The Possible Role of Ammonium Nitrate in the West Fertilizer Explosion

The most recent industrial disaster to rock the US occurred on April 17, 2013 in West, Texas. The West Fertilizer plant located in the area was suddenly a crater as a massive explosion took out the plant along with most of the surrounding houses. Fifteen people were killed in the explosion with fire as a contributing factor, and hundreds were injured.

Investigations are still being conducted, but speculations on the primary role of ammonium nitrate stored on plant premises in the explosion have taken good hold. After all, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing the leveled a whole building and killed 168 people was accomplished with that self-same inorganic compound.

According to Houston law firm Williams Kherker, ammonium nitrate is primarily used as a fertilizer, and in its raw form it is a white crystal. When stored properly, ammonium nitrate is stable, and it takes quite a bit of doing to make the conditions just right for it to combust in an explosive manner such as that exhibited at West Fertilizer.

First, you need a significant amount of the compound all stored in a confined space. Then you have to introduce a source of activation energy, such as a fire. Then once the compound is activated, there needs to be a source of mechanical force, such as a heavy blow, to set off an explosion. Investigators state that such a scenario may have just played out in West Fertilizer.

There is evidence that a fire had broken out in the plant prior to the explosion. It is entirely possible that 28 to 34 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in one of the warehouses was exposed to just enough heat from the fire to be activated, at which point it is speculated that a beam or piece of heavy equipment had fallen onto the ammonium nitrate, providing the final requirement for an explosion.

If ammonium nitrate is found to have been the source of the explosion, it could mean a lot of trouble for West Fertilizer. Ammonium nitrate is a regulated substance, and storage of any significant amount is supposed to be reported to the regulating bodies, which West Fertilizer failed to do. Moreover, the manner of its storage suggest negligence, so the company could be facing criminal as well as civil charges once the final reports are in.

Pharmaceutical Company Facing Sex-Based Discrimination Lawsuit

Merck & Co, the world’s third highest selling pharmaceutical company, is facing a sex-based discrimination lawsuit.

A former sales rep for the company claims it shows preferential treatment to men by forcing women to choose between their careers and motherhood. She claims that she was demoted after taking government-protected maternity leave and that the company does not like to hire women as sales representatives because the executives lose money when female employees take maternity leave. She claims the demotion also made her ineligible for a merit-based award that she earned. Her supervisor told her that her demotion was not because she took maternity leave, but because of the timing of her leave.

The suit also alleges that men receive more opportunities to meet with higher-ups and are given more important work as well. Merck denies the allegations, claiming that the company has strong anti-discrimination policies.

The woman hopes to make the suit into a class action that would serve female sales representatives who have worked at Merck since October of 2009. The lawsuit seeks at least $100 million in damages.

Woman Files Discrimination Lawsuit Over ‘Failed’ Urine Test

An Indiana woman has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Iowa Methodist Medical Center as a result of what she believes was unfair, discriminatory treatment in the hiring process.

The woman earned her master’s degree in health care administration in 2012 and was offered a job with the hospital the next month. The hospital warned her that she would need to take a urine test to complete the process three days before she ws scheduled to come in for it. The woman has coped with paruresis since adolescence. Paruresis is a social anxiety disorder that makes it difficult or impossible for people who have it to urinate in public restrooms or in front of others.

When she went in for her urine test, the paruresis kicked in and she was unable to produce a sample. Typically, she would ease her tension by running water from the sink to mask the sound of her urinating, but the restroom to which she was assigned had no sink. The hospital staff disturbed her after a few minutes, and then asked her to give the restroom to someone else. In the waiting room, she began to cry from anxiousness and the discomfort of having to urinate and being unable to. What’s worst is she failed the urine test and lost her job offer.

She has now filed a lawsuit under the amended Americans with Disabilities Act, stating that the hospital did not reasonably accommodate her condition. There is no indication as to whether or not the hospital was aware she had this anxiety condition at the time.

Battle Over Hours of Service Regulations

truckOn July 1, 2013, the new regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will officially go into effect. And while many experts claim these new hours of service regulations will increase roadway safety, some transportation experts predict they will in fact decrease productivity and increase freight rates.

The new FMCSA regulations specifically affect limitations on minimum 34-hour restarts as well as required 30-minute breaks per eight hours of driving time. An FMCSA field study examining the effect of these new regulations is due at the end of March, the results of which could alter the new regulations. At least that is the hope for the American Trucking Association.

The current laws were first issued by the FMCSA in December 2011 before becoming finalized in early 2012 with the intention of decreasing the chance of fatigue-related accidents for long haul drivers across the country. After highway-safety activists fought for a 10-hour maximum driving day, the FMCSA kept the current 11-hour day, opting to instead reduce the maximum driving hours per week from 82 to 70.

