AP answers your questions on the news, from state immigration bills to sucking up spilled oil

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ask AP: Immigration bills, sucking up spilled oil

It’s a simple idea that makes sense, at least in theory, as a solution to the Gulf oil spill: Why not just suck up the oil with a massive vacuum device?

A query about the feasibility of such an approach is one of the questions in this edition of “Ask AP,” a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.

If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions@ap.org, with “Ask AP” in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

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I saw a story in the paper with the headline, “Pennsylvania legislators hope to mirror Arizona’s immigration bill,” and I was wondering: Are many other states following suit?

Robert Wainwright

Johnstown, Pa.

After Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a controversial bill against illegal immigration April 23, Republican lawmakers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and South Carolina introduced similar legislation in their state capitols.

The effort in Minnesota died when the legislative session ended May 17, and the bid in South Carolina appears headed for the same fate as lawmakers prepare to adjourn June 3. The legislative session in Pennsylvania runs to early December but the bill has shown little traction yet.

Ann Morse, who monitors immigration legislation for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said lawmakers are wary about paying for anticipated legal challenges and will likely wait to see how the Arizona law fares in court. A lawsuit filed by major civil rights groups Monday in Phoenix, the fifth legal challenge, asks a federal judge to declare the measure unconstitutional and block it from taking effect in late July.

“It seems to me unlikely that something would pass this year,” Morse said.

A Texas legislator, meanwhile, plans to introduce a similar bill in next year’s legislative session.

Elliot Spagat

Associated Press Writer

San Diego

On the Gulf oil spill: I’ve read that they’ve attempted to burn the oil, contain it with booms and have microbes eat it, but all have failed due to weather and sea conditions. Isn’t there some vacuum-type suction device that could suck up at least some of the oil from the surface?

Sonja Hric

Portland, Ore.

BP is using chemical dispersants to fight the oil spill, but at least one high-profile advocate has convinced the company to employ devices that essentially would vacuum up the oil.

Kevin Costner has invested more than $24 million to develop centrifuge devices designed to clean water polluted by oil. He and a business partner, New Orleans attorney John Houghtaling II, successfully lobbied government officials to urge BP to lease the machines from their company, Ocean Therapy Solutions. On Tuesday, a BP official said the devices will be tested within a week.

Houghtaling says the devices are capable of cleaning up to 200 gallons of water per minute, or 210,000 gallons per day, by separating the oil and storing it in tanks.

Houghtaling said Costner has been working on the project for more than a decade, building on technology developed by the federal government, but hadn’t found any takers in the oil industry before this spill.

Mike Kunzelman

Associated Press Writer

New Orleans

Is there any way to obtain one’s credit score without having to pay for it online?

Van Kovacs

Vancouver, Wash.

When most people refer to a credit score, they are talking about a number in a range from 300 to 850 produced using a formula developed by FICO Inc. In general, each individual has three FICO scores, created based on the information filed with the credit reporting agencies TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. The scores may vary based on what information lenders and other companies provide to those agencies.

Federal law requires each of these companies to provide individuals with one copy of their credit report each year, but not their credit score. That may soon change — a proposed amendment to the financial reform legislation currently being debated by Congress would require one free credit score per year as well.

Right now, the only way to get a free score is to apply for a mortgage — if the lender that handles your application uses a credit score, it must be shared with you.

Each of the three agencies, along with FICO Inc. itself, sells access to scores.

Eileen AJ Connelly

AP Personal Finance Writer

New York

Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions@ap.org.

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