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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is calling for a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the coasts of Florida.

"Our economic well-being and our environmental health hangs in the balance," the Tampa Democrat said during a news conference on Tuesday.

She appeared with the Sierra Club, Environment America and other groups that say they have collected nearly 400,000 comments from U.S. citizens opposing an expansion of drilling.

The reaction comes as the comment period ends on President Barack Obama's five-year plan to expand drilling, announced before the BP disaster - a plan that is now in limbo.

The coalition wants to push more alternative energy sources, such as windmills. Obama and others agree with that goal but say it will take a while to wean the United States off of oil.

Politically, an all-out ban is a struggle despite the catastrophe in the gulf. Not even all members of Congress from Florida endorse one.

Castor acknowledged the hurdle but said she believes a grass-roots movement will eventually prevail. "All I can do is continue to reflect the anger and frustration and desire for a change in policy that folks back home are calling for."

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Judge will hear drill ban appeal in July

A federal appeals court in New Orleans will hear the government's appeal on July 8 of a ruling overturning the deepwater drilling ban in the Gulf of Mexico. The six-month moratorium was ordered in late May by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A group of offshore petroleum service companies sued, saying the moratorium would inflict long-term economic damage. A federal judge agreed with the companies and barred the government from enforcing the ban.

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U.S. accepts help from other nations

NEW ORLEANS - The United States is accepting help from 12 countries and international organizations in dealing with the spill, the State Department said Tuesday.

More than 30 countries and international organizations have offered help. Most have offered skimmers, boom or dispersant chemicals.

A chart on the State Department's website indicated offers have been accepted from six countries - Canada, Mexico, Croatia, Holland, Norway and Japan. Offers also were accepted from two groups - the International Maritime Organization and the Monitoring and Information Center, which is operated by the European Commission.

The two organizations are offering technical assistance. Mexico, Norway, Holland and Japan are providing skimmers; Canada is providing containment boom; and Croatia is pitching in with technical advice.

Only one offer has been rejected, according to the chart. Dispersant chemicals offered by France are not approved for use in the United States.

Almost all the countries and groups expect to be paid for their help, although the technical coordination from the two international groups and some containment boom offered by Mexico are free.

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Facebook takes down anti-BP site for a bit

BP says it had nothing to do with Facebook's decision to briefly take down a page set up by users that advocates boycotting over the oil spill.

BP spokesman Toby Odone said Tuesday that BP did not complain to Facebook about the "Boycott BP" page that had been set up using the popular social networking site.

An attorney for the advocacy group Public Citizen said in a statement that the page, which boasts nearly 23,000 monthly active users, was shut down late Monday and restored early Tuesday.

Facebook says its automated systems disabled the profile of the page's administrator, which removed all the content that had been created. Facebook reinstated the content after determining the profile was mistakenly removed.

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Company will help struggling stations

BP says it will give cash and other help to the owners, operators and suppliers of the gas stations around America that bear its name. They say they have been struggling because of boycotts prompted by the spill.

John Kleine of the BP Amoco Marketers Association says outlets will get cash based on volume, with the rates being higher for outlets in the gulf area than for those elsewhere in the country. They also will see reductions in credit card fees and get help with national advertising.

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Amount BP North America - the energy giant's U.S. subsidiary - has donated in the past seven years to political groups, partisan organizations and campaigns engaged in federal and state elections. BP proclaims in its corporate code of conduct that it will "make no political contributions, whether in cash or in kind, anywhere in the world." But its most generous corporate contributions - totaling about $4 million - have gone to two Republican-aligned political action groups working to defeat state ballot initiatives in California and Colorado that could have raised oil and gas industry taxes. A BP spokesman said its policy bans contributions only to individual candidates, and does not apply to contributions to political advocacy groups.

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"Why don't we just rename the water in the gulf 'H20 Black'?"

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart deadpanned about the renaming of the Minerals Management Service. The new name, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement - or BOE for short - is designed to emphasize regulatory and enforcement responsibilities of the troubled agency, which is part of the Interior Department. Now the Obama administration must convince a skeptical Congress that the agency will be any better at policing offshore drilling.

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report, which contains information from the Associated Press and Washington Post.