Testing of Alaska Seafood Finds No Contamination From 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Alaska health officials say tests have again confirmed that Alaska seafood has not been tainted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster four years ago.

FishA magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, generated a 130-foot (39-meter) wave that devastated 217 square miles (562 square kilometres) in Japan. About 16,000 people were confirmed dead and nearly 2,600 were never found.

Among the damaged facilities was the nuclear plant complex at Fukushima, and meltdowns created fear that radionuclides might contaminate Alaska fish.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says testing of Alaska-caught fish sampled this year confirms the same results as 2014 testing _ no detection of radioactive hazards from Fukushima.

Fish were sampled from commercial processors around the state using U.S. Food and Drug Administration methods.

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Texas lawyer faces charges over accusations he faked BP oil spill claims

A Texas lawyer faces criminal charges after he was accused of submitting thousands of false claims for damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Robert McDuff, a lawyer for San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts, confirmed October 21, 2015 that Watts was indicted in Mississippi and will appear in court Oct. 29 in Gulfport.

“I look forward to a speedy trial and the opportunity to prove to a jury that I am not guilty of any crimes,” Watts said in a statement.

McDuff said the indictment is sealed and he wouldn’t discuss the specific charges against Watts. He said they are related to allegations that Watts committed fraud or forgery when he claimed to represent 44,000 clients in litigation against BP PLC.

McDuff said others have been indicted, but declined to name them.

Federal prosecutors didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and an email seeking comment. The indictment was first reported by the San Antonio Express-News.

The British oil giant sued Watts in 2013, alleging that more than half the clients were “phantoms,” people whom Watts never properly signed up, people who weren’t commercial fishermen or people who were dead. BP said claims officials could verify the Social Security numbers of only 42 per cent of Watts’ claimants, and even found someone who had never hired Watts included twice.

When BP sued Watts, it said he had filed only 648 compensation claims, and only eight of those had been ruled eligible for payment, with 17 others then pending.

McDuff said Watts believed the names and information he had been given were “real people who had suffered real injuries.”

“Although it later turned out that Mr. Watts had been provided with inaccurate information, and that some of these people had never authorized him to represent them, Mr. Watts was not aware of that when he filed these lawsuits against BP in order to protect the interests of the fishermen of the Gulf,” McDuff said.

BP said the large pool of clients caused it to offer an inflated $2.3 billion to pay off commercial fishing claims. It tried to persuade U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans to suspend payments from that fund after $1 billion was disbursed in a first round of settlements. Barbier refused, saying the questionable claims would be owed a small percentage of the remaining money. Other lawyers have said that BP should pursue fraud claims rather than stop payments.

Watts won a seat on the committee of lawyers who negotiated the multibillion-dollar settlement with BP in 2012, a group in line to reap more than $1 billion in payments. Watts resigned from the steering committee last year amid the federal investigation.

 

Victims of Lac Megantic disaster close to receiving part of $450 million fund

Lawyers for victims of the Lac-Megantic train disaster are recommending their clients accept a motion that would allow Canadian Pacific Railway to stop blocking hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement money, an attorney said October 8, 2015.

Jeff Orenstein, whose Consumer Law Group represents the victims of the derailment, said attorneys from all sides have agreed to recommend giving Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP) legal assurances in exchange for it dropping its appeal against the $450-million fund.

He said his clients and the Quebec government – also plaintiffs in the case – still need to be consulted and haven’t yet given the green light to the motion that was recently tabled by lawyers for Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railroad (MMA), the now-defunct firm at the centre of the disaster that killed 47 people on July 6, 2013.

Orenstein said he and the attorneys for the Quebec government “would support the motion. But neither of us felt comfortable saying we agree without both of our clients saying officially they also agreed.”

He said Quebec Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas has given them until Tuesday evening to confirm, in writing, that the motion is officially accepted by all sides.

If that happens, CP has said it will drop its appeal and the settlement money could begin to be distributed to victims by the end of the year.

