Around the Block November 20th 2013

Frank's cornerU.S., Afghans work toward agreement on night raids

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — In a phone call Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged “mistakes” and asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to allow American forces to enter Afghan homes in “exceptional circumstances” as the two sides rushed to finalize the wording of a draft security agreement ahead of a meeting of tribal elders who must approve the deal.

Cyber experts: ‘Shut down insecure Obamacare web site now’

“Do any of you think today that the site is secure?”

President Barack Obama’s site is riddled with security flaws that put user data of millions of people at risk and it should be shut down until fixed, several technology experts warned lawmakers on Tuesday.

The testimony at a congressional hearing could increase concerns among many Americans about Obama’s healthcare overhaul, popularly known as Obamacare. Opinion polls show the botched rollout of the online marketplace for health insurance policies has hurt the popularity of the effort.

The website collects personal data such as names, birth dates, social security numbers, email addresses and other information that criminals could use for a variety of scams.

Judge’s road ruling is a travesty

Richfield, Utah – A ruling issued last week by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball has the potential for devastating effects on the region as well as the public’s ability to access federally administered land.

Kimball’s ruling throws the entire travel plan for the 2.1 million acres of land administered by the Bureau of Land Management’s Richfield office into question. How the ruling will ultimately affect motorized access is not yet known, but it carries the possibility of being an economic nightmare for the region.

Off-highway vehicle users represent a significant portion of the tourism industry in south central Utah. If Kimball’s reversal of route designations on BLM land means that OHVs are no longer allowed on the 2.1 million acres of land administered by the Richfield BLM office, the results could be devastating.

The ruling plays right into the positions taken by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other radical environmentalist groups.

Cities Raise Alarms Over EPA’s Surprise Hydrant Lead Rule

Philadelphia has 119 fire hydrants that cost about $2,000 each waiting in a warehouse to be installed, yet they sit high and dry because federal regulators say their fittings might taint drinking water with lead.

The City of Brotherly Love and communities across the U.S. face the specter of hundreds of millions of dollars in useless hydrants after a surprise ruling last month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires fireplugs put in after Jan. 4 meet stricter standards for lead content, said Tom Curtis of the American Water Works Association in Denver. That means cities must scrap or retrofit inventory or buy hydrants and parts that some vendors aren’t even making yet.

Manufacturers and Curtis’s group, which represents utilities that serve about 80 percent of Americans, are urging the agency to reconsider or at least allow more time to comply. American Cast Iron Pipe Co., one of the largest hydrant makers, is seeing some customers delay or cancel orders.

Abortion Fight Grows to Cities as Albuquerque Vetos Limit

Albuquerque became the first U.S. city to reject a ballot measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks, delivering a blow to opponents of the procedure who had hoped to expand their fight beyond courts and state legislatures.

Residents of New Mexico’s largest city voted 55 percent to 45 percent against setting the first municipal-level abortion restrictions on doctors, in a bid to shut down a local clinic.

“You can pretty much expect to see these kinds of direct legislative initiatives popping up on a municipal level all over the country,” Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser at Operation Rescue, a Wichita, Kansas-based anti-abortion group, said before the results were known. “This could be a winning strategy for us.”

New Ford Focus carsNHTSA May Mandate That New Cars Broadcast Location, Direction and Speed

( – Before the end of this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety  Administration will decide whether or not to begin the rulemaking  process to mandate that newly manufactured cars include what is being  called “vehicle-to-vehicle” (V2V) communications technology that  constantly broadcasts via radio wave the car’s location, direction,  speed and, possibly, even the number of passengers it is carrying.

New medical codes for injuries from duck bites to drone strikes create headaches for doctors

Doctors already contending with reams of paperwork brought on by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its 30,000 new pages of rules and regulations say a 2008 federal law set to go into effect next year will compound their misery.

Under existing classifications through what’s known as ICD-9, patients in the United States with injury, illness or disease have their conditions classified into 18,000 medical codes.

A new coding system approved by President George W. Bush in 2008 called ICD-10 has 140,000 such codes, a 678 percent increase in what doctors must document, and will go into effect next October.

Common Core Could Spark Another Tea Party Election

Add Education Secretary Arne Duncan as the latest Obama administration official to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease.

