- - Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Debate over worker breaks heard by state high court

SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a high-interest case contending restaurant managers must order meal and rest breaks for tens of thousands of workers, rather than leave compliance to their discretion.

The case was initially filed eight years ago against Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and other eateries, by chain restaurant workers complaining of missed breaks in violation of California labor law.

The case has generated immense interest among labor-law lawyers and a variety of industries grappling with defining responsibilities for meal and rest periods.

Attorneys for the workers argue that not ordering the breaks is a passive way to take advantage of workers who don’t want to leave colleagues at busy times.

Brinker’s attorney countered that requiring businesses to control the breaks of workers is unmanageable and that taking such breaks should be left to the discretion of employees.

The court’s decision is due in 90 days.


6-foot alligator caught outside church

JACKSON — Police caught a 6-foot-long alligator that was spotted roaming the property of a southern Michigan church.

A motorist driving past the Pathway Community Church near Jackson saw the reptile Monday and called police.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported that officers slipped a noose around the alligator’s head and secured its mouth with duct tape.

Police say the alligator is in good health and will be sent to a sanctuary.

Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Department Deputy Director Jon Johnston said the alligator was probably only recently released into the wild. Mr. Johnston said the animal would not have been able to survive the harsh temperatures of the approaching Michigan winter.


Oil-fouled debris from Exxon spill torched

LAUREL — State workers set fire to an oil-tainted logjam on an island along the Yellowstone River on Tuesday, the last of dozens of debris piles smeared with crude from an Exxon Mobil pipeline break that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil into the waterway.

Two employees of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Derek Yeager and Matt Wolcott, used drip torches to ignite the woody debris as Exxon Mobil contractors looked on.

With a blast of heat and a spiral of smoke, the fire spread quickly through the oil-soaked logs. Just a few hours later, the last of the flames were extinguished with a water hose that had been brought in to keep the blaze from spreading beyond the island.

“Whatever was there is gone now,” Mr. Wolcott said of the oil in the logjam.


Nuclear plant soundness questioned by activists

CLEVELAND — A watchdog group is questioning the soundness of an Ohio nuclear plant where a 30-foot hairline crack was recently discovered.

The crack was found in the thick concrete on the outside of the reactor containment building at the Davis-Besse plant outside Toledo. Further inspections found numerous, tiny cracks on the building’s facade.

The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported that the Union of Concerned Scientists has written the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking whether the concrete walls were built to adequate engineering specifications.

The NRC said Monday that the letter is being reviewed. Plant owner FirstEnergy Corp. says that the walls were designed properly and that the building has been inspected thoroughly.

The plant has been shut down for installation of a new 82-ton reactor head, replacing one that cracked.


Foul play suspected in missing boy’s case

BELLEVUE — Police said Tuesday they suspect a crime in the disappearance of a 2-year-old boy whose mother claimed he disappeared when she left him alone in a car for an hour last weekend.

“Given the limited amount of information we have, the fact that there’s really no solid leads to follow up on in regard to where he might be - absolutely, we suspect foul play,” Bellevue Police Maj. Mike Johnson told KING-TV.

The boy’s mother, Julie Biryukova, reported that her car ran out of gas Sunday morning in Bellevue, a city of 122,000 across Lake Washington from Seattle, police said. She told investigators she left Sky in the unlocked vehicle and walked with her 4-year-old daughter about a mile to a gas station. When she returned to the car, Sky was gone, she said.

Investigators searched a 20-block area and even went door-to-door but found no sign of the toddler. There was no gas can at the car, which started easily, police said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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