Clothing left at airport security checkpoints to go to veterans
by Ruth Tam
WASHINGTON - Recently, 180 pounds of clothing were boxed up and given to the Vietnam Veterans of America. The provider? Maybe you.
Under the Clothe a Homeless Hero Act, the Transportation Security Administration has begun donating clothing forgotten at airport security checkpoints to local veterans' organizations and charities.
On Thursday, Reagan National Airport joined other airports in the nationwide effort, packing two months' worth of discarded clothing into trucks headed to VVA distribution centers. Before the act was signed into law, forgotten clothing was either donated to canine units for scent training or discarded.
"Now we're going to be segregating clothing at our lost-and-found office," said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Rob Yingling. "If it's coming from the checkpoint, it's going to the veterans. If it's lost elsewhere in the airport, it'll go to the canines."
At National Airport, clothes are forgotten at a rate of "hundreds of pounds a year," Yingling said. Everything from discarded outerwear to full suitcases is left behind. Each airport has its own lost-and-found system. Depending on the state, unclaimed items that are not clothing often are picked up by government-surplus agencies and liquidated on websites like GovDeals.com, said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. Now, airports will donate clothing to local veterans' organizations in accordance with their lost-and-found policies.
The Clothe a Homeless Hero Act was introduced last summer by Rep. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., who said the legislation was doubly inspired by veterans she met in Afghanistan and a room full of discarded clothing at the airport in Buffalo, where she hunted down a scarf she had forgotten in a security bin a week before.
The bill was approved by Congress in late 2012, and President Barack Obama signed it in January days before he began his second term.
In March, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, one of two female combat veterans in Congress, introduced legislation to ease airport screening procedures for soldiers and veterans who are wounded or disabled.
Sharon Hodge, VVA's associate director of government affairs, noted that national airports already expedite screening for vets. Gabbard's effort "would mandate that every airport complies."
Supporting veterans in every way possible is a priority for Hodge. Working on the first clothing collection for veterans Thursday was emotional, she said.
Hodge added: "It's the first time I've seen congressional law benefit the individuals it was intended for."
Suspected U.S. drone strike kills 4 in Yemen; U.S. citizens urged to leave
From the Associated Press
A suspected U.S. drone killed four alleged al-Qaida members in Yemen on Tuesday, as the State Department ordered the U.S. Embassy there evacuated as a result of the threat by al-Qaida that has triggered temporary shutdowns of 19 American diplomatic posts across the Muslim world.
The draone fired a missile at a car carrying the four men in the al-Arqeen district of Marib province, setting it on fire and killing all of them, officials said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to talk to the media, believed that one of the dead is Saleh Jouti, a senior al-Qaida member.
The strike is the fourth in less than two weeks. Three similar attacks have hit cars belonging to alleged al-Qaida figures in southern Yemen.
Meanwhile, a statement issued Tuesday says the State Department has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen “due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks.”
The travel warning says U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart and calls the security threat level in Yemen “extremely high.”
A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat told The Associated Press that the current shutdown was instigated by an intercepted secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and his deputy in Yemen about plans for a major terror attack.
Yemeni authorities released the names of 25 wanted al-Qaida suspects on Monday, saying they were planning terrorist attacks in the capital, Sanaa, and other cities across the country.
A statement from Yemen's Interior Ministry said the suspects were going to target foreign offices and organizations, as well as Yemeni government installations in the impoverished Arab country. It said security was beefed up around embassies, ports, airports, oil installations and power stations.
The statement listed some allegedly senior figures in the branch, known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi nationals Ibrahim Mohammed el-Rubaish and Ibrahim Hassan el-Assiri.
El-Rubaish was released from Guantanamo in 2006 and is believed to have played significant roles in al-Qaida's expanding offshoot in Yemen. He is a theological adviser to the group and his writings and sermons are prominent in the group's literature.
The Yemeni statement said security forces will pay $23,000 to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to the arrests of any of the wanted men.
Washington considers the al-Qaida branch in Yemen among the terror network's most dangerous and has launched drone strikes against its top figures in Yemen.
The United States has also assisted Yemen's military in fighting the militants who, at one point during the country's recent political turmoil, had overrun large sections of land in the south. The group has also carried out bold assassination attacks on Yemeni security forces, killing hundreds over the past two years.
Drunk walking leads to pedestrian fatalities
by Joan Lowy
A new study released Monday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that walking while intoxicated is a major cause of pedestrian death.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Just as drinking and driving can be deadly, so can drinking and walking. Over a third of U.S. pedestrians killed in 2011 had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit for driving, according to government data released Monday.
Thirty-five percent of those killed, or 1,547 pedestrians, had blood alcohol content levels of .08 or higher, the legal limit for driving, according to data reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by state highway departments.
Among the 625 pedestrians aged 25- to 34-years-old who were killed, half were alcohol impaired. Just under half the pedestrians killed who were in their early 20s and their mid-30s to mid-50s were also impaired. Only among pedestrians age 55 or older or younger than age 20 was the share of those killed a third or less.
By comparison, 13 percent of drivers involved in crashes in which pedestrians were killed were over the .08 limit.
Overall, about a third of traffic fatalities in 2011 — 31 percent, or 9,878 deaths — were attributable to crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released the data as he kicked off a new effort to reduce pedestrian deaths. There were 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. That was up 3 percent from the previous year.
Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, said anti-drunk driving campaigns may be encouraging more people to walk home after a night of drinking.
Alcohol can impair pedestrians' judgment and lead them to make bad decisions, like crossing a road in the wrong place, crossing is against the light, or "trying to beat a bus that's coming," he said.
There is no data on an increase in alcohol-impaired bicycle fatalities, but there has been discussion at safety conferences around the country about what appears to be the beginning of a trend, Adkins said.
Safety advocates have been warning for several years that they're also seeing more cases of distracted walking. Several studies show that people who are talking on their cellphones while walking make more mistakes.