Late one night in January 1994, a chlorine leak that seeped through the sewer system of the city of Cali in Colombia killed three children in their beds and sickened more than 400 people, leaving 23 with severe lung burns. Some of them died in later weeks and months from the effects of the toxic chemical. At the time, press accounts said it was an industrial accident although no responsible party was ever identified.
It turns out the tragedy was the result of an experiment gone awry by one of the world's most fearsome drug cartels, reveals William C. Rempel in his new book, "At The Devil's Table". In their quest to smuggle cocaine, the cartel considered using chlorine tanks, which are often used in industrial processes and which are imported from the United States and then returned for refills. Due to their toxic content, even the empty tanks were unlikely to be opened by customs officials and their contents was undetectable by drug-sniffing dogs.
The challenge was how to purge the dangerous gas -- so that night four members of the Cali cartel tried feeding the gas down hoses into the sewer system of the city. But they misjudged the operation and the toxic gas soon started backing up out of the manhole, growing into a vapor cloud. The men quickly fled the scene but the gas spread throughout the neighborhood.
The cartel brainstormed their next move and even considered making a financial gift or providing medical care for the victims. Instead they did nothing and later successfully carried out the same experiment in a rural area far from town. Within a few years, the ploy was carried out by drug smugglers--and not always successfully: in 1996, U.S. Customs and the Drug Enforcement Administration busted three Colombian nationals for trying to smuggle 1,000 kilos of cocaine in chlorine tank cylinders to a warehouse in Baltimore.
In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, amid fears that chlorine could be used by terrorists, U.S. regulations on the importation of chlorine were tightened.
CFTC Watchdog Gets Failing Grade
The inspector general for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission -- the internal watchdog for the agency given oversight of the derivatives market -- flunked a peer review of its auditing operations, "raising questions about its ability to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse," reports iWatch News.
Inspector General A. Roy Lavik revealed the failing grade in his semiannual report to Congress. The review highlighted the IG's audit of the CFTC's hiring of contractors to replace government employees, ultimately concluding that it was "insufficient" by not performing a cost comparison analysis and relying on interviews instead.
It is rare for an IG to receive such a low grade -- the only other recent example is Arnold Fields, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction who resigned earlier this year.
FDA Approval Of Modified Salmon Halted By Congress
Just days before the Food and Drug Administration was set to approve an application for advanced-hybrid salmon, sources tell HuffPost, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) pushed an amendment through committee that would bar the agency from spending money to that end. On Wednesday afternoon, when most of his colleagues were busy chowing down at the House picnic, the lawmaker brought a few allies back into the chamber, where it passed the House by voice vote.
Young, along with lawmakers from other salmon states -- concerned about protecting the jobs of wild salmon fishermen -- have been fighting for months to block approval of the fish, which grow twice as fast as Atlantic salmon and require about 10 percent less food to reach the same weight. Though consumer groups have long opposed the idea, AquaBounty, the company that developed the technology, emphasizes that the salmon pose no threat to human health and will be kept away from wild salmon populations.
SEC May Charge Credit Rating Agencies
In the wake of the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008, credit rating companies were blamed for enabling the crisis by blessing Wall Street's mortgage securities machine, but they largely escaped punishment.
Almost three years later, that may begin to change: securities regulators are weighing civil fraud charges against some of the ratings agencies -- specifically Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service -- for their role in fueling the crisis, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Now, SEC officials are focusing on the question of whether the ratings companies committed fraud by failing to do enough research to be able to rate adequately the pools of subprime mortgages and other loans that underpinned the mortgage-bond deals, according to people familiar with the matter.
Whistleblower Claims He Was Fired For Asbestos Complaint
Five days after a realtor complained about asbestos exposure at his workplace, he was fired. Now his company, CMM Realty in Columbia, South Carolina, has been sued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allegedly retaliating against a whistleblower. OSHA is asking the court to reinstate the unnamed employee, and pay him $56,222 in back wages and compensatory damages, reports WISTV. The company is appealing a previous OSHA order from last November to the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, where it is currently being reviewed.
OSHA Targets Health Hazards In Metals Factories
To raise awareness of the health problems associated with exposure to metal dusts and fumes, carbon monoxide, lead and silica, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is targeting the metals industry with a new initiative. The National Emphasis Program (NEP) is designed to "identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to harmful chemical and physical hazards in establishments producing metal products," such as establishments that make nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping and copper and aluminum products.