Campus police officer, 2nd person killed at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech officials said a police officer and another person were shot and killed on the school’s campus today, prompting a university lockdown. A university statement said the incident started shortly after noon when a campus police officer stopped a vehicle during a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall.
Unsettled justice at Upper Big Branch
The $209 million settlement in fines and restitution in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster should not be considered the end of this tragedy — or the end of the mine owner’s responsibility. The Justice Department must vigorously pursue the criminal investigation of top officials of Massey Energy, the company found grievously at fault.
Dems push GOP to bolster mine safety
A damning new mine-safety report is fresh evidence that Congress needs to act to protect the nation’s miners, according to several senior House Democrats. Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) say the Labor Department’s findings that last year’s deadly coal mine explosion in West Virginia was preventable are an indication that stricter protections are required to avert the next catastrophe. The lawmakers are urging Republicans to bolster mine-safety laws even as GOP leaders have scheduled a Wednesday vote on legislation designed to un-tether industry from similar restrictions.
Labor Department lawyer blocked McAteer team’s questions about failure of MSHA to follow up on Upper Big Branch methane incidents
Following up on yesterday’s Coal Tattoo post, Why didn’t MSHA prevent the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, we published a story in our print edition this morning with more details about the federal agency’s failure to protect Massey Energy miners from the clear and well-understood dangers of methane leakage from the floor of the Raleigh County mine. Among other things, the story contained new information from a previously undisclosed transcript of testimony by Bob Hardman, who was MSHA’s Southern West Virginia district manager at the time of the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 miners. Among the more bizarre revelations was that Hardman claimed to have started a project to examine the potential for other mines having similar methane leakages — but MSHA claims to have no records about such an effort.
Ex-Massey chief has started mining company in Kentucky, records show
Donald Blankenship, whose former coal company was fined a record $10.8 million for safety violations connected to the worst mining accident in 40 years, has started a new mining company in Kentucky, records show. “People who live in coal-mining states like Kentucky should be aware that a serial violator of basic mine safety law is coming to your state soon seeking to operate a mine,” Rep. George Miller said in remarks on the House floor Wednesday.
Obama takes aim at contractors who discriminate
With an unemployment rate of 13 percent among workers with disabilities, the Obama Administration is now wielding one of the few sticks it has to combat hiring discrimination against disabled Americans — federal tax dollars. Labor Department officials announced Thursday morning that they’re putting forth a draft rule that would require federal contractors to set a hiring goal of 7 percent when it comes to workers with disabilities. Current law forbids contractors from discriminating against the disabled, but employers merely have to show good faith and aren’t held accountable to any particular figures.
Jack Kingston: Drug test the jobless
A Republican congressman has proposed drug testing people who apply for unemployment insurance. The bill by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) would require unemployment claimants to pass a drug test if they are identified in an initial screening as having a high probability of drug use.
US Department of Labor continues to cite beauty salons and manufacturers for formaldehyde exposure from hair smoothing products
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing its efforts to protect workers from the dangers of formaldehyde exposure. OSHA continues to respond to complaints and referrals of formaldehyde exposure in salons, beauty schools and manufacturing facilities. To date in calendar year 2011, federal OSHA has issued citations to 23 salon owners and beauty schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, with fines ranging up to $17,500 for failing to protect workers from overexposure and potential exposure to formaldehyde.
Russia faces new air-safety crisis
Russia, once a global aviation power, has become the most dangerous country in which to board an airliner. Investigations of nine commercial plane crashes this year, including one that killed an entire professional hockey team, found a raft of gross violations and errors, such as drunk or sedated flight crews, forged safety documents and panicked pilots. In one crash, the navigator used the wrong guidance equipment and aimed his jetliner at a tree, far from the runway.
Hill staffers fired for off-color tweets
They called it a “December to Remember”: a mission to spend the final month of the legislative session partying under the patronage of Rep. Rick Larsen. Eight days into it, and a series of ill-advised tweets later, three staffers for the Washington Democrat were fired Thursday after a local website detailed a pattern of wildly unprofessional behavior—including drinking on the job and insulting the congressman—POLITICO has confirmed.