News Briefs

FEMA housing deadline extended

Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees can stay in Texas motels and hotels at FEMA’s expense through January 7, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced December 9.

The original deadline was December 15.

The extension was approved to accommodate efforts to move all evacuees out of hotels and into apartments and longer-term housing.

“Timing is very important, which is why we are urging a transition sooner than later,” Coachman said in a prepared statement. “And the reasons are multifold: greater availability of apartments, better selection to fit immediate needs, along with a choice of school system and access to mass transit. Other reasons are to avoid the frustrations of a deadline and moving in furniture. Ideally, we want families to be in their home for Christmas and to have a homelike environment for children.”

FEMA says it plans to relocate all Texas evacuees to longer-term housing by the deadline.

Michelle McClelen works for the San Antonio chapter of ACORN, a national organization that works on behalf of low- and moderate-income families; she said of the two-dozen storm survivors who participated in an ACORN rally last month `“Don’t forget about us,” December 1-7, 2005`, many continue to live in local hotels and motels. McClelen said that FEMA officials told ACORN that the federal government is paying for 850 motel/hotel rooms in San Antonio.

One success story is New Orleanian Glenn Oalmann, who was staying at the Alamo Inn and spoke at the November 23 rally. He has found an apartment and is scheduled to meet with Salvation Army officials December 22 about getting furniture.

City officials have negotiated with local landlords to put leases and utilities in the City’s name through March 1. At that time, FEMA will directly compensate evacuees, who will then negotiate with landlords. McClelen said evacuees, while glad to have cash, are also concerned that they will then be required to pay deposits and undergo credit checks in order to rent a house or apartment.

FEMA will require that the money, which will be the equivalent of three months’ rent, be spent on housing. FEMA will renew for another three months provided evacuees have rent receipts. McClelen said evacuees fear they will be penalized by FEMA if they spend the money on other items such as food, medicine, or clothing.

Gay Cowboys 1, Cary Mcnair, 0

As reported in Publisher’s Weekly, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a prestigious private school of 750 students in Austin, Texas decided to forgo a $3 million donation to its building fund rather than pull Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain from its reading list.

According to PW, last year Cary McNair, son of Bill McNair, who owns the NFL team the Houston Texans, pledged the money to the school’s capital campaign, but in May, told the head of the school he wanted the book, which tells the story of a homosexual love affair between two cowboys (not the Dallas kind), removed from the 12th-grade optional reading list.

Two of McNair’s children attend St. Andrew’s, which teaches grades 1-12.

Although St. Andrew’s refused to drop the book, other donors contributed money to the building fund, and the school surpassed its $3 million goal.

Authors of young adult books, who heard about the dustup online, sent the school autographed copies of their works and formed a group called AS IF!—Authors Supporting Intellectual Freedom. The group monitors book censorship in schools nationwide, including a recent controversy in Baltimore where the superintendent of a middle school overruled a committee and ordered Carolyn Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt, and Other Round Things, which touches on issues of date rape, body image, and eating disorders, removed from school libraries.

EPA union opposes proposed rule

The national American Federation of Government Employees sent a letter on December 7 to the Environmental Protection Agency condemning a proposed rule on pesticide testing on humans `See “Pandora’s box,” December 8-14, 2005`.

The AFGE, which represents 6,500 EPA staff and scientists, also formally submitted their comments to the public docket.

The proposed rule governs the protocol followed by third-party testers, such as pesticide manufacturers, when intentionally testing pesticides on humans, including children and pregnant women, if the data would be submitted to EPA for consideration.

“The proposed rule has so many loopholes and exceptions that, if adopted, it could force EPA’s Bargaining Unit to accept data from third-party human studies that were conducted in an unethical manner,” reads the letter, signed by national president John Gage.

EPA has emphatically denied the proposed rule would allow intentional pesticide testing on humans. Critics including Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the Organic Consumers Union have been vocal in their opposition to the proposed rule.

The letter says that the burden of proof for reviewing and arguing against the exemptions “will fall to EPA scientists,” many of them AFGE members. To read the letter, go to this AFGE page.

By Lisa Sorg


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