Britain Ends Diplomatic Relations With Iran

Britain has ordered its entire diplomatic staff to be removed from Iran after supporters of Iranian ruling clerics attacked the British Embassy and residential compound in Tehran.

On Wednesday, other European Union member countries were scheduled to meet to decide whether their embassies would remain open in light of the attack that left no doubt that anti-Western sentiment is growing in Iran. Norway closed its embassy for the day on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.

“The PM and Foreign Secretary have made clear that ensuring the safety of our staff and their families is our immediate priority,” said a statement from British officials. “We do not comment on our contingency plans.”

Iranian officials say that the disruption at the British Embassy is reflective of worsening Iranian national opinion about Western nations.

In addition to bringing diplomats out of Iran, the United Kingdom has ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London and the departure from Britain of all Iranian staff, according to The Telegraph.

Criminal Sues Hostages For Emotional Stress

A man who broke into the home of a Kansas couple and took them hostage is suing the couple for breach of contract to cover emotional stress and medical bills.

The criminal, Jesse Dimmick of Denver, is serving an 11-year sentence after breaking into Jared and Lindsay Rowley’s Topeka-area home in September 2009. Authorities were pursuing the man because he was wanted for questioning in the beating death of a Colorado man, according to The Associated Press.

Dimmick says he told the couple he was being chased by someone, most likely the police, who wanted to kill him and that he needed to take refuge in their home. The couple reportedly fed the knife-wielding invader snacks and watched movies with him until he fell asleep. They then escaped their home unharmed.

Dimmick was convicted of four felonies, including two counts of kidnapping. Now, he alleges that he and his captives had an oral contract which they breached by alerting police. In handwritten court documents he stated: “I, the defendant, asked the Rowleys to hide me because I feared for my life. I offered the Rowleys an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract.”

The criminal wants the couple to pay $235,000, including $160,000 for his hospital bills incurred after he was shot in the back by police and an additional $75,000 for emotional stress.

Huntsman: Cain Scandals Hurting GOP

Republican Presidential primary candidate Jon Huntsman suggested in a recent interview that his sex scandal-ridden fellow candidate, Herman Cain, is hurting the entire Republican field and distracting voters from the real issues.

Speaking of the latest allegation against Cain involving a 13-year extramarital affair, Huntsman said it is time for the former CEO rethink his candidacy.

“Every time another accusation comes up, it diminishes our ability to stay focused on the issues that really do matter for the American people. And I think that’s a disservice to the voters,” Huntsman told The Boston Globe.

Cain has denied that he had any sexual involvement with the latest accuser. He insists he and the woman were involved in a “friendship relationship” and that he helped her financially.

“I have spoken directly to the American people and have been 100% honest with them. My plan is to continue to spread my vision on how I would renew America and keep her safe. I will not fight false claims as it is not what America needs or wants,” Cain said in a statement Monday.

Cain reportedly has decided to “reassess” his candidacy “over the next several days.” But despite some speculation he will drop out of the race, campaign manager Marc Bloc said only Cain’s wife and lack of support could make him give up, according to ABC News.

NLRB Moves Forward With Union Election Rule Change

On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted to move forward with portions of a union election rule after the board’s only Republican member showed up to vote in opposition.

Democratic members of the labor board, Chairman Mark Pearce and Craig Becker, voted to advance the proposal, and Brian Hayes, a Republican, voted no. There was some speculation that Hayes would throw a wrench into the vote by simply refusing to participate, as he has threatened recently to resign over the union election rule.

Labor unions say the new rule will help reduce delays in union elections, but business groups argue it gives employers little time to talk to their employees about unionization before voting takes place, according to The Hill.

Hayes said that the Democratic members of the NLRB locked him out of the deliberations over the union rule in a bid to pass it by the end of the year.

The NLRB did not consider the full union election rule Wednesday, and voted only on portions that limit litigation surrounding union elections. The members of the NLRB must finish voting on other measures concerning the rule by the end of the year because Becker’s appointment expires at the end of the year. When Becker’s time is up or if Hayes resigns, it would leave the board with only two members, denying it the three-member quorum required for rules votes by a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

Union Company Working To Eliminate High Workers

Tower Defense and Aerospace, a Detroit company that makes parts for tanks and Humvees for the military as well as civilian aircraft is accused of hiring workers who drank and smoked marijuana on the job.

Last Tuesday, a Detroit affiliate of Fox aired a report that showed workers rolling blunts and drinking alcohol in the parking lot of the plant during their lunch break.

