Pensacola, Florida
Friday November 21st 2014

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The Buzz 2/2/12

WAHOOS VIEW The crisp winter views bouncing around in the stadium at Maritime Park are brilliant. Sunlit diamonds swim in the bay and green grass covers the infield. On Jan. 27, a large crane lifted the Blue Wahoos sign into place above the centerfield wall—adding an electric wash of blue and pink to the waterfront skyline.

There’s still a lot of dirt and machinery on site, but the stadium is up and enjoying life under the Florida sunshine. As Wahoos President Bruce Baldwin put it, the “heavy duty exterior stuff is in place.”
Sprinklers busily water the infield’s grass, and the view from anywhere is pretty good. On Jan. 27, a large crane lifted the Blue Wahoos sign into place above the centerfield wall—adding an electric wash of blue and pink to the waterfront skyline.

DIXON ROLLS ON Taking a break from FCAT preparation, students of A.A. Dixon Charter School were treated to a night of skating at Landmark Skate and Fun Center Jan. 26.

“Our students have been working very hard,” said Principal Kathy Bearden-Colbert. “We wanted to reward them and let them know we believe in them.”

Grades kindergarten through sixth grade, about 130 students in all, took over the rented rink. There were plenty of smiles and giggles, and even when a child slipped they got back up – a testament to the school itself.

FCAT isn’t until the third week in April, so the school still has plenty of preparation ahead. After the standardized test—if they make a C or better—students will celebrate with a pool party on Pensacola Beach sponsored by Innisfree Hotels.

A.A. Dixon is in its second year, with new leadership taking the reins this academic year in an attempt to pull the school out of a $100,000 hole. Escambia County School District officials had planed to shut the facility down, but were persuaded to give the charter another year to better its finances and bring students’ grades up.

“I do know the school has made drastic improvements,” said Rev. Lutimothy May, who took over as head of the charter’s board of directors this past summer. “I hope the district can do what they can to support these improvements.”

May concedes that the school—with many of its students coming from district facilities and already performing below their grade level—has a “steep hill” to climb. But as the charter heads into the second semester, there are things to smile about. For example, the school managed a positive fund balance during the last two months—a first in the charter’s history.

SPILL RATE COVER-UP In a series of emails released as part of BP’s ongoing legal trials following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it has been revealed that the company knew from the onset that the spill rate was likely to be much higher than official estimates.

On the day the Deepwater Horizon sank, company officials warned in internal emails that the well could leak at a rate of 3.4 million gallons a day if the blowout preventer failed. This was about a million more gallons than the official government estimates at the time.

The emails also reveal that company officials were sensitive about what information was shared with the U.S. government. Gary Imm, a BP manager, apparently told Rob Marshall, BP’s subsea manager in the gulf, to tell the modeler in charge of the estimates “not to communicate to anyone on this.”

“We already have had difficult discussions with the U.S.C.G. on the numbers,” Imm wrote in an e-mail.

On April 23, 2010—a few days after the initial explosion on the rig—the Coast Guard, basing their findings on BP’s remotely operated vehicles, said no oil was leaking from the mile-deep well. The next day, the agency said oil was flowing at a rate of 42,000 gallons per day, and continued to raise estimates throughout the disaster.

An additional email recently released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) also offers revelations from the spill’s early days. The May 29, 2010 email from Dr. Marcia McNutt, the director of the U.S. Geologic Survey and head of the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group, appears to indicate the White House’s less-than-straightforward approach to the spill.

McNutt sent the email to scientists on the flow-rate team after they had expressed concern about how rate figures were being released to the press. The director cited pressure from the White House as the reason the numbers didn’t seem accurate; rather than report the low-end spill estimates as 25,000 barrels per day, officials insisted that figure be listed as the higher-end estimate.

“I cannot tell you what a nightmare the past two days have been dealing with the communications people at the White House, DOI, and the NIC who seem incapable of understanding the concept of a lower bound,” McNutt wrote. “The press release that went out on our results was misleading and was not reviewed by a scientist for accuracy.”