Specifically, the new regulations will amend the current law for a driver to include a 34-hour restart every six days. The new law would allow only one restart per week. The restart period must also include “two consecutive free periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.”

The American Trucking Association strongly opposes these new regulations, claiming it will reduce the number of cross-country round trips per driver in a single year from 26 to 24, resulting in a seven percent drop in capacity, resulting in higher costs.

However, the FMCSA maintains the new rules will result in fewer crashes and ultimately save lives. A truck accident lawyer may be able to advise you if you’ve been injured in a truck accident.

Auto Accident and Firearm Death Statistics Moving in Different Directions

Over the past decades, the number and percentage of deaths and injuries caused by automobile accidents has declined sharply. In fact, the rate of deaths caused by automobile accidents in 2011 was at its lowest level since 1949, when automobile use was far less common. Since 2005 alone, traffic fatalities in the United States have dropped 26%. These numbers are largely the results of a range of different efforts, according to researchers, including improved highway safety standards, Car Accidentdrunk driving law enforcement campaigns, and the introduction of seatbelts in all automobiles.

During the same period, gun violence and fatalities has undergone a considerable increase. Between 1999 and 2009, for instance, self-inflicted gun deaths increased by 13%, and the general trend of gun violence between the late 1960s and the present period has seen a significant increase in incidents of gun violence. However, over the last decade, the rate of gun violence has actually plateaued or even decreased, in conjunction with a general decrease in the rate of violent crime in the United States.

Drawing definitive conclusions about what these statistics suggest is probably an empty exercise, however. The statistics on gun violence do not track neatly with legislative action during this period, and the general decrease in violent crime has occurred concurrently with an increase in gun ownership and concealed-carry licensing. Drawing causal relationships in either direction is therefore a risky exercise. Some researchers do suggest that the remarkable success that sensible regulations have had in reducing automobile accident fatalities could similarly be applied to guns, but the appropriate regulations are often individually contentious.

Instead, both sets of statistics should serve as a reminder of the continuing dangers that both automobile accidents and firearms can pose to individuals. Personal injury attorneys throughout the country annually are involved in hundreds of thousands of cases as a result of the accidents that these and other types of factors can cause.

How Bankruptcy Can Help with Mortgage Modification Rejection

Many homeowners struggle to meet the terms of their mortgages, especially if their homes have lost value since the beginning of their mortgage agreement, as many homes have since the financial crisis of 2008. For this reason, lots of Visit our websitehomeowners pursue mortgage modification plans, typically to reduce their interest payments or extend the terms of the payment to help reduce overall monthly costs. Unfortunately, some homeowners who may be in desperate need of mortgage modification to keep their homes may be rejected by their lending institutions.

In these circumstances, pursuing bankruptcy protection can actually help to ensure that the debtor is able to keep their home. In fact, many bankruptcy attorneys will recommend that, if no other options are available, homeowners whose mortgage modification requests are rejected pursue Chapter 13 bankruptcy as soon as possible. This form of bankruptcy has a number of different benefits, including the following:

  • Ÿ  Protection of critical assets, such as homes and vehicles
  • Ÿ  Reduction of overall debt repayment
  • Ÿ  Reduction in monthly debt payments and consolidation into a single payment plan
  • Ÿ  Ending creditor harassment

On top of all these benefits, individuals who pursue Chapter 13 bankruptcy may actually see their credit affected less than it would be if their home was repossessed, making this option extremely useful for those who are put in this difficult situation.

What To Do If You Are In An Accident

One can never predict when they will be in a car accident. Whether you are the driver, a pedestrian, or passenger, there are some simple rules to follow should you ever get into an accident.

Do Not Leave The Scene of an Accident
Drivers involved in a car accident should not leave the scene of an accident. Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. By leaving, you could be putting yourself at risk and open yourself up to liability. Quite often, insurance companies do not cover claims when the driver of a vehicle has intentionally left the scene of an accident.

Try to Remain Calm and Take Pictures
After an accident, the first thing you should do is call the police and an ambulance for assistance. Next, you may want to take pictures of the accident scene. Taking photos of the accident scene may be extremely helpful should the other driver dispute how the accident happened. Take the photos as quickly possible as you may have to move your vehicle out of the way.

Do Not Make Any Assumptions About Your Injuries – Seek Medical Attention
You and your passengers should seek medical attention even if you have no apparent injuries. Even if everyone feels okay, there is always a possibility that you or your passengers have been injured. Injuries are often latent and do not become apparent for several days after the accident.

Do Not Accept Any Settlement Offers or Sign Any Paperwork
As a precaution, drivers should refrain from making any admissions or accepting any offers of compromise or settlement at the scene of an accident. This can have a tremendous impact on your ability to recover for your losses. In addition, you may be accepting full legal responsibility. Refrain from signing any documentation before seeking the advice of an attorney.