Late last week the face of the controversial Common Core curriculum standards tried to dismiss opposition in terms of race, class and gender. Categorizing opponents as “white suburban moms,” Duncan said bad performance on new standardized tests is the culprit.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought… and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan told a group of superintendents.

It’s pretty clear from his statements that Secretary Duncan doesn’t have a clue how deep and wide Common Core’s problems run.

Even though all but four states have adopted the Common Core State Standards – which seek to nationalize math and language arts curriculum from kindergarten to 12th grade – grassroots opposition is bipartisan and fierce.

“Catholic scholars say the standards aren’t rigorous enough. Early childhood experts say they demand too much. Liberals complain the Common Core opens the door to excessive testing. Conservatives complain it opens the door to federal influence in local schools. Teachers don’t like the new textbooks. Parent’s don’t like the new homework,” reports Politico.

Those in Washington, D.C. who live to dictate rules to the rest of the country should take notice. It sounds like the Tea Party’s ranks may be getting reinforcements just in time for the next election.

Black Caucus Sees Race as Factor in Filibusters, Eyes Rules Change

Editor’s Note: Nobody believes that anymore…..

The Congressional Black Caucus is fed up with Republican filibusters of President Barack Obama’s nominees, which several black lawmakers said they believe are motivated in part by race.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated Tuesday that it’s time to take action after Republicans blocked another judicial nominee Monday, and he’ll have strong backing from black House Democrats who will meet Wednesday to plot a strategy for moving stalled African-American nominees through the Senate.

This Lawsuit Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

Legendary rock band Van Halen is suing member Alex Van Halen’s ex-wife claiming trademark violation because of her intended use of the band’s name in her construction and interior design business. Kelly’s defense? It’s her last name too, and has been for 30 years.

When Kelly Carter married Alex Van Halen in 1984 she changed her name to Kelly Van Halen.  After their divorce in 1996, Kelly kept the Van Halen surname.  According to news reports, she is now using the name for her own private businesses, including swimsuits, blankets and interior design services, which the band alleges dilutes its trademark. In the legal filings, the band further claims that Kelly Van Halen’s proposed trademark (Kelly Van Halen) is confusing similar to the band’s (Van Halen) trademark.

In reporting on the case, the Hollywood Reporter cited the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brown Chemical Co. v. Meyer (1891), noting that, “A man’s name is his own property, and he has the same right to its use and enjoyment as he has that of any other species of property. If such use be a reasonable, honest and fair exercise of such right, he is no more liable for the incidental damage he may do a rival in trade than he would be for injury to his neighbor’s property by smoke issuing from his chimney, or for the fall of his neighbor’s house by reason of necessary excavations upon his own land.”

iPads for studentsiPad software licenses expire in three years, L.A. Unified says

Renewing licenses could cost $50 to $100 per iPad, about $60 million annually, despite earlier statements that the district would own the software permanently.

Contradicting earlier claims, Los Angeles school district officials said Tuesday that their right to use English and math curriculum installed on district iPads expires after three years.

At market rates, buying a new license for the curriculum would cost $50 to $100 each year per iPad, an additional cost that could surpass $60 million annually. The expense would add to the price tag of the $1-billion effort to provide a tablet to every teacher and student in the nation’s second-largest school system.

The iPad program had a delayed and troubled rollout. Early on, the district ordered them kept at schools after students bypassed security filters so they could freely browse the Internet. Another issue has been the release of conflicting, misleading or incomplete information. Such an issue arose Tuesday.

Obama: ‘We Reined In Spending’

(Editor’s Note: Making him our most serious mental health problem)

President Barack Obama told the Wall Street CEO Council Tuesday that his administration has “reined in spending” and “cut our deficits by more than half.”

“After years of trillion-dollar deficits we reined in spending, wound down two wars and began to change a tax code that I believe was too skewed towards the wealthiest among us at the expense of the middle class,” said Obama. “And since I took office, we have now cut our deficits by more than half. Add it all and businesses like yours have created 7.8 million new jobs over the past 44 months, we’ve gone farther and recovered faster than most other advanced nations. And so in a lot of ways, America is poised for a breakout.”

According to the White House’s own budget figures, over the next 10 years U.S. deficits will climb $5.271 trillion.

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