Grass looks a lot greener with Stosur and Hewitt

IT’S not quite the glory days of the 1950s and ’60s, but Australia has genuine contenders for the men’s and women’s Wimbledon crowns for the first time in a decade.Having earlier this week set herself the modest goal of venturing beyond the third round at the All England Club for the first time in eight tries, French Open runner-up Samantha Stosur is suddenly having to reassess after scorching into the semi-finals at Eastbourne.Contesting her seventh successive WTA quarter-final, Stosur delivered a serving masterclass to overwhelm British wildcard Elena Baltacha 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-0, for her tour-best 35th win of the season.The impressive victory, which featured 15 aces and set up a date with unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova for a berth in Saturday’s final, secured Stosur yet another rankings rise next week to No.6 in the world.The 26-year-old’s unexpected grasscourt statement follows 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt’s drought-breaking victory over Roger Federer in the Halle final on Sunday. Not since Pat Rafter and Jelena Dokic reached the semi-finals at London’s SW19 in 2000 has Australia had legitimate winning chances in both singles events at tennis’ most famous tournament.”That was an unbelievable win for Lleyton, beating Roger for the first time in so many attempts,” Stosur said. ”I think for Australians going into Wimbledon, it’s maybe one of our best-looking years we’ve had. So hopefully now we can … carry it through for another couple of weeks.”Australian teenage prodigy Bernard Tomic and big-serving left-hander Carsten Ball have added to the anticipation with final-round qualifying wins in London on Thursday. Tomic, a dual grand slam junior champion, outclassed Indian Prakash Amritraj 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-4, while Ball powered past Luxembourg leftie Gilles Muller 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).Stosur said it was a thrill to be part of the Australian revival. ”We obviously had a bit of a slump for a while but I think everyone keeps working hard and … we’re starting to see the rewards,” she said. ”It would be nice to see if we can stay in the draw until the second week of another grand slam.”With Peter Luczak a direct entrant with 15th seed Hewitt, Australia has four players in the men’s main draw and four also in the women’s singles – Stosur, Anastasia Rodionova, Jarmila Groth and Alicia Molik.AAP
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A double whammy that keeps filling jails

PRISONERS who have a mental illness and a drug or alcohol problem have a 67 per cent chance of reoffending and ending up back in jail. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found this is significantly higher than for other prisoners.In a report published yesterday, the bureau’s director, Don Weatherburn, said rates of recidivism could be reduced if offenders were given intensive treatment for their psychiatric and substance abuse problems when they were released from jail.The study looked at 1208 NSW prisoners who took part in a mental health survey by the government agency Justice Health in 2001. Each person’s mental status was then linked to the state’s re-offending database to track their criminal history for five years before entering prison and 24 months after release. It found two out of three prisoners reoffended within 24 months.After controlling for other factors, such as gender, age, indigenous status and number of prior court appearances, the study found the risk of reoffending was significantly higher for prisoners with a co-morbid psychiatric and substance disorder, at 67 per cent.There was little difference in the risk of re-offending between those without either a mental health or drug problem (51 per cent), those with a drug problem only (55 per cent) and those with a mental illness only (49 per cent).”Increased investment in treating prisoners with a co-morbid mental health disorder would not only make the community safer but it would also save money by reducing the rate of reoffending and return to prison,” Dr Weatherburn said.The study reiterated that mental illness and drug problems were more prevalent among prisoners than the general population. Just 23.8 per cent of prisoners reported neither issue.An offender’s mental health status and substance misuse were amenable to change with effective treatment, the report said.
