot submarines” to cut into the broken pipe and cap it with a funnel. That may actually be working.

It’s a positive development, but it’s almost too late. First, 11 people died in the explosion on April 20 that originally damaged the oil well. And the massive amount of oil that leaked into the Gulf has already done immense damage to our ecosystem. The chemicals that BP used to help clean up the oil are themselves toxic – not only to the workers who have to do the cleaning up, but to the environment as the mixture of chemicals and oil washes up onto the shore.

U.S. President Barack Obama is furious. After all, even though the company that owns the oil well, BP, is British, the oil is washing up onto American soil. Now, beaches in Florida are starting to become covered in the oily, chemically gunk. Recently, President Obama sent a bill for $69-million to BP to cover the initial costs of responding to the spill.

Last week there were reports that BP may have known that the oil well had the potential to break. And BP’s reputation is forever tarnished; it’s likely that no one will ever forget that BP was the company that caused such a massive world-wide disaster.

Canada is sending aid to help in the clean-up efforts.

And at least two well-known celebrities have come forward to help fix the oil well. Celebrities can sometimes be helpful because not only do they tend to have a lot of money to donate, but they know a lot of people and can influence people to help out. Actor Kevin Costner has offered aid to help get the oil spill under control. And James Cameron, the Canadian director (who recently directed the movie Avatar), has volunteered to bring the scientists who helped him on the movie The Titanic to work on the oil spill. They have a lot of expertise in working underwater in very creative ways, and that’s the kind of thinking that’s needed on this project.

Related links
It’s good to get many different points of view on a news story.
Here’s what some of the online newspapers are reporting about the oil spill:
The Globe and Mail on Canada's response.
The Toronto Star.
The New York Times.
BP's corporate website.
Educators: Here you'll find an illustration of the underwater robots used by BP.

McDonald's recalls Shrek glasses


McDonald's is recalling all of the "Shrek" glasses it sold recently, because the paint on them could make people sick.

The paint contains cadmium, which could cause long-term health effects for people who drink from the glasses. It would take a lot of cadmium to hurt someone - far more than just a few drinks - but the company wants to take no chances.

The company has sold 12 million of the glasses in the United States. People who bought the glasses can take them back to McDonald's for a full refund.

McDonald's has been promoting the new movie, "Shrek Forever After" and was selling the glasses in the US and Canada for about $2 each. The glasses feature pictures of Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey and Puss n' Boots.

It seems that not every McDonald's restaurant in Canada has gotten the message about the recall. Last Friday, a reporter from the Toronto Star went into a McDonald's restaurant at the Eaton Centre and was able to buy two Shrek glasses. An employee at the restaurant told the reporter that he was aware of the recall in the US but hadn't heard about one in Canada.

McDonald's corporate website, featuring the recall notice (see below).
An article in The Toronto Star, featuring pictures of the glasses.

Recall notice:
Below is the recall notice posted on McDonald's corporate website.

Shrek Glassware Recall – Customer Refund Information
Updated June 5, 2010

In collaboration with Health Canada and as a precautionary measure, McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited today issued a voluntary recall of its four Shrek Forever After™ glasses.

Customers are asked to stop using the glasses and are invited to contact our dedicated, bilingual customer service centre at 1-877-495-5502 with any questions.

Hours are:
Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. EST
Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST
Sunday, June 6 only: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST

Customers can return their glasses to a McDonald’s Canada restaurant for a cash refund.

McDonald’s safety standards are among the highest in the industry and the company has a strong track record. There have been no reports of illnesses related to the use of these glasses.

The well-being of our customers is our top priority. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but product safety and quality at McDonald’s will not be compromised.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Boy wins right to wear kilt to graduation


Hamish Jacobs has won the right to wear a kilt to his high-school graduation.

The 19-year-old Alberta student asked his principal, earlier this month, if he could wear a kilt when he graduates.

The principal said no, because the school's policy states that male students must wear dress pants to the ceremony.

Jacobs' mother is from Scotland. Although Jacobs himself has never been to Scotland, he wanted to honour his Scottish heritage by wearing the kilt, which he intended to borrow from his uncle.

After his principal turned down his request, more than 2,200 people joined Jacobs' Facebook page in support. He was interviewed by a number of newspapers and TV stations, and many people signed an online petition.

After all of the publicity he received, his school's board of trustees overturned the principal's decision. Jacobs will now be able to wear a kilt to his graduation.

Jacobs texted his mom to tell her the good news: "Mom, we won!"

Related links:
Here's a article ("Alberta high school student wins right to wear kilt").
An article in the Globe and Mail ("After a wee bit of publicity, kilt permitted at graduation").
The original article in the Globe when he was first turned down ("No kilt at graduation, school tells Alberta teen").

Almost-perfect game


If you've ever suffered a "bad call" in a sport, just think how Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga feels.

Last Wednesday, he pitched a "perfect game." That's a game in which the pitcher gets every one of the 27 batters out from the other team.

Perfect games are very rare. There have only been 20 of them in history, so if a pitcher gets a perfect game, it's a very big deal.

On Wednesday, Galarraga had retired 26 batters from the other team, the Cleveland Indians. The last batter hit the ball, but it was thrown to the first baseman, who touched the base first. The batter should have been out and the pitcher would have thrown a perfect game.

Right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, the umpire made a mistake. Umpire Jim Joyce thought the runner got to first base in time, and he called the runner "safe." That would mean that one person was on base - so no perfect game.

But the umpire was wrong. In the heat of the action, he thought he saw the runner get to first in time, but that wasn't what happened. Even though he realized his mistake, it was too late. In baseball, once an umpire makes a call, it stands. The runner was declared safe at first and the pitcher didn't get his "perfect game."

Galarraga was disappointed but he isn't holding it against the umpire. He understands that Joyce is a good umpire who just made a mistake. Yesterday, the two shook hands. It was an emotional moment for both of them - especially the umpire, who feels terrible about the incident.

Related links:
Here is an article from The Globe and Mail.
Here's The Star article.