An accomplishment! House passes good flood-insurance reform

It wasn’t easy, but House Republicans, who battled through the summer and fall against members of their own party, finally managed to negotiate bipartisan passage of flood insurance reform last week. To secure sufficient buy-in from coastal Republicans, key concessions were made, but the final product was worth the compromise.”Everything is a compromise in Washington,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling told the Washington Examiner two days after the vote. “You just try to compromise your policy, not your principle.”
The 21st Century Flood Reform Act passed last Wednesday, introduced by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., who is also a member of the Financial Services Committee, would open the government-controlled flood insurance market to private competition. Hensarling calls the legislation “revolutionary.”
“We took a great leap forward,” he said last Friday — not the best-chosen phrase, given its historical echoes. “The greatest conservative victory in the history of the program,” Hensarling added, “is to open it up to private market competition.”
The National Flood Insurance Program, created in 1968, offers insurance to homeowners and businesses at discounted rates based on risk assessments taken from flood maps. The result, for decades, has been taxpayer subsidies of homes on flood plains. Because property owners aren’t paying market rates for their insurance, the real cost of living in an area likely to be inundated is concealed. When properties are destroyed by hurricanes, they are often rebuilt in a way that would make not sense if the government were not subsidizing stupidity.
Last week’s bill will “break the government monopoly” if adopted by the Senate and signed by President Trump, Hensarling says. The bill falls far short of what the administration and many conservatives want, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Conservative reformers gave up language that would have disallowed new construction, phased out grandfathering provisions, and lowered protections for million-dollar buildings.
What Hensarling described as a “title dealing with repetitive loss properties” — houses are repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt — was also “watered down considerably.”
That’s okay.
The bill passed includes all of the legislation proposed by Florida Reps. Dennis Ross, a Republican, and Kathy Castor, a Democrat, which cleared the Financial Services Committee on a 58-0 vote. In fact, Ross-Castor passed the House by a vote of 419-0 in 2016. The legislation is crucial to opening the market to competition. Even so, earlier this fall, Louisiana Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy successfully pulled it from an FAA reauthorization bill.
Even for a Republican-controlled House, wrangling enough support for conservative flood insurance reform has been difficult because lawmakers with coastal constituencies worry about a voter backlash. As we reported in October, after the Financial Services Committee passed a slate of reform legislation earlier this year, roughly two dozen Republican members, most with coastal constituencies, sent leadership a letter expressing concerns.
“If you’re a conservative, you’re only a conservative until government subsidizes your constituents,” an exasperated Duffy said.
Nevertheless, after months of negotiations, only 14 Republicans voted against the bill, fewer than the number who signed the letter last July. That’s progress. For his part, Hensarling is “not sure the Senate is going to pass any bills,” but he “[hopes] the administration will put pressure” on the upper chamber to take up the charge.
After a rough hurricane season this year, the NFIP is an estimated $35 billion debt. The House reform legislation is not perfect, but at this point, it’s the least Congress can do to reform a broken system.

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“Alice” Era Patent Litigation tames the Casino Gaming Industry, according to CEO of Scrappy Elegant Gaming

LAS VEGAS, Nov. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Patent infringement cases, in the casino gaming space, have dropped nearly 65% since the Alice decision in 2014.
Prior to Alice, millions of dollars were squandered by slot manufacturers seeking to invalidate their competitor’s patents. These…

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Ontario police force use hockey adage in distracted driving awareness campaign

“Keep your head up” meant to discourage drivers from texting and driving
The Canadian Press on November 24, 2017

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York regional police say their traffic enforcement unit is turning to Canada’s favourite pastime to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving.Related: Distracted driving crash numbers on the rise in Saskatchewan: SGI
The campaign – called “Keep your head up” – references the tried and true advice given to people learning to play hockey.
It includes hockey pucks being distributed by officers across the region and a series of videos to be shared on social media.
Chief Eric Jolliffe says hockey coaches teach the consequences of inattentiveness and the increased level of safety that comes with being alert and police are asking people to apply the same principles to driving.
In a Twitter post, York police said, “Our officers really do give a puck. Keep your head up and don’t text and drive.”
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A look at the four countries the U.S. says sponsor terrorism

North Korea is now on the U.S. list while Sudan might be delisted
Eric Talmadge, The Associated Press on November 24, 2017

North Korea is on its way back onto a very short list of countries the United States says sponsor terrorism.The designation, announced recently by President Donald Trump, will expand the already substantial array of sanctions the U.S. has imposed on trade with North Korea. It will clamp down further on the North’s access to banks and other financial institutions and, more importantly, deepen the stigma any potential trading partners will have to take into account before doing business with Pyongyang.
Related: The terrorism talk
Even though many of the punishments against North Korea have already been enacted under previous sanctions measures, putting any country on the list is a very serious move by Washington. There are only three other countries on the list: Sudan, Iran and Syria. Cuba, which had been on the list from 1982, was removed by then-President Barack Obama in 2015.
But how exactly does the terrorism charge fit North Korea? And how does North Korea compare to the other countries on the list?
Here’s a look, country by country:
In the 1980s, North Korea was particularly active in deadly acts of terrorism, including a bombing in Myanmar that killed South Korean Cabinet members and the downing of a South Korean commercial airliner. It was blacklisted in 1988, but delisted in 2008 as Washington tried to entice it into a nuclear deal.
The most glaring recent case of what could be seen as terrorism backed by North Korea is the assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half brother last February at the international airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two young Southeast Asian women are now on trial for allegedly carrying out the killing, but authorities believe the plot was masterminded by North Korean agents who recruited, trained and supplied the women with the extremely toxic VX poison used in the assassination.
Related: Terrorism risk shifting towards business continuity, physical security: Aon
VX is a sophisticated nerve agent that is almost exclusively produced with state backing for military use. Moreover, the U.S. has accused the North of involvement in several highly disruptive cyber incidents that could fall into the terrorism rubric.
Syria has been on the blacklist since the designation was created in 1979. According to the U.S., Bashar Assad’s regime supports a variety of terrorist groups that have a destabilizing effect well beyond the region. In particular, according to the U.S., it provides political and weapons support to Lebanon-based Hezbollah, while helping Iran to keep the group armed.
The U.S. claim against Syria also includes concerns about weapons of mass destruction – according to the State Department, it has used chemical weapons repeatedly against its own people.
Iran’s listing goes back to 1984. A State Department report in July called Iran the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism and said it has supported Shia militias in Iraq and attempted to smuggle weapons to Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
The weapons of mass destruction issue, also a factor with North Korea and Syria, has been cited by the State Department regarding Iran because of the proliferation threat posed by its nuclear program.
This East African nation, home to Osama bin Laden for several years in the 1990s, made the blacklist in 1993. But along with the terrorism links, and a president who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges, the State Department has asserted that Sudan’s government flouts the rule of law and lets its security forces commit abuses with impunity.
The U.S. government, however, has recently credited Sudan with some improvements. Just before leaving office, Obama issued an executive order that lifted decades-old sanctions on a probationary basis. Trump formalized that last month and is reportedly willing to delist Sudan if improvements continue.
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Quotient Capital Invests in Blockchain Payment Processing and Music Platforms

MELBOURNE, Australia, Nov. 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Blockchain has been making headlines globally with governments trying to regulate the industry or businesses churning up new ways of utilizing the technology. Some believe that the technology solves deficiencies in traditional processes…

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