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Paralysed Kyrgyzstan in danger of breaking up

OSH: Kyrgyzstan, an obscure country with a coveted location in central Asia, is in serious danger of fragmenting.The crisis, ebbing for now after days of ethnic violence and military atrocities, could have wide-reaching ramifications.The provisional Kyrgyz government has lost control of large areas in the southern part of the country because of its failure to stop attacks that have killed at least several hundred ethnic Uzbeks and possibly many more. As many as 400,000 have fled their homes. Barricading themselves in their cities and neighbourhoods, Uzbeks have set up autonomous zones and are refusing to recognise the authorities in the capital.Despite the threat of the country breaking up, the government seems unable to respond in a meaningful way. The provision of humanitarian aid has been slow. Yesterday, the interim President, Roza Otunbayeva, flew to the affected regions for the first time since the violence began on the night of June 10.She defended her government from criticism. “Leave us some hope! Stop saying that we are not working,” she said. “Our forces say that they are coping.”She conceded the death toll had been vastly underestimated.Ms Otunbayeva has not, however, responded to numerous credible reports that elements of the military carried out horrific assaults on ethnic Uzbeks. The reports indicate that the government, which took office in April after rioting ousted the Kyrgyz president, does not have the full allegiance of the military.”They fear the generals,” a prominent Kyrgyz human rights lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, said on Thursday. “Sooner or later, these issues are going to have to be tackled.”American officials are keeping a close eye on the conflict, not least because the United States has an important military base on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, that supplies the expanding NATO mission in Afghanistan. A US official in Washington confirmed that the Kyrgyz government was having “trouble exercising command over the security forces”.The new government has given mixed signals about whether it will renew the lease on the American base – and its weakness has added uncertainty over a strategic competition between the US and Russia, which also has military facilities in Kyrgyzstan.A senior Kyrgyz official on Thursday warned that the interim government in Kyrgyzstan would consider shutting the US airbase if Britain refused to hand over the son of the country’s ousted president.The Kyrgyz government believes Maxim Bakiyev, arrested at an airport in southern England on Sunday, helped organise the violence ravaging the country’s south.Kyrgyzstan’s deputy leader of the provisional government, Azimbek Beknazarov, said: “Since England and the US fight terrorism and the arrangement with the airbase is one of the elements of that fight, then they must give over Maxim Bakiyev.”Mr Bakiyev was arrested on Sunday after flying into England on a private jet. An arrest warrant had been issued by Interpol on charges of money laundering.Guardian News & Media; Agence France-Presse
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Live entertainment sings to tune of $2b

AUSTRALIA’s live-entertainment industry generates almost $2 billion a year, making it a bigger business than film and video production, sports and physical recreation, book publishing, and horse and dog racing, a groundbreaking independent report has revealed.The study, called Size and Scope of the Live Entertainment Industry 2010 and conducted by the financial advisers Ernst & Young, found that in 2008, the industry generated $1.88 billion in revenue and contributed $1.1 billion to the economy.The industry employs 13,800 full-time positions and is comprised of diverse sectors that range from ballet and dance to classical music, theatre and rock festivals.Non-classical contemporary music is the biggest contributor, comprising 40 per cent of the industry’s profits and wages.The report also highlighted the intangible benefits generated by the live entertainment scene that were not reflected in the figures, such as improved social cohesion and lifestyle, diversity and increased creativity.Live Performance Australia (LPA), the peak body for Australia’s live entertainment and performing arts industry, commissioned the study, in response to the lack of figures on the industry.The LPA chief executive, Evelyn Richardson, said the study, which used ticketing data, Australia Council data and event profiles, was the largest of its kind and demonstrated the industry’s significant economic contribution to the country.”This industry is a sophisticated contributor in terms of financial, employment and quality-of-life metrics to the Australian economy,” she said.”There’s sometimes the view that it’s just arty farty companies with their hands out … but government contributions are only about 11 per cent of total revenue, so it is a modest proportion.”Helen Marcou, from Save Live Australian Music, said the figures justified the group’s stance that live music be incorporated into cultural policy.”We welcome the figures. They confirm what we’ve known for a long time – the huge contribution live music makes to the economy and associated industries, as well as the cultural impact.”