MMA didn’t have enough insurance to pay damages to victims and creditors, so it filed for bankruptcy in the United States and Canada. The settlement fund is tied to the bankruptcy proceedings in both countries.

CP has been the only company accused in the derailment to not participate in the settlement fund and over the summer sought leave to appeal the fund.

All the other companies that offered money to victims were to be released from legal liability for the derailment.

CP objected to the motion for several reasons, notably because the company thought it wouldn’t be able to defend itself if it was taken to court by any of the firms released from legal liability.

MMA’s motion offers CP legal assurances that if it is taken to court and loses, it can’t be asked to pay for the same damages already paid out by other firms, Orenstein said.

Patrice Benoit, lawyer for MMA, said October 8, 2015 that CP can still be held liable for the derailment.

“There is absolutely no concession that has been granted to Canadian Pacific,” he said outside the courtroom in Granby, Que., 80 kilometres east of Montreal.

“What Canadian Pacific has offered – and what we have accepted subject to us agreeing on the language – is to withdraw all its appeals in Canada and the United States.”

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RCMP says it continues to investigate 1985 bombing of Air India plane

Three decades on, the RCMP says its investigation into the Air India bombing – the worst terrorist act in Canadian history – remains “active and ongoing.”

On June 23, 1985, an explosion ripped apart Air India Flight 182 en route to New Delhi, killing all 329 people aboard, most of them Canadians of Indian descent.

Authorities believe Sikh extremists fighting for an independent homeland sabotaged the Boeing 747, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland.

A federal commission of inquiry would conclude that a “cascading series of errors” by police, intelligence officers, and air safety regulators allowed the attack to take place.

The complex investigation of the crime was hampered by difficulty raising the wreckage from the ocean floor, agency turf wars and challenges persuading witnesses to come forward.

Talwinder Singh Parmar, a prime suspect, died in 1992. In 2003, Inderjit Singh Reyat pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Two years later a British Columbia judge found Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik not guilty.

But police have not closed the file.

A “dedicated team” of Mounties continues to probe the attack on the jetliner and a related explosion at Tokyo’s Narita airport, said Sgt. Annie Linteau, an RCMP spokeswoman.

“Over the last 30 years, the Air India investigation is the longest and certainly one of the most complex domestic terrorism investigations that the RCMP has undertaken in the history of the Canadian judiciary,” Linteau told The Canadian Press.

“We have continuously worked with various international police agencies in Europe, Asia and North America, who have been extremely co-operative.”

The Mounties rarely discuss ongoing investigations, and Linteau declined to provide additional details.

Bal Gupta of the Air India Victims Families Association said he had not heard from the RCMP in more than a year.

“I don’t know anything about progress,” said Gupta, who lost his wife in the bombing.

“In principle, any murder file is not closed unless the culprits are sentenced.”

Gupta planned to attend an Air India memorial in Toronto on Tuesday.  “For families, we do remember our near and dear ones every of our lives, and on June 23 it becomes even more acute.”

His son Susheel planned to attend a ceremony in Ottawa. Other memorials were scheduled in Montreal and Vancouver.

Susheel was also among those present June 23, 2015 in Parliament’s Centre Block to mark the national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke of doing “everything we can to ensure other families that they will not in the future have to endure the kind of pain and loss that you have.”

Susheel regrets that his two young children will not meet their grandmother. “They say time heals wounds. I don’t know if it does.”

Justice Minister Peter MacKay joined community members and families of Air India victims early Tuesday, June 23 at a ceremony in Ahakista on Ireland’s southwest coast.

The federal inquiry into the bombing, led by former Supreme Court justice John Major, said in 2010 that fundamental changes to intelligence handling, criminal prosecutions and aviation security were needed to prevent another deadly attack in the skies.

The Conservative government has enacted some recommendations and it continues to work on others.

Susheel Gupta applauded the government’s investment of $10 million in the Kanishka Project, which has funded research into terrorism.

“I think things are better than they were 30 years ago, and I just hope that things will continue to improve.”

 

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