Timelines 11/21/13

Republicans may attempt to curb presidential powers

Republicans have long been critical of Obama, referring to many of his actions as abuses of power, but now they may act to regain some control over government functions.

Republicans are starting to push back against executive actions which conservatives characterize as means to bypass constitutionally-mandated work across both the executive and legislative branch. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) explained the possibility of legal action-including lawsuits-is on the table for Republican lawmakers.

Obama has been called out for his use of administrative power to avoid congressional influence, angering many in Congress who see it as a power grab. For instance, he used administrative power for immigration reform and has indicated he would use executive orders to fix the defective aspects of the healthcare exchange, which has been notoriously prone to glitches since its rollout.

Google to pay $17 million in multistate customer-tracking case

Google has settled a multistate lawsuit by agreeing to pay $17 million in damages to 10 states for placing tracking cookies on computers with Apple’s Safari web browser.

The internet company, which manages the world’s largest search engine and has rolled out other features such as social networking and email services, was found to have used its DoubleClick advertising platform to circumvent privacy settings on Safari and collect user information without users’ knowledge or consent, violating consumer protection and privacy laws.

Included in the settlement is New York, which will receive $899,580. New York was also included in a 10 state executive committee representing 27 states and the District of Columbia.

As part of the settlement, Google also agreed not to use the code involved in the Safari case, improve the information it provides to consumers on web privacy, not misrepresent or omit information on how data is collected and used and maintain systems designed to allow the expiration of cookies improperly transferred through Safari web browsers.

New Jersey waitress who graduated from NRHS stiffed on a tip for being gay, receives $2,000 from supporters

A New Jersey waitress who was refused a tip for her sexual orientation received an outpouring of support and donations, money which will eventually go toward aiding wounded veterans.

Dayna Morales, a former North Rockland student and Marine Corps veteran, was serving a family at the Gallop Asian Bistro in Bridgewater. However, after eating and paying their bill, the family refused to leave a tip. Instead, they wrote on the receipt, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I don’t agree with your lifestyle.”

When the story went public, Morales received an outpouring of support, which she characterized as “overwhelming.” Within a few days, donors raised $2,000 for her, some travelling from as far as NYC to show their appreciation.

Morales stated she would donate the money to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization which provides support for injured soldiers. The Bistro, which supported Morales through the incident, explained it would double that amount.

County sets record for road resurfacing

The County Highway Department set a new record for road resurfacing this past year, according to a press release from the county executive’s office.

In spite of large-scale road damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy and subsequent delays, the Highway Department resurfaced 37.84 square miles of road. This was in addition to a repair project at the Orangeburg Road Bridge and the beginnings of construction work on the Waldron Terrace and Oak Tree Bridges.

“The result of the resurfacing leaves Rockland County’s road system rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ as we approach 2014,” Superintendent of Highways Skip Vezzetti said.

The previous road resurfacing record was set in 2001, when the County resurfacing 32 miles of road.

Cuomo vetoes transparency measures, denies raiding transit funds

Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed two bills on November 11 in a move critics say undercuts the transparency of dedicated transportation funds the governor has been accused of raiding.

One bill would have required the MTA to study and report service cuts from 2008 onward to evaluate cost savings and plans to restore lost services. The other, dubbed a “lockbox bill,” would have required the governor’s office to disclose instances of withdrawals from the transit fund, the amount withdrawn and its impact on riders.

Though the bills passed with strong support in both the Assembly and Senate, Cuomo still issued the veto, arguing it would have stripped a 2011 bill allowing transfers in the case of “fiscal emergency.” The 2011 bill also protected the MTA in a manner similar to the vetoed one, which expands protections.

Cuomo subsequently denied he had raided the funds by claiming a fiscal emergency, though Albany has already diverted $260 million from MTA-bound tax money, including $20 million in the 2013 executive budget.

November 18 marks “National Don’t Send Your Children to School Day”

In a protest of the Common Core Standards Initiative which has been pushed by the U.S. Department of Education for national implementation, activist Janet Wilson began the first day of education week-November 18-with National Don’t Send Your Children to School Day.”

About 6,100 participants joined the protest’s Facebook page, a small but seemingly dedicated following for the grassroots cause. Common Core seeks to change and elevate standards for K-12 curricula across the country and has already been implemented in 45 states.

In response, Wilson issued a press release for the event requesting “…evidence-based curriculum that is locally controlled and which does not require data mining our children.” This references a common critique that Common Core provides universal standards for educational development, but no plan on how to reach the benchmarks set for children.

Though a host of local and national politicians have endorsed Common Core, a growing bipartisan coalition opposes it. Conservatives often cite federal intrusion into local education while liberals express opposition to the growth of standardized testing.

Federal Court: Homeland Security must disclose plans for internet “kill switch”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on November 12 that the Department of Homeland Security must disclose details on its plans to create an internet “kill switch.”

The challenge to Homeland Security came from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which is seeking the disclosure of Standard Operating Procedure 303. The procedure allows Homeland Security to shut down wireless networks to prevent the remote detonation of bombs.

The District Court found for EPIC, arguing Homeland Security improperly denied their FOIL request and stating the Department’s interpretation of FOIL requests was too broad. Homeland Security has 30 days to abide by the ruling, but the Department is likely to request a stay and pursue an appeal.

NSA Surveillance sees its first court challenge

The challenge to the NSA’s broad wiretapping program saw its first court challenge on Monday, when activist Larry Klayman brought his case before a Federal District Court.

Klayman is seeking a preliminary injunction which would temporarily suspend NSA surveillance of domestic phone and computer records, programs revealed in July by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Though Klayman was able to file the suit and bring it before a judge, Federal District Judge Richard Leon is already questioning his standing to pursue the NSA. Klayman’s major obstacle at this point is establishing his standing given his inability to prove that he himself was subject to the type of surveillance under scrutiny in the suit.

This is the first of several suits to be heard. Aside from Klayman’s suit, the ACLU is expected to be heard in Manhattan on Friday and another suit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center was dismissed. The ACLU suit is also seeking an injunction.