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Chained to a life of madness

At the entrance of the main building of the Yayasan Galuh rehabilitation centre for the mentally ill, the first thing that hits you is the stench.An open sewer borders the structure on three sides and the odour is especially rank in the midday heat. But the fetid smell only hints at the scene of utter wretchedness that awaits inside.On a dirty tiled floor, dissected by two more open sewers, are the patients. About 50 of them are chained to the beams of the shed, each a portrait of deprivation and misery.A naked man rocks back and forth, picking faeces from the drain, inspecting it and flicking it away. A few metres away, two others squabble over the remnants of a cigarette. Some fidget and fret, contorting their emaciated bodies as much as the shackles will allow. Others lie comatose.It’s lunch time, so many are eating boiled rice and there is not much chatter. The silence is punctured only by bursts of wailing from a young boy.His name is Santo. He is 12 years old and the chain that tethers him is twisted tightly around his leg. Santo was brought in two days earlier by police who found him wandering the streets of Bekasi, a satellite city outside Jakarta, which hosts the facility.Speaking in Javanese, he could not tell the authorities his address or why he was alone, the director of the facility, Suhartono, says.”Yes, we chain them here,” he confirms. ”But we always bless the chain before we do it. And, by chaining them, we will find out what treatment will apply.”The ”treatment” at Yayasan Galuh – a free facility for people with conditions ranging from Down syndrome to methamphetamine psychosis and schizophrenia – does not involve modern psychiatric techniques, or even regular visits from a doctor or nurse.Rather, care consists of prayer, massage, ”ancient wisdom” and the prescription of a secret herbal elixir by the centre’s founder, 98-year-old Gendu Mulatip, administered orally, on the skin or as eye drops.”It’s common to find people who are possessed or under the influence of magic. For those patients that are possessed, we give them the ancient wisdom,” says Suhartono.For ”uncontrollable” patients, staff bring out a four-metre python for a kind of shock therapy. ”We show them the big snake. It scares them and they become quiet.”As disturbing as the conditions are at Yayasan Galuh, they are by no means uncommon in Indonesia, according to mental health experts and activists.These are ”orang di pasung”, literally people in stocks, some of the vast majority of the 725,000 severely mentally ill Indonesians who receive no treatment at all.”It’s everywhere, in every province. We are talking about many thousands of people,” says Pandu Setiawan, a former director of mental health at the Ministry of Health who now chairs Indonesian Mental Health Networks, a group of non-government organisations and activists. ”The biggest problem for [Indonesians] is collective denial. They don’t want to see the reality.”Incredibly, Yayasan Galuh is not the worst place a person like Santo could find himself. At least he receives some treatment, of a sort. The chaining at Yayasan Galuh, insists Suhartono, is only temporary.There are thousands of mentally ill people shackled for years, even decades, by poor and clueless families who believe they have no alternative.Indonesia’s head of mental health, Dr Irmansyah, told the Herald yesterday there could be ”more than 30,000” people kept in this state. ”It’s terrible. It’s a situation that should not happen. Not only in terms of psychiatric diseases but in terms of humanity,” he says.Suharto, 31, has spent the past 18 years in solitary confinement, the last seven of them in a tiny, raised goat pen at the back of a shack in Banten in western Java.As a child, Suharto – named after the former Indonesian dictator – would walk to the village well 30 times each day, said Masnan, a neighbour. After so long in confinement, his legs have withered and muscles atrophied, his feet deformed and skewed. He cannot walk but twists and shakes constantly in his putrid two-metre by 1.5-metre pen, where he eats, bathes and defecates.He sings children’s songs, recites lines from the Koran and swears a lot.”I put him there because he was always angry and he attacked me. It happened ever since his father died,” says his mother, Darwinah, who is 73, between rasping coughs.”I once took him to hospital but I’m a poor mother. I can’t afford to keep him there. What can I do? I can’t do anything.”Local spiritual healers – known as dukuns – were more affordable but their remedies of bathing him in sacred water, or drinking the blessed liquid, ”made no difference”.Darwinah was advised by the dukuns that Suharto was suffering from a curse passed on from his dead father who scandalised the village by marrying 21 times and selling off family land to finance his love life.Mental illness is poorly understood by much of the population, and it remains a low priority for the government. Just 1 per cent of the country’s health budget is devoted to mental health.While there are some decent state-run psychiatric hospitals in Indonesia, particularly in Java and Aceh, many are no better than badly run prisons.Shelters and