Being Aware of Automobile Recalls

Not too long ago, Toyota had to recall a large number of their cars when numerous vehicle accidents, some fatal, started to occur due to mechanical failure. This story dominated the news for quite a while, but like a lot of big stories, it eventually went away.

Toyota, of course, isn’t the only auto company to recall their products, but sometimes these recalls don’t get the same level of coverage as Toyota. Often this occurs when a company catches a problem before incidents involving drivers occur. Regardless of the reason, it’s still important to stay up on the latest auto recalls. Many companies do a good job of informing potential car owners, but it’s still a good idea to keep up on the news on your own.

Chrysler isn’t the only company to have truck recalls this year. Many of the major auto makers including Ford, Ram, Nissan, and Toyota have recalled trucks for one reason or another in 2012. Motor Trend has done a good job of keeping track and providing information on the latest truck and car recalls. They provide a brief overview, which offers the year, make, model, and reason for the recall, and they offer a quick link where you can get more details on the recall.

Truck recalls aren’t always big news. Often times the only recalls that do become news are those that do not result in fatalities or serious injuries.  This does not mean you that one should not try to keep up on the info and the numerous recalls- doing so now may save you from injury later.  With a just a few minutes of research, you can do a lot to make sure your current truck or car isn’t on the list, and you can get a good idea of things you should look out for if you’re in the market for a new car or truck.

Using Speed Limiters as a Method of Reducing Number of Truck Accidents

Approximately 5,000 people are killed every year in crashes that involve commercial trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently reported that speed is a factor in approximately one-third of trucking accidents.

It is important for truck drivers to maintain safe speeds and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Large commercial vehicles cause significant damage to other vehicles when involved in an accident and contribute to a disproportionate number of fatalities. Trucks that are driving at higher speeds require significantly more braking distance than smaller vehicles travelling at the same speed. Accidents involving speeding trucks tend to cause more significant injuries than accidents involving trucks traveling at the speed limit.

Truck accidents often involve significant legal actions; those involved should seek appropriate legal counsel, such as a truck accident attorney in Atlanta at the firm of Stokes and Kopinsky, P.A.

Speed Limiters Enforce Trucking Safety

An electric control module, also known as a speed limiter, is a device created to limit the maximum speed that a truck can travel. Two trucking interest groups, Road Safe America (RSA) and the American Trucking Association (ATA), petitioned the NHTSA to require speed limiters in heavy trucks. They requested that the devices limit a truck’s speed to 68 miles per hour. These groups believe that enforcing a maximum speed will increase safety on the nation’s highways. Recently, the NHTSA granted the petitions and announced that it will begin the rulemaking process.

Schneider National, a trucking carrier that supports the speed-limiter rule, claims that, in the company’s experience, truck drivers who drove trucks that were not equipped with speed limiters were responsible for 40 percent of serious accidents despite only making up 17 percent of the total driving time.

Several other countries have already introduced devices to limit the speed of commercial vehicles. These countries include Australia, Europe, Japan and parts of Canada. Australia and the United Kingdom have observed a significant decrease in fatalities involving commercial trucks since the devices were introduced.

Although installing speed limiters in large commercial vehicles will not put an end to all traffic fatalities, they will help reduce the number of speed-related injuries on America’s highways.

Tips for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure

The threat of foreclosure can be devastating to homeowners. Not only does it mean that you risk losing your home, it can cause severe damage to your credit rating. If you are in danger of foreclosing on your home, act quickly. If possible, do not skip any mortgage payments. You will have more options available to you if you are proactive. Even if your bank has begun the process of foreclosure, all is not lost. There are several options available to help you keep your home and protect your credit.

Avoiding Foreclosure

If you are no longer able to afford your mortgage payments, contact your lender or loan servicer immediately to learn about options that are available. You may be able to refinance your home for a lower, more affordable mortgage rate. You may also be able to modify your home loan to reduce your mortgage payments. Find a local legal specialist, such as an Orlando foreclosure lawyer.

The Making Home Affordable Program (MHA) is a program that allows homeowners to lower their monthly mortgage payments. If the homeowner cannot afford the lower payments, the MHA program will help identify other methods to get out from the mortgage. It also provides assistance to homeowners who become unemployed or whose mortgages are underwater. For homeowners who are already facing foreclosure, the MHA helps homeowners transition to more affordable housing.

Foreclosure Alternatives

If you are a homeowner facing foreclosure, the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program may be able to help. HAFA gives homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgage payments two options to transition out of the mortgage. The first option is to pursue a short sale, in which the mortgage company will allow you to sell your home for an amount that is less than the amount you owe. The second option is a deed in lieu of foreclosure, which allows you to transfer the title ownership back to the mortgage company.

If you are at risk of foreclosure, seek help immediately. If you are proactive, you will have more options available to you. For more information about your options, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website.

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