- - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BRASILIA — A huge oil spill off Brazil’s southern coast was the result of excessive pressure used by oil giant Chevron in drilling the sea floor, according to a report by police and prosecutors published by local media Tuesday.

The O Globo newspaper quoted Fabio Scliar, head of the environment unit of Brazil’s federal police department, as saying that the deep-water well “could not and should not have been drilled under the conditions presented in the area,” adding that an “absurd” amount of pressure was used at the site situated off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state.

“All indications are that a desire for profits led [Chevron] to take the prohibitive risk” of drilling at the site, Mr. Scliar concluded in the document, according to O Globo.

Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency (ANP), the country’s national oil regulator, has estimated that some 2,400 barrels of crude were spilled at the site.


Consumer watchdog warns new iPads are hot to handle

SAN FRANCISCO — A vaunted consumer watchdog organization on Tuesday warned that Apple’s new iPad is a bit hot to handle.

U.S. nonprofit product testing group Consumer Reports reported that the new-generation iPad with its more powerful processor hit temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit, particularly when running video games.

“It does run warmer than its predecessor,” Consumer Reports spokesman James McQueen said of the third-generation iPad.

“People need to exercise caution,” he continued. “We are not saying it is a dangerous product, but 116 degrees can be a little uncomfortable.”

Consumer reports said the new iPad got about 12 degrees warmer than the iPad 2 tablet while performing the same intensive tasks, such as video games or downloading large files.

One rear corner of the new iPad appeared to be a hot spot.

Apple did not respond to Agence France-Presse requests for comment, but prior to the release of the Consumer Reports thermal analysis issued a public statement saying that the new iPad operates “well within our thermal specifications.”


Prosecutors probe ex-minister over central bank scandal

GENEVA — Swiss prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against a former justice minister over a scandal that led to the country’s central bank chief quitting in January.

Prosecutors in the canton of Zurich say they are investigating Christoph Blocher on suspicion of breaching Swiss banking secrecy laws.

Mr. Blocher held the justice portfolio in Switzerland’s seven-member Cabinet from 2004 to 2007 and remains a leading figure in the nationalist Swiss People’s Party.

Prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that they extended their existing probe against three other persons suspected of passing on confidential bank documents that implicated Swiss National Bank President Philipp Hildebrand in insider trading.

Mr. Hildebrand and the bank maintain his innocence.


Stamps mark 100 years since Titanic’s sinking

OTTAWA — Canada Post unveiled five stamps Tuesday to mark the centennial of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the recovery of hundreds of victims by four Canadian ships.

Four domestic-rate stamps depict the White Star liner’s impressive bow and stern.

Another international-rate stamp shows the ship sailing on a calm ocean with a map tracing its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from Southampton to New York, and the spot 375 miles south of Newfoundland where it struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.

“This was the biggest man-made moving object on earth that after setting off on her maiden voyage hit an iceberg and ended in disaster,” said Dennis Page, an artist who helped design the stamps.

“I imagined myself standing below her bow looking up, which really gives that vantage point and perspective at how vast something like this could be.”

The biggest, most ambitious ship of the era, the Titanic was touted as unsinkable. Of the 2,224 people aboard on its maiden voyage, 1,514 perished in the disaster.

Survivors were conveyed by RMS Carpathia to New York while four Canadian ships left from Halifax port in easternmost Canada with embalming supplies, undertakers, and clergy to recover 328 bodies. Passing steamships also retrieved five more victims.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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