A8 THE HAYS DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28,2006 Property rights dispute delays federal cleanup By LARA JAKES JORDAN ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Massive amounts of hurricane wreckage — if piled atop a football field it would reach almost 2 miles into the air — remain on the Gulf Coast. Yet the Bush administration says it can't clear it quickly without trampling private property rights. Local officials say that with hurricane season under way, the delay could hamper another government duty: public safety. Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, about one- sixth of the debris that littered Gulf Coast communities remains — an estimated 20 million cubic yards. Much of the rubble is from damaged homes and businesses that the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it cannot clear away without first getting approval from property owners and insurers. "We're in hurricane season now, and the stuff is going to go flying all over if we have another storm," said Mamie Winter, environmental director in Jefferson Parish, La., which borders New Orleans and extends to the Gulf of Mexico. "We need to get this up and stop quibbling over whether it's eligible." The controversy comes as FEMA considers whether to continue paying the full cost of removing debris in the hurricane disaster area, a program slated to end Friday. Local officials in New Orleans and surrounding parishes called Tuesday for extending the deadline, calling themselves cash-strapped as they try to manage other priorities. Without the extra aid, Washington will pay for 90 percent of debris removal cost, with local governments picking up the remaining 10 percent. FEMA estimates it has so far paid $3.6 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors to remove about 98.6 million cubic yards of debris from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Most of it has been on streets, sidewalks, curbs and other public property. Nearly all the remaining wreckage is in Louisiana and Mississippi, said James Walke, who oversees debris issues for FEMA's public assistance division. The agency is waiting for local officials to clear building demolitions with property owners — what Walke called "a slow process." "It's private property," Walke said. "We can't go on ALEX BRANDON /Associated Press New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin gets in his car to leave a press conference where five parish heads came together at a debris reduction site Tuesday In Chalmette, La., to ask for an extension of the federally funded debris removal programs. folks' property without their permission — that's one of the values that we hold dear in our democracy. There are due process considerations." Asked about safety concerns the remaining rubble poses, Walke said, "I think any imminent threats that require swift action — that time has long passed." Both sides agree the problem largely stems from thousands of hurricane evacuees who have yet to return to their abandoned homes and approve demolition. As many as 15,000 buildings are slated for demolition once local authorities gain property owners' permission, Corps officials said. The removal will all but be "a long, drawn-out affair," said Allen Morse, the Corps' debris removal expert. "People are coming back slowly and spottily when demolition decisions need to be made," Morse said. FEMA expects the process to pick up this summer, when displaced evacuees who were waiting for their children's' school years to end can make their way back home. Walke also noted that state and local laws might allow demolitions or debris removal from private property But legal and political science scholars said FEMA at least should use its records of evacuees' disaster benefits to more actively seek their approval, since the agency can locate them more easily than local officials. Surgeon general: Only smoke-free places fully protect nonsmokers By LAURAN NEERGAARD ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON — Steer clear of smokers and any of their drifting fumes. That's the advice of the surgeon general, who on Tuesday declared the debate about the dangers, of secondhand smoke over. "The science is clear: Secondhand 'smoke is not a mere annoy- 1 ance but a serious health hazard," said Richard Carmona. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke — even a few minutes inhaling someone else's smoke harms nonsmokers, he found. And separate smoking sections, even the best ventilated ones, don't protect enough. Carmona called for completely smoke-free U.S. flag proposal fails WASHINGTON (AP) — The narrow defeat of a proposal to ban flag desecration marks the second time in a month Senate Republicans have lost bids to amend the Constitution in ways designed to inspire social conservatives to vote in the midterm elections. The 66-34 tally on the flag amendment Tuesday was one less than the two-thirds, or 67 votes, required to send it to the states for ratification. The House cleared the two-thirds threshold last year, 286130. Sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the amendment read: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States." A proposed amendment earlier this month to ban gay marriage suffered a more decisive defeat, killed on a test