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Orange Alert Sirens To Blow 24 Hours A Day In Major Cities

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How Obamacare Can Be Improved

With Aetna just the latest health insurance provider to opt out of covering Obamacare markets, many are wondering what changes can make the Affordable Care Act more appealing to customers and insurance companies. Here are some proposed improvements

NSA: ‘Can Somebody Good At Computers Help Us?’

FORT MEADE, MD—Explaining that things weren’t working right and he didn’t know why, visibly frustrated National Security Agency director Michael S. Rogers called a press conference Thursday afternoon to ask if somebody good at computers could help out the intelligence organization.

Secretary Of Interior Unveils Plans For New High-Speed Creek

WASHINGTON—Calling the $650 million project the “future of America’s pastoral waterways,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell unveiled the agency’s plans for a new high-speed creek Thursday that would reportedly connect Weybridge, VT with the adjacent town of Addison.

The Pros And Cons Of Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court upheld a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action program Thursday, reigniting debate over the merits of policies that favor members of groups frequently targeted by discrimination. Here are the pros and cons of affirmative action

47 Weak-Willed Senators Bend To Interests Of Powerful American People

WASHINGTON—Saying the closely watched Senate vote clearly demonstrated where the elected officials’ loyalties lay, political observers confirmed that 47 weak-willed lawmakers bent to the interests of the powerful American public Monday by voting in favor of measures that would bar anyone on government terror watchlists from purchasing firearms.

John Kerry Jettisons Russian Henchmen From International Space Station Airlock

LOW EARTH ORBIT—Having stowed away aboard a Soyuz resupply rocket and silently slipped into the International Space Station as part of a high-level fact-finding mission, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly found himself forced to jettison two Russian henchmen from an airlock Monday after being set upon by the thugs in an ambush that resulted in a violent zero-gravity struggle to the death.

CDC Horrified After Discovering Existence Of Thousands Of Public Pools

WASHINGTON—Calling the finding an imminent threat to public health nationwide, horrified officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened an emergency press conference Wednesday to announce they had discovered the existence of thousands of public pools throughout the country.

Obama Discovers Telepathic Connection With Military Drone In Afghanistan

‘Our Minds Have Become One,’ Shaken President Says

WASHINGTON—Appearing frightened and confused by his unexplained new powers, President Barack Obama reportedly pulled members of the White House staff aside Wednesday to inform them of his recently discovered telepathic connection with an Afghanistan-based military drone.

The TSA’s Plans For Improvement

The Transportation Security Administration has pledged to revamp its processes in response to recent record-setting airport lines and wait times. Here are some ways in which the TSA plans to improve

EPA Urges Flint Residents To Stop Dumping Tap Water Down Drain

FLINT, MI—Citing the significant health and safety risks that it poses to public infrastructure and the local ecosystem, the Environmental Protection Agency released a statement Thursday urging residents of Flint to discontinue dumping tap water down their drains.

Upcoming Changes To U.S. Currency

Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew recently announced a series of significant changes to U.S. currency. Here are some of the more notable alterations on the horizon

Head Of IRS Has Personal Filing System To Keep Track Of Nation’s Tax Returns

Commissioner’s Office Cluttered With 100 Million Folders

WASHINGTON—Pointing out the towering stacks of manila folders cluttering his desk and stepping carefully around the millions of forms laid out on his office floor, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service John Koskinen showed reporters Thursday his own personal filing system for keeping track of everyone in the nation’s tax returns.

Pentagon Holds Gala To Celebrate 25 Years Of Bombing Iraq

WASHINGTON—Bringing together the many civilian leaders and military strategists who helped them reach such a historic milestone, Pentagon officials held a lavish black-tie gala Sunday at which, sources said, they commemorated 25 years of the United States bombing Iraq.

How Firearm Background Checks Work

With gun violence in the United States rising to unprecedented levels, many lawmakers have pushed to expand federal background checks for the purchase of firearms. Here’s how background checks are currently conducted

How Refugees Are Admitted Into The U.S.

The United States’ effort to accept Syrian refugees seeking asylum has been the subject of much controversy over security concerns and the rigor of the vetting process. Here are the steps involved in a refugee’s arrival in America

City Adds Some Big Concrete Stairs

They’re For Sitting On Or Running Up Or Something

CHICAGO—Noting the structure’s considerable size and prominent location in a busy public park, local residents confirmed Tuesday that the city had installed some big concrete stairs that were probably for sitting on or running up or something like that.

How To Reform The Nation’s Prison System

With pressing issues such as overcrowding, overuse of solitary confinement, and the long-term incarceration of nonviolent offenders, many critics of the nation’s prison system are calling for sweeping reforms. Here are some of the proposals to improve the prison system:

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding

WASHINGTON—Calling the program “the most crucial in the agency’s history,” researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill.

Is The Nation Ready For The Next Katrina?

Friday marks the 10-year anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and many commentators have argued that not enough has been done over the past decade to address infrastructure and emergency response issues that could put coastal cities nationwide, including New Orleans, at risk of a catastrophe on a similar scale. Is the nation prepared for another Katrina?