Since the story broke, the company, which receives defense contracts worth several million dollars each year from the Federal government, reportedly has fired 17 employees and is conducting an investigation into the incidents. The company issued a statement saying that it was “working as expeditiously as possible within the bounds of the legal union contract” to eliminate employees who get high on company time and replace them.

The company’s CEO Mark Malcolm said that the problem employees were inherited when Tower was taken over by new owners last April.

“It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of employees are dedicated and hard working,” he said. “None of the suspended employees were hired by Tower; all were inherited in the acquisition.”

Salon: Ron Paul Would Make The Reagan Revolution Look Like The New Deal

An opinion piece published by Salon accuses GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul as being a “phony populist” and a true friend of the wealthiest Americans.

Author Gary Weiss, investigative journalist and outspoken Wall Street critic, begins his article by citing remarks Paul made to Occupy protesters who interrupted a speech in Keene, N.H., last week.

Weiss describes the incident as “…the epiphany of the most dreadful presidential campaign in history…” before implicating Paul for being on the radical right, behind the times on foreign policy and a danger to middle-class and poor Americans.

Paul told the Keene hecklers that he was very much on the side of the 99 percent, but that government in the United States was more responsible for the economic disparity than those who work on Wall Street. The candidate continually reiterates his belief that it is the government who controls the money supply and provides massive bailouts to manipulate free markets. Weiss, however, contends in his article that Paul’s message is little more than impressive showmanship at best and, at worst, total fraud.

Of the candidate’s “Plan To Restore America,” which calls for massive reduction in government spending by trimming bloated bureaucracies, Weiss writes:

“This is not a plan for the 99 percent. It is about as much of a 1 percent-oriented ideological meat cleaver as you can find anywhere in the annals of politics.”

Weiss’s article comes just two days after Bloomberg published a long-anticipated report detailing how the Federal Reserve — Paul’s sworn enemy — secretly provided an estimated $13 billion of income to big banks by allowing them to take advantage of below-market rates during the 2007-2008 financial crises.

A statement on Paul’s website says of the findings: “While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.”

Aerial Drones May Be Coming To Your Town

Drones similar to those used by the military may soon be operated in civil airspace in the United States by law enforcement officials and civilians.

Police departments in Texas, Florida and Minnesota have expressed interest in using drone aircraft to spot runaway criminals on rooftops or to track them at night and conduct surveillance by using the robotic aircraft’s heat-seeking cameras.

A new drone, called Qube, which is designed specifically for civilian and law enforcement use, was unveiled last month at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago. The new aircraft weighs 5 1/2 pounds, fits in the trunk of a car and is controlled remotely by a tablet computer.

According to Los Angeles Times, widespread use of unmanned aircraft like the Qube in law enforcement and civilian applications is under review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the agency works to ensure that the machines can safely share airspace with one another and manned aircraft.

Beyond law enforcement applications, the drones could be available for a number of civilian uses. Many people have serious privacy concerns about the camera-laden, unmanned aircraft.

‘Most Powerful’ Openly Gay Politician Announces Retirement

Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2012, ending a 32-year career in the House.

Frank, the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, will leave a political legacy most likely highlighted by the sweeping Wall Street regulatory reform that he drafted with former Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) which was enacted last year. The Dodd-Frank bill clamped down on lending practices and expanded consumer protections in an effort to prevent a repeat of the 2008 economic meltdown.

The 71-year-old Congressman has also been recognized as the Nation’s most powerful openly homosexual elected official. Frank was involved in a scandal two decades ago when he used his Congressional status on behalf of a male prostitute whom he had employed as a personal aide.

“I should have known better. I do now, but it’s a little too late,” Frank said at the time, according to The Associated Press.

Frank’s retirement announcement will create a scramble among Democrats to replace the longtime Massachusetts lawmaker as the ranking member on the Financial Services Committee. Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is technically next in line as the ranking member on that committee.

Senate Bill Seeks To Declare America A Battlefield

A bill discussed in the U.S. Senate on Monday, dubbed the National Defense Authorization Act, would authorize the military to detain Americans suspected of terrorist activities on U.S. soil without charge or trial.

The bill, created by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), declares American soil a battlefield and allows the President and all future Chief Executives to order the military to arrest and detain American citizens, innocent or not, without charge or trial.

Opponents of the legislation say that it will create military powers never before used within the borders of the United States and that it designates the entire planet as the battlefield in the War on Terror.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement last week calling into question the motives behind the legislation:

Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?

