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Today’s News Headlines from Alabama 810 News

  • Fire at Anniston Army Depot
  • More plagiarism at JSU
  • Smoking ordinance enforced in Oxford
  • Lincoln accident among most costly

Fire at Anniston Army Depot 

Army officials say that A fire at the Anniston Army Depot Monday evening burst several containers containing a radioactive gas, threatening a warehouse of contaminated material. The Army discovered the smoke about 7 p.m. Monday and the fire was extinguished within 30 minutes. The fire was ignited by a chemical reaction from hydrogen peroxide on oily paper towels. Radioactive tritium gas was sharing the warehouse and caught fire. All of the materials were awaiting disposal.  The Army did not release information on the fire until after the Wisconsin nonprofit group Nukewatch released a statement. Army representatives said they had not planned a news release because the fire was so small. Tritium is a radioactive isotope that is a byproduct of nuclear power plants. It also is produced for commercial uses. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said a fair amount of radioactive waste was involved in the fire. The NRC, working from Army reports, estimated that about 100 sources, each with 10 curies of radioactivity, were burned. Sheehan said the contamination was limited to the area where the fire occurred. He said an investigator will visit Anniston within a few days. Another 1,100 radioactive dials or other articles remain at the depot awaiting recycling or disposal in a low-level radioactive landfill. Nukewatch co-director John LaForge said the fire should have been reported to the public. Officials said that the Army reported the fire to the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday. Tritium cannot penetrate the human skin, but it is known to be dangerous if it is inhaled or ingested. It is considered low-level radioactivity, but in recent years studies have found it is more dangerous than previously believed.  



More plagiarism at JSU 

The Birmingham News is reporting today that Jacksonville State University officials are investigating other newspaper columns that appeared under the byline of school President William Meehan after a second instance of plagiarism was brought to their attention. The latest accusation involves a July 4 column, "Important rules about e-mails," which has passages identical to "8 e-mail mistakes that make you look bad," a Microsoft column written about four years ago by Kim Komando, a computer talk-show host and columnist. An Aug. 1 column on stress management also used paragraphs word-for-word from an article on the Merck & Co. Web site. Meehan's column, "Town and Gown," has appeared in the Jacksonville News since his hiring in 2000. It is ghostwritten by Al Harris, the university's retired news director, and other staff members.  Meehan is out of town attending  a higher education partnership retreat and has been unavailable for comment. Komando, who hosts a radio program carried by 400 stations nationwide, told the newspaper that this is not the first time her material has been used without citation. Usually, her lawyers send out a letter asking the person to properly cite the information.  She said what troubles her is this involves a university president, and this is plagiarism. Meehan said earlier in the week that he proofreads the final article before publication.  JSU Vice President for Institutional Advancement Joseph Serviss said the university is reviewing all columns Harris has written for Meehan since his February retirement. The university also has corrected a version of one of the columns that appears on its Web site.


Smoking ordinance enforced in Oxford 

The first court case involving new smoking regulations met its first test in an municipal court Tuesday.  Oxford Municipal Court Judge Stan Allen found Pat Hammond, owner of Pat’s Breakfast and More on U.S. 78, guilty on two counts of violating the cities smoking ordinance. She was fined $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense and a total of $226 in court costs for both violations. The judge ordered that the restaurant cannot allow smoking despite the owner’s arguments that the business operated under the “private function” exemption of the city’s new smoking ordinance. Hammond has two weeks to appeal.  


Lincoln accident among most costly 

A train derailment in Talladega County was among the most costly in the nation between 2001 and 2006 according to a study released Wednesday.  The study by the University of Louisville lists the top 20 derailments in each category for the period. A collision of trains near U.S. 78 along the Coosa River on Jan. 24, 2006, placed among the top 20 hazardous material derailments in terms of cost, according to the study.  The crash injured three railroad workers and cost $2.53 million. About 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 280 pounds of sodium cyanide were spilled in the crash. Residents of Lomar Villa Estates were trapped after the derailment because the only way out of the subdivision was blocked by the trains. Alabama Department of Transportation officials are working with Lincoln city officials to build a second road out of the subdivision.

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