Biden Offers Government Post To Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark

WASHINGTON—Calling the late-night horror film host well-suited for the job “and then some,” Vice President Joe Biden offered Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, an entry-level position within the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, White House sources confirmed Thursday.

Nicaraguan Diplomat Drops Deadly Spider Onto John Kerry’s Blanket

ISLA GRANDE DEL MAÍZ, NICARAGUA—Creeping stealthily into the bungalow where John Kerry lay sleeping after a trade summit Thursday, Nicaraguan Minister of Foreign Affairs Samuel Santos López, illuminated only by a sliver of moon, reportedly slid open the lid of a small pine box and released a deadly Brazilian wandering spider onto the blanket of his American counterpart.

Resolute Congress Passes Second Amendment Again

WASHINGTON—Easily securing the requisite two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, a resolute United States Congress responded to the ongoing national debate on gun rights Tuesday by passing the Second Amendment again.

What’s Next For U.S.-Cuban Relations

After 54 years of closure, the U.S. embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. each began flying their flags once more this week, a symbol of the restored diplomatic ties between the two nations. Here is what we can expect from the relationship going forward

Nation’s Homophobic Bigots Pack It In

‘Rules Are Rules,’ Say Those With Deeply Ingrained Prejudices

WASHINGTON—Following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the nation’s homophobic bigots reportedly conceded today that “rules are rules” and announced that they were going to pack it in.

Report Finds Drug Tunnels Most Intact Transport Infrastructure In U.S.

ARLINGTON, VA—Touting the extensive safety precautions, routine maintenance, and limited congestion, a report published Friday by the American Transportation Research Institute revealed that drug tunnels are now the most intact and reliable form of transport infrastructure in the United States.

Vilsack Stays Up All Night With Sick Corn Plant

WASHINGTON—Gently applying a cool cloth to the plant’s kernels as he cradled its frail stalk in his arms, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stayed up all night caring for a sick corn plant, sources close to the former Iowa governor confirmed Tuesday.
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Government

Orange Alert Sirens To Blow 24 Hours A Day In Major Cities

WASHINGTON, DC—As an additional reminder that the U.S. is on high alert for terrorist attacks, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge announced Tuesday that Orange Alert klaxons will blare 24 hours a day in all major cities.

Pedestrians in Manhattan maintain a high state of alertness thanks to an Orange Alert siren.

"These 130-decibel sirens, which, beginning Friday, will scream all day and night in the nation's 50 largest metro areas, will serve as a helpful reminder to citizens to stay on the lookout for suspicious activity and be ready for emergency action," Ridge said. "Please note, though, that this is merely a precautionary measure, so go about your lives as normal."

The sirens, Ridge said, will be strategically positioned throughout each city and will be audible within a three-mile radius. The noise will be loud enough to render conversation impossible within a 200-yard range.

"Some may find their normal sleep patterns disrupted, but it's a small price to pay to ensure our collective awareness of the heightened danger," Ridge said. "The key to preventing terrorist attacks is to have the threat constantly on your mind but still remain calm and act normal."

Ridge stressed that the government does not want individuals to let the blaring sirens affect their work or travel plans.

"Go about your usual business," Ridge said. "Of course, while you do so, keep in mind that we are just barely this side of Red Alert, the highest level of danger possible."

Ridge also urged citizens to pay close attention to the sirens' subtle variations.

"The steady 'alert' siren indicates the need to be generally aware of the threat of terrorism," he said. "This is the normal, default siren. The higher-pitched 'wail' siren, on the other hand, means federal authorities have credible information regarding a specific possible threat, and that citizens should ready themselves for the 30 to 50 percent likelihood of an attack. If citizens hear an 'alternating wail' siren, a piercing shriek/whine interrupted every 30 seconds by short bursts of what sounds like gunfire, they need to prepare for the 70 percent chance of a 20 percent more serious disaster. And, finally, a 'pulsating steady' alarm means Americans should have plenty of plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand to make a shelter in the almost guaranteed event of chemical, biological, or radiological attack."

A man urinating at D.C.'s Union Station is reminded to be extra vigilant.

Ridge emphasized that all these alarms merely indicate an Orange Alert state and not a 100 percent definite threat. Should the country be raised to Red Alert status, an entirely different set of patterned horn bursts would be put into use, the details of which will be available at www.fema.gov.

To make the alert system more responsive to subtle fluctuations in the national terror level, five new colors have been added between orange and red.

"The newly added levels are Orange-Red Alert, Red-Orange Alert, Maroon Alert, Burnt Sienna Alert, and Ochre Alert," Ridge said. "They indicate, in ascending order of fear: concern, deep dread, severe apprehension, near-crippling fright, and pants-shitting terror. Please make a note of this."

The sirens have already been introduced on a test basis in New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta. In spite of some complaints, most residents of the three cities are adjusting well to the warnings.

"The sirens are really loud," said San Francisco resident Linda Pearcy, shouting over a horn posted in her backyard. "My dog won't stop barking, and the windows rattle all day long. And I didn't know about the helicopters dropping all the orange slips of paper. I guess I can't complain, though. These are scary times, and the government is doing what it can to make us feel more secure."

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