rehabilitation centres are usually worse. Jakarta’s four shelters for the mentally ill, for example, recorded 182 deaths in the seven months to May 2009 due to acute diarrhoea, malnutrition and anaemia.Even so, there is a small but passionate group trying to highlight the dire state of mental health care, including the Victorian-based NGO Mind and a consortium of mental health practitioners from the University of Melbourne and the Nossal Institute for Global Health.They have been providing rehabilitation services and training in community mental health to a group of Indonesian psychiatrists and nurses, as well as supporting academics at the University of Indonesia.According to Novi Helena, who is conducting research at the University of Indonesia into the practice of pasung, many families are pushed into taking the step by the local community.”If the patient is someone who can become violent and disruptive, the community can become angry. So for the families, they use pasung because they are afraid the community will brutalise the patient.”She relays one case where a mentally ill patient was kept in a wooden box 2.5 metres long, one metre wide and 50 centimetres high, with no light, as a result of pressure from villagers. ”They said it was because the patient was so strong. If they don’t do this, he will be violent. They wouldn’t feed him properly to stop the patient from becoming too strong.”Dr Harry Minas worked with pasung people in Samosir Island in Sumatra. He now heads the Centre for International Mental Health at the University of Melbourne.”It’s an atrocious abuse of a person, an incredible assault on their human dignity,” he says. ”But in many of these places, there are not even basic services. It may seem hard to believe, but families and communities are usually doing it with the best intentions.”The minuscule mental health budget is devoted almost entirely to 30-odd mental hospitals and rehabilitation centres of varying quality and effectiveness.Given the scale of the problem and the lack of resources in a developing country, Indonesian specialists are calling for mental health care to be handled instead by the nation’s network of community health clinics, or puskesmas. These would not only provide medical assistance but educate communities about their options.”Many pasung simply don’t need to be locked up,” says Dr Budi Anna Keliat, a senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Indonesia. Her program includes counselling families, and those in pasung themselves, about how to deal with mental illness and recognise the early signs of problems.One treatment model gaining increasing interest is the work of Dr Luh Ketat Suryani, a remarkable Balinese psychiatrist who used traditional spiritualism and meditation – as well as anti-psychotic drugs – to achieve results with those in pasung.”Most important of all is the acceptance back to the family, the community,” she says. ”One pasung patient we cared for was in [confinement] for over 40 years. It took us three months, three injections and some therapy. The last time we visited him, he was doing well. Back with his family and communicating with others in the village.”It was in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh that the extent of pasung, and the country’s dysfunctional mental health system, was recognised by international and local authorities surveying the area.Aceh’s Governor, Irwandi Yusuf, has vowed to make the province free of pasung by this year. But it is slow work, as illustrated by Radhiah and Badrun Kaman, both immobilised by their families in Mali Lamkuta village.Badrun Kaman, 28, has had his left leg hooked inside a wooden stock for nine years. His home is a bare brick room, its floor scattered with ash to make it easier for the family to clean up his excretions.It is a truly desolate scene. There are no pictures on the wall, no books, cards or other amusements. Just Badrun in a dirty sarong that covers his lap, sitting up on a wooden plank with his chin resting in his right hand, as if he is waiting patiently for someone, or something to happen.A quiet boy who ”changed” after hitting his head in a motorcycle accident, Badrun began wandering into the forest for days, or around the village, throwing stones at neighbours’ houses. So, he was placed in stocks.Radhiah, a striking young woman with penetrating eyes, is 22 and lives a few hundreds metres away. She has been chained up by the ankle for four years in an old bamboo house next to her family’s newer home.She became sick when she was 16 – she began wandering and setting fire to things, her older brother Juliadi explains. Radhiah’s mother has been mentally disturbed for some time and her father lost a leg to diabetes.Her body is covered in welts and sores and the blanket she sleeps under is rancid.Like Badrun, Radhiah is clearly damaged, not least from the peculiar torture of being chained up for so long. With the right treatment and support, she could no doubt have a much different life.”I get very bored sitting here. I want to see the world,” she says quietly. Does she know why she has been chained up? ”I don’t know,” she says. ”Sometimes I remember my friends. I liked going to Banda Aceh because I had a friend there. I want to be with my friends.”
