Obama says he sees progress on Gulf oil spill

(AP) - On his third personal trek to the Gulfdisaster, President Barack Obama said Friday he sees some progressin fighting the enormous oil spill but it's "way too early to beoptimistic" about BP's latest control effort.

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Aiming to demonstrate command and personal engagement on day 45of the catastrophe, Obama criticized the British oil giant forspending money on advertising and paying dividends to shareholdersin the midst of crisis. "What I don't want to hear is when they're spending that kindof money on their shareholders and spending that kind of money onTV advertising that they're nickeling and diming fishermen or smallbusinesses here in the Gulf who are having a hard time," he said. The president spoke after arriving at the New Orleans airportfor his third inspection tour, and his second in eight days, withnational frustration boiling over. Obama indicated he felt it, too,along with residents of the Gulf and the rest of the country. "This has been a disaster for this region, and people areunderstandably frightened and concerned about what the next fewmonths and the next few years may hold," Obama said afterattending a briefing with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the chieffederal official for the spill response, and the governors ofLouisiana, Florida and Alabama, along with other officials. He then headed for Grand Isle, La., a small barrier island, tohear from people whose livelihoods are threatened by the spill -the shrimpers, oyster fishermen, shop keepers and hotel workers sodependent on a thriving Gulf. A driving rain forced him to dropplans to travel by helicopter and instead make a 2½ hour drive. The president's visit came as engineers with BP worked to settlea funnel-like cap over the deep-sea leak to try to collect some ofthe crude now fouling four states. It was not clear how much oilwas being captured, and some continued to flow, generatingfrightening photos of seabirds clogged in the muck. Underscoring the mounting political implications, Obama lateThursday abruptly canceled plans for his trip to Indonesia andAustralia later this month. Ahead of the Gulf visit, he declaredhimself furious at a situation that "is imperiling an entire wayof life and an entire region for potentially years." He criticizedBP for not responding more quickly.

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