Category Archives: Uncategorized

Businesses file class action lawsuit over oil spill in Galveston Bay

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Crews scoop up heavy fuel oil that washed up on East Beach in Galveston, Texas on Monday March 24, 2014 as they begin cleaning up after a weekend oil spill in Galveston Bay. More than 160,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the bay after a barge collided with a ship near the Texas City Dike. Photo: Jennifer Reynolds, Associated Press

Charter fishing businesses and individuals who have suffered property losses and other costs as a result of the March 22 collision near the Texas City Dike have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Kirby Inland Marine and Cleopatra Shipping Agency.

The suit was filed March 24 in U.S. District Court in Galveston over the collision of a barge pushed by a tow boat named Miss Susan and a 585-foot bulk carrier, Summer Wind. Kirby Inland Marine owns the vessel Miss Susan, while Cleopatra Shipping Agency owns Summer Wind.

The collision caused the release of oil into Galveston Bay. The barge sank to the bottom of the channel and lies partially submerged, the lawsuit states.

At the time of the filing, it was unknown how much of the 924,000 gallons of oil on the barge were released into Galveston Bay, but the spill has had a "wide and devastating effect on Galveston Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the people who use and depend on it," according to the class action complaint.

The marine fuel oil that was released is a heavy crude that does not evaporate quickly, making it particularly harmful to the environment and difficult to clean up, the complaint states.

The plaintiffs include 3G Fishing Chaters, 3G Bait and Tackle Shop, Launch Waterfront Eatery, Galveston Fishing Charter Co., Matt Garner doing business as All American Fishing Charters, Sammy Flores, Adam Kleczkowski, Greg Verm doing business as Fishing Galveston Texas, Caroline Cope and Scott Moss doing…

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Home building charity for wounded veterans questioned in lawsuit

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HOUSTON — Helping a Hero in West Houston is a popular charity: 100 homes built or in the works in 22 different states, but a lawsuit is publicizing an important clause in the housing contracts. And it’s a clause one Houston-area family says it didn’t know was there until their badly wounded veteran died.

We first told Hunter LeVine’s story four years ago. The Woodlands native was blinded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Also suffering from a traumatic brain injury and PTSD he vowed to continue living as independently as possible.

Then in December of 2011, Helping a Hero awarded him a new home in Tomball. Built through donations all Hunter had to do was take out a $50,000 mortgage and the home was his. It is the standard shared expense agreement the charity uses for all of its projects so the veterans have a financial stake in the property as well. The total value of Hunter’s new home was listed as $168,000.

But last June on a trip to Florida, Hunter died suddenly. He suffered a heart attack in his sleep. He was just 25 years old.

"Hunter was very proud of this house. It made him feel safe,” said his father Beau LeVine.

A short time later Beau LeVine says he received notice that the charity had plans for the house. They were moving to exercise a clause in the contract that the LeVines said they didn’t even know was in the paperwork.

"It was almost like the decision was made moments after his death that she just wanted to get her house…

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North Dakota blast prompts review of oil train safety

Safety of oil cars to be reviewed

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A federal safety alert Thursday warned that crude oil flowing out of new fields in North Dakota may be more flammable than expected, a caution that comes several days after a train carrying about 3.5 million gallons of the same oil crashed in the state and set off a massive explosion.

The accident on the BNSF Railway, the fourth such explosion in North America involving crude oil trains, has fed mounting concerns over public safety as the rail industry sharply increases the use of rail to transport surging crude production in North Dakota, Texas and Colorado.

Following the latest derailment and crash, which forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents from the town of Casselton, the National Transportation Safety Board has launched the nation’s first broad examination of the safety of moving petroleum by rail.

Trains carrying oil have multiplied across the country as environmental concerns and political maneuvering have delayed approval of a major new pipeline to transport oil to Gulf Coast refineries. The issue may be most crucial for cities in the West, which were often founded and developed by railroads so that main lines go directly through the centers of today’s urban areas.

Crude oil shipments by rail have shot up 25-fold in the last several years as producers rush oil from newly developing shale fields to market. California alone has seen a fourfold increase over the last year, with current shipments of about 200,000 barrels a month.

Refinery operators this…

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Poem That May Resonate for You

Connections brought me in touch with a poet from Eastern Washington, Charlie Hopkins.  I found that several of his poems describe work, workers, the aches and pains of growing older and the ties that bind us all together.  The following poem caught my eye:


“Everything that touches you.” The Association

May she sleep well at night.
Wake without pain in her shoulder.
May her knee and hip not cry out, bringing her too soon
to this world.
May blue jays speak respectfully at her windows.

Let there be peace in her morning contemplation
a perfect cup of coffee in her hand.
May Carol enjoy everything she sees and hears, everything she touches
and tastes.
May she always delight in the face she sees in her mirror.

Let the first incident of the day that would disturb her peace
not happen.
Let her go at her own pace and never tire of beauty.
May beauty flow in her as mercy and as a joyful song.
May she enjoy her garden as she does her flying dreams.

May there always be harmony between us and trust and may our eyes
be creased with smiling.

You can find more of Mr. Hopkins work on his blog, “The Flood Plain – Poems by Charlie Hopkins” and in a published collection of his work, “I Need To Feel You Every Moment In My Heart”, available on

Sometimes, you meet the right person at the right time, even on the internet.



The 50-year war on smoking

Luther Terry

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The 1964 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on smoking — the first official acknowledgment by the federal government that smoking kills — was an extraordinarily progressive document for its time. It swiftly led to a federal law that restricted tobacco advertising and required the now-familiar warning label on each pack of cigarettes.