There is some speculation that organized protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street have encouraged lawmakers to put provisions in place that give the Federal government the authority to quickly quell dissent that grows out of control and the detain agitators.

Flash Mob Robs 7-Eleven

Across the country, a disturbing trend has emerged from the growing popularity of flash mobs: flash mob robberies.

Flash mobs — which are usually sudden performances in public places organized via telecommunication, social media or email — have been growing in popularity since 2003. The organizers usually assemble for a brief time, portray their message and disperse with no harm done to the public or area in which they perform.

More frequent occurrences of the use of flash mobs to commit crimes, however, have law enforcement officials throughout the Nation worried.

Recently, in Silver Spring, Md., a group of about 70 young people entered a 7-Eleven and began taking snacks, drinks and merchandise out of the store without paying as the clerk stood by helplessly. Police said they may have identified 22 of the suspects caught on video surveillance but will have a difficult time figuring out which ones actually shoplifted, which ones paid and which ones stood around and watched, according to HLN.

This is not the first time criminal flash mobs have been reported. In fact, this is the second occurrence in Maryland alone. Over the summer, several flash mob robberies occurred throughout the country.

A Call For Privatized TSA

Representative John L. Mica (R-Fla.) in recent weeks has been leading a push to take airport security screenings out of the hands of the Federal government to free up the industry for private contractors.

Mica, who was instrumental in setting up the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has made no secret of the hatred he has gained for the agency in recent years. He says it has become an out-of-control assault on privacy. Last March, speaking against the use of full-body scanners in security screenings, Mica disavowed the “little bastard child” he helped to create, according to ABC News.

A report he recently issued along with Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, calls for moving “airport screening operations to private contractors under Federal supervision,” according to The Washington Post. Mica contends that the shift would further improve airport safety and put an end to many abuses within the TSA.

Mica believes that the United States lags behind other Western countries — many of which already have privatized airport security — because of the government-run TSA. He also said that the current hiring practices of the TSA allow for unqualified individuals to become Transportation Security Officers (TSO) and that TSOs should have no collective bargaining rights such as those granted by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

Opponents to Mica’s proposal say that a privatized TSA would weaken national security and cost the Federal government more money.

Global Food Demand May Double By 2050

A new projection reported last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that global demand for food could double by the year 2050 and put major agricultural stress on the environment.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota found that unless global agricultural processes are re-examined, producing the amount of food needed could significantly increase levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the environment. The expected environmental impact will result from the forest-clearing practices used in many poorer countries to create suitable farmland.

The researchers believe that nations that have perfected more land-friendly farm practices that lessen soil depletion could offer assistance and advice to less-developed countries to increase agricultural production at a minimal cost to the environment. Under current practices, the article says, poorer nations will have cleared about 2.5 billion acres of forests to develop farmland by 2050.

According to the research, in 2005 crop yields for the wealthiest nations were more than 300 percent higher than yields for the poorest nations. The researchers believe that by implementing modern farming practices — like the efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer — in less-developed nations, global crop yields could rise while the amount of forest land destroyed falls.

“The results challenge wealthy nations to invest technologically in underyielding nations to alter the current global trajectory of agricultural expansion,” said Saran Twombly, program director for the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

Slightly Too Much Tylenol Over Time May Kill You

New research on Tylenol and other pain relievers containing acetaminophen finds that taking slightly too much of the drugs over a period of several days has more deadly side effects than taking too many pills all at once.

In the study, staggered overdoses of acetaminophen were more deadly than single overdoses, even though people who experienced staggered overdoses typically took smaller total amounts of the drug than those who experienced a single overdose.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland examined information from 663 patients with liver problems caused by acetaminophen who were admitted to an Edinburgh hospital between 1992 and 2008. The researchers found that nearly a quarter of the patients had suffered staggered overdoses. Staggered overdose patients took 24 grams of acetaminophen on average, typically over several days. Single-overdose patients typically consumed 27 grams at once, or six times the recommended dose for a whole day.

Sixty of the patients died from a staggered overdose, and 140 patients from a single overdose. This equates to a mortality rate of 37.3 percent among the staggered overdose group, and 27.8 percent in the single overdose group. Staggered overdose patients also were more likely to have liver and brain problems, require kidney dialysis and need help with breathing.

Researchers say that the evidence provides further proof of the importance of knowing what is in all of your medicine, and following dosage instructions carefully.

The study was published online in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Supercommittee May Have Raised Your Payroll Tax

One result of the heavily publicized failure of the Congressional budget reduction supercommittee could be a smaller paycheck for every working American.

