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The QueQue

The QueQue: Castro stumps for marriage equality, Plastic bag reduction sagging, Active-duty military suicides jump

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Plastic bags suck. Not only do they litter the Texas landscape and clog sewer lines but they break down into an environmental poison in our lakes, rivers, and ocean. Several Texas cities are phasing them out as a result. Brownsville and Fort Stockton banned them outright. Austin is moving toward a ban on both single-use plastic and paper bags. South Padre Island only allows compostable disposables. San Antonio, however, is pursuing a softer route, aiming instead to merely reduce plastic bag use by 25 percent while upping recycling by a similar amount. City Manager Sheryl Sculley briefed the Council on the limited successes on limited ambitions before lunch on Thursday. According to a delayed first-quarter report, recycling may turn out to be the easy part. While an effort involving five major retailers saw a 26 percent uptick in recycling the bags, there has been no reduction in their use.

When interviewed later in the day, SA Solid Waste Director David McCary said there will always be a place for plastic bags in San Antonio (QueQue assumes he means bags of the big, black variety) and defended the progress made to date ("You're probably seeing more designer reusable bags then ever before. The community gets it.") before admitting that the poor results should send a signal to participating retailers, including H-E-B, Target, WalMart, Walgreens, and JC Penny. "No matter how many reusable bags people buy, you still need cashiers to always remind everybody," he said. The poor numbers "let's [retailers] know more work has to be done. We have to strike up that communication and not assume the consumer knows." Future outreach efforts with Keep San Antonio Beautiful include a bag swap (your plastic for their reusables) at the Pearl Brewery Complex and cleanups at areas of high bag litter.

Active-duty military suicides jump

In an alarming mix of bad news/better news, U.S. Army officials announced last week that suicides among active duty soldiers hit an all-time high in 2011, though troop suicide, including within non-mobilized National Guard and Reserve units, has finally started to decrease after climbing steadily for years. The numbers come from a new U.S. Army report, "Generating Health and Discipline in the Force," reviewing the overall health of a military that's seen a decade of war. Officials said 164 active duty Army, National Guard, and Reserve troops committed suicide in 2011 — the highest since the Army began tracking the number — compared to 159 in 2010 and 162 in 2009. The report also found: "Many Soldiers who are suffering from behavioral health issues or "invisible wounds" remain undetected throughout the Force, suffering in silence in Army formations at camps, posts and stations and — within the Reserve Component — across communities nationwide."

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