Toxic cloud of acid traps thousands in southeast Texas

A toxic cloud that formed after 300 gallons of hydrochloric acid leaked at a southeast Texas storage facility sent nine people to hospitals and forced thousands of residents indoors…

Four firefighters were among those who were hospitalized for exposure after a tank ruptured at a storage facility near the Port of Texas City, Bruce Clawson of the local emergency management office said.

More than 45,000 residents of Texas City were ordered by emergency management officials to remain indoors, turn off air conditioning units and make sure all windows and doors were closed until the vapor cloud dissipated…

It is not the first time the residents of Texas City have dealt with a threat from a chemical leak.

In March, an acid leak was reported at BP’s refinery in the port city. And last year, several dozen homes were evacuated when 250,000 gallons of gasoline spilled following a pipeline rupture.

How many more years will Texans continue to accept the usual official excuse – “thats just the smell of money, folks!”

Silvio Berlusconi found guilty of tax fraud

An Italian court has sentenced Silvio Berlusconi to four years in jail for tax fraud in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company…

The court also ordered damages provisionally set at €10 million to be paid by Berlusconi and his co-defendants to tax authorities…

A separate trial over accusations that Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage prostitute is currently being heard in Milan. He denies all charges against him.

The four-time prime minister and other Mediaset executives stood accused of inflating the price paid for TV rights via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi, and skimming off part of the money to create illegal slush funds.

One of the world’s leading examples of just how sleazy and low a politician can get – Berlusconi gets a couple of automatic chances at appeals plus the array of craptastic lawyers he keeps on retainer will do their usual job of delay, diffuse and deny while trying to get sentences overturned and reduced.

Poisonally, I think they should throw away the key.

Shark falls from the sky onto California golf course

A course marshal at the San Juan Hills Golf Club found the leopard shark on Monday afternoon and brought it to the clubhouse…

It had puncture wounds where it appeared a bird had snagged it from the Pacific Ocean, about five miles away.

The marshal put the creature, which was bleeding but still alive, into his golf buggy and sped off back to the clubhouse.

They stuck the two-foot-long shark into fresh water before somebody remembered it came from the sea, so they got some sea salt from the kitchen and mixed it in.

Another employee rushed the shark to the ocean where McCormack says it was very still for a few seconds before twisting around and speeding off…

There are probably seventeen mysterioso stories about the event working their way through the California psyche at this very moment.

Hobby Lobby owners want laws governing business to be subordinate to religion

Federal government says Hobby Lobby cannot raise religious objections to insurance requirements.

The federal government is asking a judge to rule against Hobby Lobby, whose owners do not want to provide their employees with insurance coverage for “abortion-causing drugs and devices.”

Founder David Green and other owners of the Oklahoma City-based retail chain…are asking U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton to prevent the government from enforcing new health care rules on their business “and other individuals and organizations that object on religious grounds to providing insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs and devices and related education and counseling…”

In a response this week, government attorneys argued the owners cannot raise religious objections to “the preventive services coverage regulations” because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit, secular corporation.

“To hold otherwise would permit for-profit, secular corporations and their owners to become laws unto themselves,” the attorneys wrote.

“Because there are an infinite variety of alleged religious beliefs, such companies and their owners could claim countless exemptions from an untold number of general commercial laws designed to protect against unfair discrimination in the workplace and to protect the health and well-being of individual employees and their families…”

The government responded that the Greens want to block regulations intended to give women access at no cost to approved contraceptive methods “that medical experts have deemed necessary for women’s health and well-being.”

“The Greens’ theory boils down to the claim that what’s done to the company (or the group health plans sponsored by the company) is also done to its owners. But, as a legal matter, that is simply not so…”

Separation of church and state must protect freedom from religion.

At the simplest operational level, our government would have to kowtow to every sect and superstition that qualifies as religion.

As a nation that respects the intellectual freedom built into our constitution, that right is deliberately broad. Equally broad, the citizens of this land should only be governed by civil and criminal laws that don’t allow favors for religions, exemptions from civil practices on the basis of one or another religion.

Hunting season started in Italy – 46 people shot, 13 of them died!

Ready for duty

Italian hunting enthusiasts have killed 13 people and wounded 33 in shooting accidents since the season opened in September, increasing pressure to reform antiquated hunting laws.

The death toll swelled across the country this weekend when a 16-year old was killed by a friend while hunting, a pensioner was shot and wounded in his garden and a cyclist was hospitalized after being hit with grapeshot…

Hunting groups agree with environmentalists that the law – which allows hunters to roam on private land and discharge firearms within 150 meters of a house – should be changed. But the sides have become entrenched in a long-running stalemate over how.

Among those calling for an outright ban is Daniela Casprini, the head of the Association of Hunting Victims.

“The question is no longer about who is for and who is against hunting. This is to stop a true massacre,” Casprini said on Monday…

The number of hunters has declined steeply to about 700,000 from two million three decades ago, with most aged between 65 and 78 years, according to farming association Coldiretti.

The head of animal rights group Animalisti Italiani Onlus said the accidents proved that legislation to protect rare wildlife was ineffective…

“They shoot because something moves.”

Cripes – things are so bad they have an Association of Hunting Victims.

Groups that defend the lax laws say this is all about “thinning” the numbers of wild animals that procreate too much. It sounds more like they’re thinning out our own species.

Someone remind this NYC copper that “serve and protect” doesn’t include a béchamel sauce

A New York City police officer was charged on Thursday with conspiring to kidnap, torture, cook and eat women whose names he listed in his computer.

In a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court, Gilberto Valle III, 28, of Forest Hills, Queens, was charged with conspiring to cross state lines to kidnap the women and with illegally accessing a federal database…

Investigators uncovered a file on Valle’s computer containing the names and pictures of at least 100 women, and the addresses and physical descriptions of some of them, according to the complaint. It said he had undertaken surveillance of some of the women at their places of employment and their homes…

Valle’s court-appointed attorney, Julia Gatto, had vigorously argued to the judge that her client, a 6-1/2 year NYPD veteran who appeared before the judge in a red T-shirt and jeans, was all talk and deserved to be released on bail.

“The best this complaint alleges is talk, just idle talk,” Gatto said. “There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality, your honor…”

Federal prosecutors, in announcing the charges, said Valle had created a document called “Abducting and Cooking: A Blueprint.” Valle also told an unnamed co-conspirator he would kidnap another woman for $5,000, they said.

“This case is all the more disturbing when you consider Valle’s position as a New York City police officer and his sworn duty to serve and protect,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

His estranged wife is the one who turned him in – after wandering uninvited through his computer.

I think she’s lucky she didn’t end up as his first choice for an entree.