One issue that was on the table as the group gave up on its efforts to reach a budget compromise was the extension of a payroll tax cut which was passed last year and is scheduled to end next year without action, according to Fox News.

President Barack Obama has urged Congress to act quickly in regard to the cut in order to avoid a tax increase that will affect all Americans.

“If we don’t act, taxes will go up for every single American, starting next year. And I’m not about to let that happen,” Obama said Monday.

The White House says reinstating the payroll tax cut is top priority because a middle-class family making $50,000 a year will see its taxes rise by $1,000 if the payroll tax cuts are not extended.

Without a deficit-cutting deal, though, it remains unclear how the President’s Administration would pay for an extension of the cuts, which would eat away at the Social Security coffers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the money to finance the cuts should come from “asking millionaires and billionaires to pay a little bit extra.”

Study: Regular Exercise Can Improve Sleep

A study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity finds that people who exercise regularly sleep significantly better and remain more alert throughout the day.

A sample of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, across the Nation found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week provided a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.

“We were using the physical activity guidelines set forth for cardiovascular health, but it appears that those guidelines might have a spillover effect to other areas of health,” said Brad Cardinal, one of the study’s authors and a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University.

The study concedes that exercise recommendations may be a viable alternative to pharmaceuticals for physicians treating patients with sleeping disorders. It also provides evidence that regular physical activity can have a positive impact of an individual’s productivity throughout the day.

Considering age, BMI (Body Mass Index), health status, smoking status and depression, feelings of sleepiness during the day compared to never feeling very sleepy during the day decreased by 65 percent for participants who exercised.

The researchers say that this study provides even more evidence to show that exercise can offer a variety of health benefits.

“Physical activity may not just be good for the waistline and heart, but it also can help you sleep,” Cardinal said. “There are trade-offs. It may be easier when you are tired to skip the workout and go to sleep, but it may be beneficial for your long-term health to make the hard decision and get your exercise.”

Obama Addresses Protesters During Jobs Speech

Confronted earlier in the week by Occupy protesters during a speech on jobs at a high school in Manchester, N.H., President Barack Obama offered the movement an endorsement of sorts.

As the President began his speech, protesters in the audience spoke up using the “one voice to many” tactic that has become popular within the movement, according to The Washington Post.

Audience members booed, but Obama allowed the protesters to speak. They voiced concerns about the arrests of Occupy protesters that have taken place throughout the Nation and said that they felt their First Amendment rights were being trampled by authorities.

Obama directly addressed the protesters.

“For a lot of the folks who have been in New York and all across the country in the Occupy movement, there is a profound sense of frustration about the fact that the essence of the American dream, which is if you work hard, if you stick to it that, you can make it, feels like that’s slipping away,” Obama said. “And that’s not the way things are supposed to be. Not here. Not in America.”

Obama went on to say that he agreed with the protesters in that he wanted to see an America where “not only a sliver of folks have opportunity” but where “everybody has opportunity,” a goal he said would take time.

Occupy Los Angeles Offered Farmland, Offices To Get Out

Officials in the City of Angels are attempting to reach an agreement with the Occupy protesters that have been camped in front of their city hall for the past several weeks: Leave and we’ll provide you with office space and farmland.

Los Angeles, which has reportedly been one of the friendliest cities to the Occupy protesters, has extended the olive branch to the group in an official effort to avert violent demise of the protest encampment similar to what has taken place in New York; Oakland, Calif., and other cities in recent weeks.

According to Los Angeles Times, details of the proposal were revealed Monday during the demonstration’s nightly general assembly meeting by Jim Lafferty, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild who has been advocating on behalf of the protest since it began seven weeks ago.

The city has refused to comment on the proposals, saying only that negotiations are ongoing, but reports indicate that the offer includes: a $1-a-year lease on a 10,000-square-foot office space near Los Angeles City Hall, the promise of farmland for protesters who wish to continue to camp and want to farm, and housing for many of the large number of homeless people who have joined the city’s Occupy group.

Lafferty said that it is unclear whether Occupy L.A. will accept the proposal which has angered at least some of the protesters.

“I don’t appreciate people appointing themselves to represent me, to represent us,” one woman called out during the assembly. “Who was in those meetings?”

Congress Blocks Climate Analyzing Bureaucracy

Congress recently blocked a $322 million measure that would have created a new Federal bureaucracy to make long-term climate forecasts similar to the short-term forecasts provided by the National Weather Service.

