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In brief: FAA orders oxygen systems back in jet restrooms

From Wire Reports

NEW YORK – Federal aviation officials will order airlines to put oxygen systems back in jet restrooms, reversing a decision last year to remove them because of fears that terrorists could use them to start a fire during flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that restoring the oxygen systems over the next three years will “eliminate a hazard that could jeopardize flight safety.” The new equipment is supposed to be harder to tamper with, although federal officials haven’t yet approved any designs.

The rule covers about 5,500 planes and will cost airlines $44.2 million to comply, the FAA estimates.

In February 2011, the FAA quietly told airlines to drain or remove the oxygen systems. It publicly disclosed the order a month later. The FAA said notifying the public before the systems were disabled was “contrary to the public interest,” suggesting it feared tipping off terrorists to the possibility of using an oxygen system in an attack.

At the time, the FAA described the 2011 order as temporary but said it might take two to four years to devise new oxygen systems that weren’t vulnerable to tampering.

Battleship Texas closed

HOUSTON – The 100-year-old Battleship Texas, the last remaining dreadnaught that fought in World Wars I and II, closed indefinitely Monday as staff try to repair several holes allowing nearly 2,000 gallons of water per minute into the vessel, the ship’s manager Andy Smith said Monday.

The leaks plaguing the ship, which fought as the USS Texas, have highlighted the need to enact a multimillion-dollar plan to dry-dock the vessel, removing it from the salty waters of Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel, where it has sat for several decades.

“The ship is not as good as she was. She’s leaking, again,” Smith said, the frustration clear in his voice. “I think she’s getting persnickety in her old age.”

Newseum for free

WASHINGTON – The Newseum is waiving its admission fee for visitors ages 18 and under during the summer months.

The museum about journalism and the First Amendment announced Monday that it will offer free admission for youth today through Labor Day. That’s a savings of $12.95 per child.

WTOP Radio is sponsoring the summer deal to provide free admission for youth.

Puerto Rico’s nature reserve

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A pristine swath of Puerto Rico’s north coast that developers have long coveted is now a nature reserve, ending a bitter and lengthy battle between the government and environmentalists.

Gov. Luis Fortuno signed a law late Monday protecting 1,950 acres of state-owned land from large-scale development, reversing a stance he took several years ago when he revoked its protected status to attract developers and boost the island’s sluggish economy.

Both the House and Senate already had unanimously approved the bill.

Carmen Guerrero, an environmental planner for a local coalition that fought for the designation, said Tuesday that the move is significant because the lands had been considered prime real estate.

“They are smack on the beach,” she said. “We are extremely satisfied and content.”

The property’s turquoise waters and lush vegetation had caught the eye of hotel chains including Marriott International Inc. and Four Seasons Hotels Inc. The new nature reserve designation prohibits construction of large resorts, but allows for ecotourism-related activities, including construction of hotels with a maximum of 70 rooms.

The new reserve makes up 66 percent of what is known as the Northeast Ecological Corridor, located just north of El Yunque rainforest, a popular tourist attraction. The reserve also is considered one of the prime nesting sites for the endangered leatherback turtle.

Tribute to Lonesome George

QUITO, Ecuador – The beloved Galapagos Islands giant tortoise known as Lonesome George will remain a tourist attraction even in death.

Ecuador’s environment minister says the reptile that became a symbol of disappearing species will be embalmed and placed on display on Santa Cruz island.

Minister Marcela Aguinaga told reporters Tuesday that an autopsy determined that Lonesome George died of old age. He was believed to be about 100 years old. He was found dead June 24.

Lonesome George was the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies, and he failed to leave offspring despite the best efforts of conservationists.

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