Yet there was nothing truly surprising about the conclusion of the report. Throughout the 1950s, scientists had been discovering various ways in which smoking took a toll on people’s health. Britain issued its own report, with the same findings, two years before ours. Intense lobbying by the tobacco industry slowed the U.S. attack on smoking. And even when then-Surgeon General Luther Terry convened a panel before the report was issued to make sure its findings were unimpeachable, he felt compelled to allow tobacco companies to rule out any members of whom they disapproved.

Saturday marks the report’s 50th anniversary. The intervening decades have seen remarkable progress against smoking in the United States, despite the stubborn efforts of the tobacco industry, which lobbied, obfuscated and sometimes lied outright to the public about the dangers of its products. During those years, though, independent research tied smoking and secondhand smoke to an ever-wider range of ailments. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes cancer of the lungs, larynx, bladder, bone marrow, blood, esophagus, kidneys and several…

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Beating Back Pain

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Illustration by Stuart Goldenberg

Two months ago, I stepped into a shower in a hotel room in Baton Rouge, La., and felt a slight twinge in my back. I didn’t pay it much mind. I’ve experienced twinges from time to time, but for more than 25 years, I have been essentially free of back pain.

As you’ve probably guessed, that twinge didn’t go away. Instead, it got worse. It lodged in my lower back, and I could feel the sciatica all the way down to my knee. Within a week, I couldn’t walk more than 100 yards without severe pain.

Among other things, I was embarrassed. In 1987, I wrote an article in New York magazine called “Ah, My Non-Aching Back,” about how I’d found relief through a doctor named John E. Sarno.

By the time I saw Dr. Sarno, I had spent a year in relentless pain, visiting orthopedists and chiropractors, osteopaths and acupuncturists, trying yoga, physical therapy and bed rest, all to no avail.

Dr. Sarno’s treatment was essentially a talking cure. His theory, stated simply, is that back pain develops as a way of unconsciously shifting attention away from uncomfortable feelings such as anger and anxiety. With rare exceptions, Dr. Sarno believes, back pain has no structural basis. Rather, it is almost always a consequence of muscle spasm that prompts pain, which leads to fear, and then more spasm, and eventually creates a vicious cycle of pain. He named the condition tension myositis syndrome.

My prescription was to…

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Steve Coll: Raising the minimum wage.

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by December 9, 2013

In 2005, Alaska Airlines fired nearly five hundred union baggage handlers in Seattle and replaced them with contractors. The old workers earned about thirteen dollars an hour; the new ones made around nine. The restructuring was a common episode in America’s recent experience of inequality. In the decade after 2000, Seattle’s median household income rose by a third, lifted by the stock-vested, Tumi-toting travellers of its tech economy. But at the bottom of the wage scale earnings flattened.

Sea-Tac, the airport serving the Seattle-Tacoma area, lies within SeaTac, a city flecked by poverty. Its population of twenty-seven thousand includes Latino, Somali, and South Asian immigrants. Earlier this year, residents, aided by outside labor organizers, put forward a ballot initiative, Proposition 1, to raise the local minimum wage for some airport and hotel workers, including baggage handlers. The reformers did not aim incrementally: they proposed fifteen dollars an hour, which would be the highest minimum wage in the country, by almost fifty per cent. A ballot initiative so audacious would normally have little chance of becoming law, but Proposition 1 polled well, and by the summer it had turned SeaTac into a carnival of electoral competition. Business groups and labor activists spent almost two million dollars on television ads, mailings, and door knocking—about three hundred dollars per eventual voter. (Alaska Airlines…

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Johnson & Johnson to reportedly pay $4B in hip implant lawsuit

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CT sc-nw-1016-medical-device-tax MJW
CT sc-nw-1016-medical-device-tax MJW

Johnson & Johnson will pay more than $4 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits over its recalled defective hip implants, Bloomberg reported late on Tuesday, citing three people familiar with the deal.

Johnson & Johnson declined to comment on the report.

The deal will resolve more than 7,500 lawsuits brought against J&J’s DePuy orthopedics unit in federal and state courts by patients who have already had the defective devices removed, the report said.

De Puy recalled thousands of its metal ASR hip systems due to higher-than-expected failure rates. Plaintiffs claim that defective metal-on-metal devices caused pain, discomfort and more serous complications, including increased levels of metal ions in the bloodstream.

The devices were introduced in the United States in 2005, and DePuy recalled the product in 2010 after selling an estimated 93,000 units worldwide. Data from the UK at the time showed that about 12 percent of the implants needed to be replaced after five years.

Metal implants were developed to be more durable than traditional hip implants, which combine a ceramic or metal ball with a plastic socket. All-metal implants can shed metallic debris, potentially damaging bone and soft tissue, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Macy’s Joining Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Energizes Labor

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Macy’s Inc. (M), whose annual Manhattanparade is a cherished Thanksgiving tradition for millions, isstarting a new holiday ritual: It’s asking its employees to showup for work.

Pressured by competition, a shorter shopping season andlackluster consumer spending, at least a dozen U.S. mega-retailers are opening for the first time on Thanksgiving Day,such as Macy’s, or opening earlier that day than in previousyears. They are following Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the largest U.S.employer, which has been open for business on Thanksgiving formore than 25 years.

“Another holiday bites the dust in favor of retailers,”Candace Corlett, president of New York consulting firm WSLStrategic Retail, said in a Nov. 12 phone interview. “Ourculture now is to shop, and to get the best deals. Thanksgivingas a day of rest was another culture, another time, not today.”

The expansion of hours will take more than a millionemployees away from their families during the holiday. Organizedlabor has been encouraging low-wage employees to join unions foryears to stem membership losses, and now wants to use theThanksgiving hours to encourage workers to band together toimprove working conditions.

“It plays into the larger themes that we’ve been pushingaround low-wage workers who don’t have a lot of job security,”Amaya Smith, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said in aninterview. “Thanksgiving, Black Friday is one example of oneholiday…

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