Cyclist-driver relations not quite perfect

Three to four times a week, I ride my bike to work. For the most part, 99 percent of drivers are respectful and courteous, passing me carefully, giving me plenty of space, even waving me through four-way stops.

On Tuesday, however, I met the other 1 percent. One driver failed to stop at a stop sign, causing me to take defensive measures to not be thrown from my bike. Another driver was far more dangerous. He sped around me, stopped his truck and yelled obscenities and threats of physical violence at me. I was terrified. My offense? Being on the same residential street as he was.

Bike commuters do so for a variety of personal reasons (improving their health, lessening their environmental impact, etc.). But the 1 percent could care less about one’s reasons for biking, so think of this: Bicycle commuters also benefit motorists. Even though it takes an extra few seconds to carefully pass a bike, that biker represents one less car on the road. And that means one less car at every stoplight, resulting in less congestion and a faster trip for the 1 percent.

I also would remind the 1 percent that I pay wheel tax on the car I don’t happen to be driving, as do a lot of other bikers. We have every right to be on the road as long as we follow traffic laws.

Joseph Price, Omaha

Academic improvements in small steps

There were two very different stories about Omaha Public Schools recently.

The first one, in The World-Herald, showed the very slight improvement in test scores. Elementary scores were much better than high schools’. I believe OPS needs to go back to basics by teaching reading, writing and arithmetic the old way. No computers or calculators allowed. It is very sad that many children in the 11th grade don’t know how to write.

The second story, on television news, reported that Edison Elementary School has two kindergarten classes with more than 35 children in each. The story said OPS had a plan involving substitute teachers and possibly splitting the classes.

Overcrowding is not new to OPS. There were those same problems back in the 1970s and ’80s, when my children were in school. OPS should split the kindergartners into three classrooms, or better yet, four classrooms.

Of course, this would require more teachers, and teachers aren’t paid enough to do their very tough job. Large numbers of students in a classroom means someone will be left behind.

Our children are our future, and kindergarten is where their future begins.

Connie Dohse-Ross, Omaha

Moving oil by rail supports Nebraska jobs

U.S. Rep. Lee Terry appears to be supporting the billionaire Koch brothers and out-of-state employment when he supports the Keystone XL pipeline. A major alternative to the pipeline is crude moved by rail, and that is what Terry should be working to make happen.

We have about 4,000 BNSF Railway and about 8,000 Union Pacific Railroad employees here in Nebraska. Terry should support the railroads and Nebraska employment.

Daniel Martinez, Omaha

Tobacco proposal undermines prevention

An ordinance introduced to the Omaha City Council would allow tobacco retailers to sell tobacco products from temporary stands at festivals and other outdoor events.

Allowing these temporary sales location licenses at festivals, which are mainly family-oriented, would encourage people to light up, therefore exposing our youth to secondhand smoke and to the detrimental behavior of smoking.

We want to prevent youths from using tobacco products, not encourage them to do so.

Tobacco prevention and control have seen many accomplishments over the years to help our communities become healthier. Allowing tobacco retailers to sell products at outdoor events will undermine the effort that has been put forth to educate the community on the dangers of tobacco use.

Jasmine L. Williams, Omaha

Clean air chair, Metro Omaha

Tobacco Action Coalition

Allowing mountain lion hunting stinks

I have previously written letters on the subject of legalized mountain lion hunting in Nebraska. I guessed then, as has been confirmed now, that this dreadful idea was the result of a smallish group of people who have large influence in matters of public policy.

It is always disquieting to realize that in any area of such policy, this is how government really works, regardless of common sense, fact or public opinion.

Since a person or other animal likely has a greater chance of being bitten by a rabid skunk than attacked by a mountain lion, maybe these same folks should immediately mandate a continuous statewide hunting season on skunks as well.

Robert M. Wise, Fremont, Neb.

Obama’s agenda leading to ruination

America is now beginning to see President Barack Obama’s progressive agenda come to fruition.

The promise of health care that will save people thousands of dollars a year on insurance premiums is manifesting itself as the real fraud that it is.

The “most transparent administration in history” is defying reality with the IRS, AP and Libya scandals that won’t go away. Their explanations strain credulity.

While the Affordable Care Act is imploding, Obama violates the law by delaying key provisions of Obamacare without congressional approval, which is blatantly unconstitutional. In this republic, the president has no power to legislate. Not to mention the 1,500-plus waivers to unions and employers, including Obama’s political pals, thus violating “equal protection under the law.”

To those who know history and have followed the track record of “collectivist” societies of the past, none of this is surprising. The big question is: Will America wake up in time, or will the greatest, most prosperous country in the history of all civilizations go down in flames?

Randy Rodgers, Shenandoah, Iowa

Don’t cherry-pick Obama’s record

Mark W. Clark (Aug. 13 Pulse) must think we’re all ignorant and have no memory.

He decries the rise in the national debt of $6 trillion under President Obama but doesn’t mention how the Great Recession of 2008 wiped out $14 trillion of U.S. wealth in a manner of months before Obama took office.

Also, most of the added deficit was due to falling tax revenue as a result of the recession — not new spending. The new spending Obama did install stabilized a teetering economy. Obama put war spending on the books, while George W. Bush did not.

The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 failed to forestall the Great Recession. Clark’s letter didn’t mention how Obama maintained those cuts throughout his first term and added to them via the stimulus bill and the payroll tax cut.

And in spite of unprecedented Republican obstructionism, intransigence and forced gridlock, the U.S. economy is growing, unemployment is coming down and the deficit is declining.

David Gaul, Earling, Iowa

NSA monitoring is not the half of it

The recent news and flap about the National Security Agency and its monitoring of the Internet and telephone networks certainly caused a stir among those concerned about their privacy.

Yet an Aug. 11 World-Herald article about the Nebraska Crossing Outlets mall and its partnering with CenturyLink, SalesForce.com and Conference Technologies Inc. gives me the creeps. This demonstrates to me how much private industry already knows about individuals who happen to think it’s so cool to have the latest smartphone with all the apps and other gee-whiz gizmos.

Then there’s those trash cans in London that can monitor the locations of smartphone users. And what about OnStar? There are many other examples of private industry knowing a lot about people’s lives, which are not so private after all.

If Americans are worried about the NSA and what it is doing, perhaps they should be more worried about what everyone else knows about their business, especially if they choose to use social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and the like. There is a difference between the government monitoring Internet and telephone traffic for the sake of public safety, and the intrusive monitoring and interactive marketing with which the American public has become obsessed.

Annabelle Keene, Bellevue

TSA creeping far beyond its mission

It is my understanding that the Transportation Security Administration is now branching out into concert events, subways, trains and other transportation modes and events.

If this isn’t a prime example of mission creep, I’m not sure what is. Someone needs to put a lid on this before it goes any further.

The program is operating under the name VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response). What we really have are a bunch of paramilitary-style commandos running around under the guise of making us safe.

The media needs to start reporting more on relevant subjects like this.

Ray Mihulka, Omaha

Winfrey’s Swiss purse slight not racism

Regarding Oprah Winfrey’s run-in with a Swiss purse saleswoman, it’s people like Oprah who keep racism alive by claiming racism for every slight or snub.

Many years ago, my husband and I were in Nebraska Furniture Mart shopping for carpeting. While flipping through samples, Mrs. B. came along on her scooter and said to us, “You can’t afford that. Follow me, I’ll show you what you can afford.”

We have laughed about this experience many times over the years. While true racism is no laughing matter, slights happen to all of us.

Lola Austin, Wahoo, Neb.

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