Beach Cleanup Armies Find Everything - Including the Kitchen Sink
WASHINGTON (AP) - A volunteer crew of beachcombers found half a million cigarette butts, 3,738 syringes and just about every other sort of trash on the nation’s shores - including 10 kitchen sinks.
″All sectors of society have failed to be proper stewards of the coastal and marine environment,″ Patty Debenham, marine debris program manager for the Center for Marine Conservation, said in a report detailing last fall’s annual cleanup.
Center officials said it was difficult to make meaningful comparisons in the amount of trash picked up from year-to-year, but offered highlights of the latest collection.
-Plastic was the most abundant source of trash, suggesting that an international treaty banning plastic dumping at sea is widely violated.
-The biggest single item was cigarette butts - 531,828 of them, or the equivalent of 26,591 packs of cigarettes.
-Medical wastes constituted just 0.09 percent of all trash.
-Exactly 26,536 balloons were found.
-Those kitchen sinks turned up in Citrus County, Fla.; Eastport, Maine; Buckroe Beach, Va.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; Indian River County, Fla.; Lake Erie, N.Y.; New York City; Ommelanden Park, Del.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Portland, Maine.
The annual cleanup has been growing steadily since the first event was held in Oregon in 1984. It became a national event in 1988.
--- Pentagon Says Most Reserves Will Be Home Soon
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon has good news for reservists serving in the Persian Gulf - most will be home by the Fourth of July.
Stephen Duncan, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, also defended the Pentagon’s policy of keeping thousands of reservists on active duty months after the Gulf War ended, saying their skills were needed and that volunteer reservists must be prepared for such hardships.
Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, questioned Duncan at length during a hearing Thursday about complaints that prolonged service for reservists is causing needless loss of income and disrupting educations.
Cranston said he had received more than 100 letters from reservists and their families frustrated by the length of their active duty. He said doctors were losing their practices, rural communities were without doctors and students had lost credit from the school term ending this spring and might not be able to enroll in the fall.
″Please get us home while there is some yellow ribbon left,″ he quoted one letterwriter as saying.
Of 228,000 reservists and National Guard members called up in support of the Operation Desert Shield buildup against Iraq and the Operation Desert Storm fighting, 118,000 were still on active duty 2 1/2 months after the fighting ended, Cranston said.
″They should not be kept on for the convenience of the military and doing jobs that could be turned over to active-duty personnel or contractors,″ he said.
Duncan said many reservists have stayed in the Gulf because the Army depends on the reserves for some 70 percent of its combat support and supply work, and those reserve units are playing a key role in demobilization.
--- Air Passenger Fee System Moves Step Forward
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Transportation Department has taken initial steps to allow the nation’s airports to charge passenger fees of up to $3 each to help build and expand air facilities.
Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner says that under the program, authorized by Congress in 1990, airports could collect more than $1 billion a year in revenue from the fees, known as passenger facility charges.
The department on Thursday issued regulations needed to launch the system. But officials said it could take a year before the first fees are charged.
Skinner called the program ″a major step in the effort to increase airport capacity.″ He said the added capacity will also spur competition among U.S. airlines.
Skinner said the system would open the door for new airlines to enter the market by barring exclusive long-term lease arrangements with one airline in airport facilities paid for by the fees.
The department said its regulations give airports the flexibility to tailor expansion paid for by the new fee to their special needs.
Under the program, airports could impose fees of up to $3 for each departing passenger as well as for passengers making connecting flights.
The regulations bar charging any individual passenger more than four fees on a round trip.
Money raised from the fees may be used ″to enhance the capacity, safety or security of the air transportation system, promote competition, reduce noise or expand passenger facilities,″ the department said.
Airlines which will collect the new fee, usually when the ticket is purchased, will be compensated for the service.
The department said airlines will be allowed to keep 12 cents for each fee collected in the first three years of the program and eight cents after that.
Airlines will also be permitted to keep interest earned on the fees collected until the money is turned over to the airports each month.
--- Bush Pledges to Work Hard to Have Space Station Funds Restored
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush says he will actively campaign to reverse a congressional panel’s decision to scuttle NASA’s space station project.
″He expressed his view that he is absolutely committed to the space station,″ Richard Truly, the space agency’s chief, said Thursday. ″I think you are going to see him very publicly supportive, just as he has always been in the space program.″
The space station’s future was clouded last week when a House Appropriations subcommittee approved only $100 million of the $2 billion the administration had asked for the station for next year. That amount would not be enough to pay the $250 million to $500 million estimated cost of canceling the 7-year-old program.
″The president is very disturbed that the space station was zeroed out,″ said Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. and chairman of the Senate subcommittee that allocates money going to space projects. The subcommittee’s House counterpart recently denied NASA the $2 billion it sought for the project.
″This is beyond an attack just on the space station,″ said Sen. Jake Garn of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee. ″Some would like to simply cancel human space flight in the future, so it’s a very serious juncture for the space program.″
The president, along with chief of staff John Sununu and budget director Richard Darman, met with Mikulski, Garn and Truly to develop a strategy to secure financing for the project. None of the participants would say what that plan entails, except that Bush would be involved.
The $30 billion space station is by far the biggest project on NASA’s plate for the rest of the decade and into the 21st Century. NASA’s space flight chief, William B. Lenoir, said earlier in the week that without the station, NASA might go into a hiatus of five to 10 years.