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‘Big red’ cut down to size, but Barangaroo critics not silenced

AFTER six months of criticism, Lend Lease has rejigged its massive development at Barangaroo, slashing the height of the ”iconic” hotel it wants to build over the harbour and removing one of four office towers.Unveiling the revised concept plan it will submit to the Planning Department next month, the company said it had listened to criticism of its $6 billion proposal and modified many of the more controversial aspects.The hotel, dubbed ”big red”, will have its height reduced from 213 metres to 159 metres and made slimmer, cutting the floor space from 42,000 square metres to 33,000.The proposed 150-metre pier the company wanted to build has also been cut back to 85 metres and will extend no further into the harbour than the proposed ferry terminals.While the original plan for the hotel had been praised as ”an exclamation mark” by the chairman of the Barangaroo design review panel and former prime minister Paul Keating, Lend Lease’s key architect on the project, Andrew Andersons, said the new proposal was far superior.”Before it was quite a long slab-like thing,” he said. ”It’s pretty different [now]. It is a much smaller, nicer, friendlier building and it certainly does not cast the shadows as it did before … a huge improvement.”He stressed the image released was ”an aspiration” and the actual design would only be revealed when a development application was submitted.Removing one of the office towers would improve views of the harbour from the city. The removal of one tower has not reduced the 500,000 square metres of floor space, which is still 15 per cent larger than the concept plan allows. At 198 metres, the tallest tower exceeds the 180-metre limit for the site and will be the city’s seventh tallest building if approved.More than 100 apartments have been added to the site, many of them in six- and eight-storey buildings to be set back 30 metres from the harbour in a design similar to that at nearby King Street Wharf.The chief executive of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority, John Tabart, said his job was ”to keep the bastards honest” and there had been major improvements to the project as a result of their hard negotiations. ”Lend Lease have listened to the public,” he said.Critics welcomed some of the changes, but said the project was still too big for the site.John McInerney, a former manager of planning for Sydney and Melbourne councils, and councillor on the City of Sydney, criticised the way Lend Lease had refined the plans.”It’s the old Lend Lease technique: you put in a really outrageous application and reduce it to the point where people say: ‘Thank God we’ve got them to compromise’, without realising that’s where they wanted you in the beginning.”The president of the Barangaroo Action Group, Ian Campbell, said the changes would not defuse a protest rally planned on the site for Saturday week.”The fundamental problem is that reserving the headland for a garden, and building two bays, leaves so little land left that by the time you develop it you are stuck with monstrously big buildings.”
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The face of Indonesia’s shame

TENS of thousands of mentally ill Indonesians bear an unimaginable torment, left to battle the demons of severe psychiatric disorders while chained and shackled for years on end.Confined by the length of their chain, the wooden stock in which they are trapped, or the makeshift cage in which they are imprisoned, they are forced to eat, sleep and defecate in the same spot while their illness goes untreated.The practice known as pasung – literally ”stocks” – is common in Indonesia, and one the country’s new director of mental health does not attempt to sugarcoat.”It’s terrible. It’s a situation that should not happen. Not only in terms of psychiatric diseases, but in terms of humanity,” says Irmansyah, who took up his post in February. ”We don’t know the exact number [of pasung] but, if we scale up to an Indonesian level [after surveys in districts], it could reach more than 30,000.”An investigation by the Herald has uncovered multiple examples of rank abuse of the mentally ill, including at facilities that receive funding by government agencies. At the Yayasan Galuh rehabilitation centre in Bekasi, more than one-third of the patients are chained up in a large shed bisected by two open sewers.All appear underfed, many are naked, the old mixed with the young. The newest patient was a 12-year-old named Santo, dropped off by the local police after he was found disoriented on the streets and unable to tell them where he lived.His screams as the chain twists around his leg reverberated around the building.The centre’s director, Suhartono, admits he and his staff have no medical training and use prayer, massage and ”ancient wisdom” as treatments.”I never went to a school of psychology,” Suhartono boasts. ”But I believe I could teach psychology students about treating these people.”For many more of Indonesia’s mentally ill subjected to pasung, their agony is a more isolated experience. In villages with no access to psychiatric services and families with no resources to pay for them anyway, the mentally ill are shackled near the home. ”Without access to basic care, it’s often the only practical and safe solution [families] can resort to,” explains Professor Chee Ng, a psychiatrist at the University of Melbourne, where a consortium of mental health bodies are helping Indonesian mental health practitioners.Mental health receives just 1 per cent of Indonesia’s health budget, and almost all of it is devoted to expensive mental health hospitals.Dr Irmansyah, one of only 500 psychiatrists in Indonesia, wants to revamp the entire strategy, providing care through community health centres and eliminating pasung by 2014, a highly optimistic objective.”We know we cannot do it ourselves. So we invite [non-government organisations] and other bodies outside our office to get involved in this program. We really appreciate Australian support.”
