September 13: Privacy gets a boost today, as federal regulations restricting the availability of personal information from state motor-vehicle records go into effect. According to the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, access to information such as a driver's name, address, and telephone number will be limited to those seeking it for government, judicial, insurance, or other "legitimate" purposes. In many states this information was obtainable by anyone for a small fee. Those who have availed themselves of it include journalists, marketers, and stalkers. The bill taking effect today is part of the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act; it was prompted in part by the murder of an actress whose killer obtained her address from her record at the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Arts & Letters
September 28: The first retrospective of the works of the American landscape painter Thomas Moran opens today at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. It will include some 100 paintings, among them watercolors of Yellowstone that were instrumental in Congress's decision to make that site the country's first national park. The opening marks the 125th anniversary of the creation of the park. 30: The Pompidou Center, in Paris, closes for two years of renovations. The center, which houses a reference library, a music institute, and a modern-art museum, was intended to receive perhaps 5,000 visitors a day but instead has typically hosted about 25,000 a day -- more than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower combined.
September 1: The 2.2-square-mile ocean dump off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, which has been the primary repository for some 4 million tons of contaminated mud dredged from New York Harbor each year to keep the harbor open to shipping, closes today by order of the federal government, leaving New York and New Jersey officials in search of other means of disposal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed 53 options, including burying the mud on land or in underwater pits, but has incurred opposition from environmentalists, who favor decontamination of the mud, a costly and lengthy process. The Army argues that its solutions are environmentally sound and that halting the dredging of the harbor carries its own environmental risks -- for instance, oil tankers could run aground in narrow channels, and air pollution results when ships are diverted to other ports and their contents trucked to New York.
According to last year's Immigration Reform Act, immigrants who have been in the United States illegally for more than 180 days as of September 28 and who leave the country are ineligible for re-entry for at least three years. And on September 30 a 1994 law that allowed illegal immigrants to pay $1,000 to stay here while their applications for legal status were processed is due to expire. Together these changes amount to a Catch-22: immigrants applying for legal status must go to their native countries for visas allowing them to stay in the United States while their paperwork is processed -- but they cannot return for at least three years if they do. Also this month an international tribunal is expected to finish adjudicating compensation claims brought by those who were interned in Nazi concentration camps while they were U.S. citizens. The claims program grew out of an agreement between the German and U.S. governments. According to one estimate, successful claimants may get $10,000 for each month of internment.