Auto Club Fires 27 Workers

For Posting Notes on a Blog

SAN DIEGO -- The Automobile Club of Southern California fired 27 employees for posting messages on a social networking Web site after a worker complained about feeling harassed by the comments. The messages were written by employees on the Web site on their own time at home.

Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp said comments were made about other workers' weight and sexual orientation and that the fired employees discussed online how they planned to slow down roadside assistance at work.

"That hits right at our basic service," she said. "You can't just go on and say anything about anybody -- and keep your job."

Thorp said the club has no official policy on employee blogging. "We may develop one now," she said.

* BOSTON -- As it struggles to improve its financial condition by selling churches, the Boston Archdiocese is facing an unfamiliar expense: property taxes. Under state law, houses of worship are exempt, but more than 60 churches have closed under a major restructuring of the archdiocese, and local assessors are beginning to see them as taxable property. "What the law says is that a church or a house of religious worship has to be owned by the tax-exempt entity and occupied for religious services or instruction," said Marlene Locke, chief assessor for the town of Danvers, who recently billed the archdiocese $13,450 for the closed St. Alphonsus Church.

* SOMIS, Calif. -- For the second time in a week, an Amtrak train collided with a dump truck crossing tracks. In the crash Friday in southern California, 20 people were hurt, including two in the truck, officials said. On Tuesday, a train hit a truck crossing the tracks in North Carolina, killing the two men in the truck.

* HARLINGEN, Tex. -- An ex-convict who pleaded no contest to sexually abusing his 8-year-old daughter was sentenced to 320 hours of community service crocheting blankets. The seemingly lenient sentence provoked an outcry, but the prosecutor said he had been ready to dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

* ORLANDO -- Medical examiners said there were no signs of trauma on the body of Jerra Kirby, 12, of Newport News, who died after collapsing Thursday in a wave pool at a Walt Disney World water park.

* LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- At the birthplace of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago, survivors of those deadly blasts joined with hundreds of people in support of a global ban on nuclear weapons. Elsewhere, peace activists gathered in Las Vegas, near the Nevada Test Site, for seminars on eliminating nuclear weapons, while near Oak Ridge, Tenn., protesters held a moment of silence and 15 were arrested for blocking a road outside the heavily guarded weapons factory that helped fuel the bomb during World War II. At Los Alamos, a group of veterans offered an opposing message, with one sign reading: "If there hadn't been a Pearl Harbor, there wouldn't have been a Hiroshima."

-- From News Services