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A host of Kidman’s at wedding knees-up

THE Kidman clan has again converged on Sydney, with Nicole bringing her toddler, Sunday Rose, home yesterday morning to join in the ”wedding party” for her sister, Antonia, later this week.The Kidman matriarch, Janelle, along with Antonia, were quick-off-the mark visitors to Milsons Point, where Nicole and Sunday Rose have set up camp.North Sydney has become the spiritual homeland for Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban, having spent $6 million on their penthouse, an expansive abode taking up 420 square metres of the top two floors of the converted 1960s Sharp office block.As PS revealed exclusively a fortnight ago, Antonia, the younger of the Kidman sisters, is throwing a party for her friends and family to celebrate her second marriage – to the Singapore-based money man Craig Marran.No hard-copy invitations have been sent out, but rather there have been phone calls and emails from the newlywed herself to inform guests of the celebrations, which are being held in some secrecy in an attempt to thwart the ever-lurking paparazzi.This will be the fourth wedding celebration Janelle Kidman has been to for her daughters, and a far cry from the extravaganza Nicole threw when she tied the knot with Urban in Manly in 2007.Antonia, a mother of four – two girls and two boys – who split from her first husband, Angus Hawley, in a blaze of unsavoury headlines after PS revealed he had been admitted to rehab, is now living in Singapore.She recently told PS she was enjoying her new life in the tropics, although she confided that getting used to the climate was proving a challenge.The Foxtel presenter officially tied the knot with Marran back in April while they were enjoying a luxurious holiday at the five-star Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. However, none of her loved ones was there to witness the ceremony.Kidman’s children were on holiday with their father, who said at the time he knew nothing of the overseas nuptials.
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BP boss denies knowledge of gulf drilling problems

WASHINGTON: There is no grander theatre in US politics than congressional inquisitions, even when the subject of intense, intemperate barbs will not play ball.BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, appeared before his accusers on Thursday but offered little insight into the Deepwater Horizon disaster that has coated the Gulf of Mexico with more than 454 million litres of crude oil, devastating coastal communities from Louisiana to Florida.While he apologised for the accident, declaring himself devastated and distraught, Mr Hayward said he was not prepared to speculate on its causes and coolly rejected accusations that BP had cut corners to save money.”I think it’s too early to reach conclusions, with respect,” he answered. ”The investigations are ongoing.”His interrogators from a sub-committee of the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee, led by the Democrats Bart Stupak and Henry Waxman and the Texas Republican Michael Burgess, were frustrated by Mr Hayward’s refusal to concede ground.Though he rejected allegations he was stonewalling, the BP boss denied knowledge of problems in the drilling operation that were recorded in internal BP documents, saying he had only become aware of the well in April when the drill team informed him it had found oil.”I’m not an oceanographic scientist. I’m not the drilling engineer, so I’m not actually qualified to make those judgments,” he said at one stage, deflecting inquiries about risks and inadequate safety.Of the specific allegation that BP crimped on well design and cement casing to save $US7 million ($8.1 million), he replied: ”I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. I’m not a cement engineer, I’m afraid.”Asked by Mr Burgess why he seemed to have been given so little information about Deepwater Horizon, Mr Hayward said: ”With respect, sir, we drill hundreds of wells a year all around the world.”Mr Burgess responded tersely: ”Yes, I know. That’s what’s scaring me right now.”On another occasion, an agitated Mr Waxman fired: ”You’re kicking the can down the road and acting as if you had nothing to do with this company and nothing to do with the decisions. I find that irresponsible.”The BP chief has become a focus of American resentment over the oil spill, particularly after declaring that he was tired of the controversy and wanted his life back, comments for which he later apologised.His appearance came a day after BP, in meetings with the President, Barack Obama, agreed to set aside $US20 billion to compensate victims of the disaster. Mr Hayward received an apology from one committee member, Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, who said he was ”ashamed of what happened in the White House”, describing it as a ”$US20 billion shakedown” of a private corporation.But Mr Barton, one of Congress’s biggest recipients of campaign funds from the oil and gas industry, was stomped on by embarrassed Republican leaders, and later retracted his apology.With the leak now into its 61st day, the Coast Guard chief, Admiral Thad Allen, reported that BP’s two relief wells appeared to be ahead of schedule, which he described as promising.
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Soviet charts held clues to hidden wealth

LIKE much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.In 2004 American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learnt that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.”There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.Armed with the old Russian charts, the US Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 per cent of the country.The data was so promising that the geologists returned in 2007 for an even more sophisticated aerial study, using instruments that offer a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the surface. It was the most comprehensive geological survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009 a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information, and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.Soon, the Pentagon task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed US and Afghan leaders.
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