vote. Winning isn't the only goal for those measures or other social policy proposals congressional Republicans will bring up this year in an effort to energize their base of voters. House Republicans intend to hold votes this summer and fall touching on abortion, guns, religion and other priority issues for social conservatives, part of an attempt to improve the party's prospects in the midterm elections. The "American Values Agenda" also includes the gay marriage amendment, a prohibition on human cloning and possibly votes on several popular tax cuts. The flag amendment's cliffhanger defeat a week before Independence Day represented Congress' response to Supreme Court rulings in 1989 and 1990 that burning and other desecration of the flag are protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution. buildings and public places to lessen what he termed "involuntary smoking." More than 126 million nonsmoking Americans are regularly exposed to someone else's tobacco smoke, and tens of thousands die each year as a result, concludes the eTQi-page'study Itcites^'over- J whelm'ing^seiefitific evidence'"" 1 ' " that secondhand smoke Causes heart disease, lung cancer and a' list of other illnesses. The report is sure to fuel efforts by states and cities to ban smoking in workplaces and other public spaces. Seventeen states and more than 400 towns, cities and counties have passed strong no- smoking laws. But public smoking bans don't reach inside private homes, where just over one in five children breathes their parents' smoke — and youngsters' still developing bodies are especially vulnerable. Secondhand smoke puts children at risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, as well as bronchitis, pneumonia, worsening asthma attacks, poor lung gro\vth' and ear'" infections,' 'the report! found;'' ; '" : ' Carmona implored parents' who can't kick the habit to smoke outdoors, never in a house or a car with a child. Opening a window to let the smoke out won't protect them. "Stay away from smokers," he urged everyone else. Repeatedly questioned about how the Bush administration would implement his findings, Carmona would only pledge to publicize the report in hopes of encouraging anti-smoking advocacy Passing anti-smoking laws is up to Congress and state and local governments, he said. Still, public health advocates said ^mftP^ffli^emfeini, an already growing movement toward rnpre smoke-free' workplaces'.'' "Th'is could be the mos'f'influ- ential surgeon general's report in 15 years," said Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "The message to governments is: The only way to protect your citizens is comprehensive smoke-free laws." The report won't surprise doctors. It isn't a new study but a compilation of the best research on secondhand smoke done since the: -j<\ last surgeon general's report on" " the topic in 1986, which declared. ; ,. : secondhand smoke a cause of lung cancer that kills 3,000 nonsmokers a year. CHOICE FOR TREASURY SECRETARY SMS... Competitive edge is what U,S, needs WASHINGTON (AP) — Treasury Secretary-designate Henry Paulson pledged Tuesday to review a once-secret program that allowed the government to access a massive international database of financial information to catch terrorists financiers. "If confirmed, I'll be all over it ... and make sure I understand the law thoroughly," Paulson, a 32-year veteran of Wall Street, told the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing that touched on a wide range of topics. Sen. Max Baucus, D- Mont., was upset that the administration did not brief the Senate Finance Committee on the terror-tracking program, which has stirred some concern among privacy advocates and some Democrats. Last week's public disclosure of the program's existence, angered the Bush administration, which said it could hobble their efforts to shut down avenues for terrorist fundraising. In response to a request by Baucus, Paulson pledged to personally review the program after he takes the Treasury helm. Paulson said that he would have to "get my arms around" the issue of a program that the Treasury Department has used since shortly after the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks, to track activity by suspected terrorist financiers. He said he had not been briefed on the program, but said that weighing people's financial privacy with fighting the global war on terror is a delicate balancing act. Paulson's nomination is not expected to hit any significant roadblocks. ||he pjanjl&chpirman, SemnJn >, Crrack'Gifassre^^R-Iowa; has said '• heTiope3Tn"e"nbniinatipn would "• be approved by the full Senate by the start of the July 4 congressional recess. Paulson If you do not receive your paper by 5:00 p.m. in Hays, 6:00 p.m. outside of Hays, Monday through Friday or by 7:00 a.m. on Sunday ... or if a problem persists and you are unable to work it out with your carrier, we would like to know about it. Please call our Circulation Department at ... 785-628-1081 or Toll Free 800-657-601 7 8:00 A.M. TO 7:00 P.M. MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY 7:00 A.M. TO 10:00 A.M. SUNDAY We will do our best to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible. Russell Livestock Commission Company, Inc. Russell S. 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