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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

BP Poison Gas Trial

A jury in Texas discovered that in 2010 British Petroleum deliberately exposed residents near a Texas City refinery to at least 500,000 pounds of carcinogenic gases. BP, perhaps best known for its role in instigating the 1953 Iranian coup d’état or 2010′s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, denies that residents were affected by the plant’s emissions of Benzene. Lawyers for the firm contend the residents at trial suffered from “ordinary diseases of life.” Damond Mace, a litigator for BP, said the refinery attempted to burn the toxins it vented and little if any reached the ground to poison residents.

“What value do you place on someone breathing these chemicals that were purposely released” for more than 40 days? Tony Buzbee, lawyer for the residents, asked the jury. “No one’s missing a leg and no one’s dead. But this ain’t right. This should never happen again anywhere, and BP still has refineries in the U.S.” Two years ago, BP agreed to pay the state of Texas $50 million to settle numerous air-pollution violations linked to the plant, including the 2010 incident. The four residents filing the suit against the petroleum giant are each seeking $200,000 in personal damages and $10 billion in punitive damages, which they plan to donate to charity. “This case is not an attack on refineries, not an attack on oil companies,” said Buzbee. “This case is about a company that flouts the rules, that does what it chooses and darn the consequences.”

Catalan Independence Demonstration

Hundreds of thousands of Catalonians formed a 400km (~250 Miles) long human chain across the restive community in north-eastern Spain, urging the Spanish government in Madrid to allow the Catalan provinces the chance to secede from Spain. The demonstration, which successfully spanned the area between the Pyrenees to the north and Valencia to the south, was largely festive and peaceful. The only exception came at the hands of 20 Spanish loyalists who threw teargas-esque chemicals into a crowd of demonstrators. Five people sought treatment.

Catalonian independence has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity since the end of repression under the Fransisco Franco regime in 1975, especially since the world-wide recession began. The community pays roughly 20 percent of Spain’s taxes while receiving much less back in services. Catalonians, along with a number of other separatist movements, are watching the Scottish referendum on independence, set for September of next year, very closely. If Scotland is able to gain full independence from the U.K., it could have a galvanizing effect throughout Europe. The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy rejects the possibility of any such referendum in Spain, pledging to block any efforts in court. A previous non-binding ‘popular vote’ saw overwhelming public support for independence.

King County’s Top Cop Talks Pot with U.S. Senate

Washington state’s King County Sheriff John Urquhart went before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, airing fears that the nascent recreational pot stores in his state will, due to federal laws, be a magnet for armed robbers. Federal laws, which view marijuana as a drug akin to heroin or cocaine, forbid banking institutions from opening accounts for drug-related businesses. “I am simply asking that the federal government allow banks to work with legitimate marijuana businesses who are licensed under state law,” said Urquhart. And in a joint statement delivered to the panel, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson, said that forcing the pot businesses to operate with cash will also make it harder to audit their books and track their income.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont seems sympathetic to the plight of businesses in Washington and Colorado, saying, “I don’t want to see a shootout somewhere.”

MNLF Declares Independence, Calls for Mediation

Rebels holding a number of hostages in the Philippines have called for international mediation. Hundreds of civilians are being held hostage near the city of Zamboanga by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); the rebel group claims the Philippines is illegally occupying the Bangsamoro Republik. MNLF members have previously claimed that the Filipino government had reneged on the 1996 peace treaty it signed with the MNLF when it left the MNLF out of Filipino negotiations with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Last month, MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari declared Bangsamoro an independent nation. According to Misuari’s chief of staff Murshi Ibrahim, “Now, we are a sovereign nation under a colonial occupation of [Filipino] President P-Noy’s regime.” The newly-minted President Misuari has not issued any statements since his followers took its hostages early Monday morning, but Filipino Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said officials had opened talks with the rebels “at different levels.”

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