WASHINGTON — Beleaguered oil giant BP has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine for failing to correct safety hazards at its Texas City oil refinery after a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday it is still working to collect another $30 million from BP Products North America for other penalties that the company is contesting. It is the largest penalty issued in OSHA’s history. “The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.
Record crop for U.S. farmers
U.S. corn and soybean farmers are on track to produce the largest crops in history, according to a government report released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast corn production of 13.4 billion bushels in 2010, with soybean production of 3.43 billion bushels. Both estimates would be a 2 percent increase over 2009 crop figures, the current highest annual production on record. Corn yields are expected to average 165 bushels per acre, also a record high. Soybean yields are projected to match last year’s record of 44 bushels per acre.
Alabama: Killer executed
Alabama has executed a man for killing a woman he abducted from her Birmingham home in 1992. Prison officials said 41-year-old Michael Land died by injection Thursday at 6:23 p.m. at a prison in Atmore. He had been sentenced to die for killing 30-year-old Candace Brown, who was shot in the back of the head and her body found later in the woods. Asked if he had any last words, Land replied, “No. Thank you though.”
Tennessee: Tobacco in mail
The U.S. Postal Service says it plans to resume shipping care packages with cigarettes and other tobacco to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. A law aimed at preventing smuggling had unintentionally banned families from sending tobacco to military members serving overseas. A spokesman said Thursday that the Postal Service is planning to issue new instructions that could allow shipments to resume as soon as Aug. 27. The new law said tobacco must be sent by Express Mail, which requires a signature for delivery. But Express Mail delivery isn’t available for most overseas military addresses.
New York: West Point lesbian
A lesbian cadet asked to resign from the U.S. Military Academy because she said she can no longer lie about her sexuality and was troubled by the anti-gay attitudes of some around her. Katherine Miller of Findlay, Ohio, also said she wants to fight for repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, a subject she was studying and writing about as a sociology major at West Point. “I intend for my resignation to offer a concrete example of the consequences of a failed law and social policy,” she wrote in her resignation letter on Monday.
China: U.S. maneuver protest
The military on Thursday condemned a round of U.S.-South Korean naval drills planned in the Yellow Sea in coming weeks, vowing it would respond in kind. Beijing opposes actions by foreign militaries in waters near its coast that could “affect China’s security interests,” the military’s newspaper People’s Liberation Army Daily said. The expected participation of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington is particularly irksome to China because of the possibility of its F-18 warplanes flying within range of Beijing.
Britain: Airport strike vote
Workers at airport operator BAA have voted in favor of strike that could close Britain’s major airports this month. Releasing details of the ballot on Thursday, the Unite union said that it will decide Monday what action it will take to allow time for last-minute negotiations with BAA. BAA has warned that any walkouts will force it to close its airports, which include Heathrow, Stansted, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Australia: Psychic finds body
An Aboriginal elder who said she had a psychic vision of where to find a missing 6-year-old went to the wooded location outside Sydney and instead found the dismembered torso of a woman. The woman had been trying to find Kiesha Abrahams, who disappeared from her Sydney area home almost two weeks ago, when she came across the headless, limbless body Wednesday in a nature preserve west of the city, police said. “I’ve had a feeling to go there,” Cheryl Carroll-Lagerwey said.
From Herald news services