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Residents blame illnesses on toxic gases at a BP plant

TEXAS CITY — While the world was focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP refinery here released huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the air that went unnoticed by residents until many saw their children develop respiratory problems.

For 40 days after a piece of equipment critical to the refinery’s operation broke down, a total of 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, poured out of the refinery.

Rather than taking the costly step of shutting down the refinery to make repairs, the engineers at the plant diverted gases to a smokestack and tried to burn them off, but tens of thousands of pounds still escaped into the air, according to state environmental officials.

Germany appears ready to move away from the draft

BERLIN — For the first time in more than a half-century, Germany’s political leadership appears ready to end the draft, a post-World War II mandate embedded in the constitution to prevent this nation’s military from ever again developing into a state-within-a-state that could impede democracy and start war.

The idea of the draft has become an anachronism in the post-Cold War world, where security concerns have shifted, demanding smaller, professional militaries to deal with hot spots around the world and to combat terrorist threats. Most of the West long ago abandoned conscription.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, also a Christian Democrat, appears ready to accept a political compromise on the subject, one that would preserve the legal requirement of conscription — to calm her own party members — but that would freeze the actual process. Experts said that a decision on the plan was expected by November.

‘Modern Family’ and ‘Mad Men’ win at Emmys

LOS ANGELES — It was the “Glee” misfits versus the “Modern Family” brood at the Primetime Emmys here Sunday night, and the family took the top prize.

The freshman darling of broadcast television, “Modern Family” was the first ABC comedy in more than 20 years to receive the Emmy for outstanding comedy series.

The outstanding drama, for the third year in a row, was “Mad Men,” the drama that put the AMC cable channel on the map.