Senator Maria Cantwell's Weekly Memo
Protecting Pacific Northwest Orcas and Relocating "Luna"
Like many of you, I am deeply concerned about the recent decline in our region's orca population. The plight of one orca in particular, L98, or "Luna," illustrates the scope of the problem. Luna has been separated from his pod for over two years, and his behavior in isolated Nootka Sound has grown increasingly erratic, endangering himself and nearby boaters.
This is clearly an unsustainable situation and we must commit our best efforts to reuniting Luna with his fellow Southern Resident orcas. That's why I was pleased to announce yesterday that NOAA Fisheries is dedicating $100,000 to support Luna's relocation. These funds will be made available through NOAA's orca research program, which will now include Luna in the Southern Resident orca recovery plan. By successfully relocating Luna with his pod, scientists will be able to learn important information about the Southern orcas' migratory and social behavior.
But this action is not about saving just one orca; this information will help us more effectively safeguard all of the region's orcas. Through my amendment last year, $750,000 was appropriated to support research efforts to study Northwest orcas, and I am pleased that earlier this year, at my request, the Senate included $1.5 million in the Commerce-State-Justice appropriations bill for continued support of the recovery plan.
I was grateful to be joined at yesterday's event by staff from NOAA Fisheries, Washington state and Canadian officials, and other stakeholders. Their presence signifies a timely dedication of other resources their respective agencies may provide to help achieve our common goal: the relocation of Luna and the protection of all Pacific Northwest orcas.
Canning "Spam" Email
Last week I voted with a bipartisan majority of the Senate to pass the CAN SPAM Act, which will impose limitations and penalties on the transmission of the unsolicited commercial email known as "spam." Spam now accounts for half of all email messages, and is a major irritant to consumers and businesses alike. It exposes computer users - often young children - to pornography, sexual predators, fraudulent schemes, and other unwanted or harmful messages. Spam costs American business close to $10 billion dollars each year in lost productivity, additional infrastructure costs, and legal fees - costs that are ultimately borne by consumers.
The global nature of this problem and the anonymity that the Internet affords spammers makes it impossible for states or individuals alone to take meaningful steps to reduce the impact of this nuisance, and self-regulation is simply not an option.
I helped change the bill to allow states and Internet Service Providers to enforce the law, lower the standard of proof that must be met to successfully prosecute spammers, and apply prohibitions on mislabeling and harvesting personal information to all commercial email.
Helping Veterans in Need
Over the weekend, members of my staff helped area veterans as part of the fourth annual Veterans Benefits Assistance Fair and Stand Down, which was hosted by the Yakama Nation. Veterans were offered a meal and access to a number of free services, including haircuts, dental screenings, flu shots, and clothing. Veterans Affairs (VA) personnel shared information about disability claims, legal services, home loans, and employment assistance. Stand Down is a national program that has helped over 100,000 of America's neediest veterans since the first Stand Down in 1988.
Washington state residents who have a question about their veterans' benefits should not hesitate to call my offices for assistance. Caseworkers are available in person at my state offices in Seattle and Spokane. In addition to veterans' benefits, they provide help to constituents for a wide range of federal programs and agencies, including Medicare, Social Security, Immigration, and Housing and Urban Development. If you need help, please contact one of my offices. We work for you.
In May 2003, Congress passed legislation to create the President's Global AIDS Initiative, which calls for $15 billion over the next five years to combat AIDS in Africa. The initiative's goals include preventing seven million new infections, providing antiretroviral drugs for two million HIV-infected people, and caring for ten million individuals, including AIDS orphans, in twelve African countries, as well as Haiti and Guyana. Unfortunately, the Administration has provided only half of the funding authorized for the program this year, and it has failed to identify a source of revenue for future spending.
Fighting HIV/AIDS is not just a global health issue, it's a national security issue. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said "AIDS is more devastating than any terrorist attack, any conflict, or any weapon of mass destruction." It's critical that we fully fund the Global AIDS Initiative. That's why this week, I'll support an amendment to the foreign operations appropriations bill to provide full funding, and why I'll keep working to support this vital initiative.