The National Climate Service was proposed in response to complaints from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that the agency had been inundated with requests for climate change data in recent years, according to International Business Times.  

The Democratic-led Senate approved nearly all aspects of the climate service in its budget, while the House, with its Republican majority, rejected all of it. Democrats claimed that the creation of the service would have no financial impact, but a report released by the House Appropriations Committee last week estimated savings of $322 million in fiscal year 2012 by rejecting the idea.

While many people who supported the new entity have called its failure a sign of climate-change denial, there is evidence that the Federal government is analyzing climate trends in other ways. A recent report from the Defense Science Board, a Federal advisory committee that reports to the Secretary of Defense, urges the CIA to begin sharing the intelligence it has accumulated on climate change.

Many Seniors Unwittingly Take Potentially Dangerous Medicines

A study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine shows that about 40 percent of seniors who are in the care of a home-health agency are taking prescription medications that may be dangerous to their health.

Researchers conducting the study, led by Dr. Yuhua Bao, assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College, found that home-healthcare patients aged 65 and older are prescribed Potentially Inappropriate Medications (PIMs) at rates three times higher than patients who visit a medical office for care. Data from the study show that home-health patients are taking 11 different prescription medications on average, and that the constant intake of several medications is directly related to the presence of PIMs.

In a review of data of 3,124 senior home-health patients, the researchers found 38 percent were taking at least one PIM. Senior patients taking 15 or more medications were five to six times as likely to be prescribed PIMs as patients taking seven or fewer medications.

The researchers said in most cases the problem could be eliminated if patients demanded a comprehensive review of their prescription list with home-healthcare providers to find precisely why each medication is prescribed, whether any could be eliminated and if any are age-inappropriate.

According to the study, the high prevalence of PIMs among elderly home-healthcare patients is a symptom of a fragmented healthcare system. Many separate doctors may be treating a patient for different ailments simultaneously.

Software Updates May Be Hacking Attempts

Over the past year, the growing computer surveillance industry has made great strides in creating software that may encourage computer users to unknowingly install surveillance viruses on their personal machines.

Gamma International UK Ltd., a surveillance company, recently touted its ability to send messages to individuals claiming that an update is needed to software on their computers mimicking messages from Apple, Adobe and other software providers, according to The Wall Street Journal. When users download the update, their computer is infected with surveillance software; the sender of the software is then able to track everything that is done on the machine.

The news outlet reports that Gamma’s products are not unique, but part of a growing trend in surveillance technology used by governments — and sometimes criminals — to obtain computer users’ information. The providers of the hacking software say that it is a necessary tool in the fight against terror.

The article says that many privacy experts believe that the software is being heavily marketed to low-level law enforcement agencies. The experts say that is cause for concern. As more people obtain the hacking software, the opportunity for abuse grows.

“The use of this technology represents a huge encroachment on civil rights and could only be justified during the most serious national security investigations,” said Eric King, of the U.K. nonprofit Privacy International.

The Journal has begun a new series of special reports called “The Surveillance Catalog” that documents a number of growing trends in the cybersurveillance industry.

GOP Hopefuls Debate National Security

The CNN GOP Presidential national security debate on Nov. 22 gave the eight Republican candidates an opportunity to face off on issues including The Patriot Act, foreign policy, homeland security and the War on Terror.

Within the first minutes of the debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul of Texas engaged in a quarrel over The Patriot Act.

Gingrich said that it was in the best interest of the American public to continue to expand The Patriot Act in an effort to keep mass-casualty events from happening in the United States. Paul likened the expansion of the act to requiring a police officer in every American home to curtail incidents of domestic violence, reminding the audience that the Founding Fathers warned against giving up freedoms for protection.

U.S. military aid to Israel, always a key foreign policy topic for the GOP candidates, came to the table as the Presidential hopefuls discussed issues abroad.

Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Gingrich and Michele Bachmann had very similar views on the Israeli issue. All contended that if Iran posed an imminent threat to the Israelis, they would use their Presidential power to intervene. Paul said the United States needs to get out of the way because Israel is capable of defending itself.

Perry said the government should stop writing “blank checks” to Pakistan and other countries that fail to protect American interests, but Bachmann called that proposal “naïve” because the country has nuclear weapons that must be protected from al-Qaida operatives.

In previous debates, Paul seemed to be given fewer questions and less speaking time than the other candidates. A debate-time tally issued by CNN shows that candidates were given more of a fair shake in the most recent debate. Gingrich was asked 11 questions and spoke for 11 minutes, 38 seconds; Romney: 12 questions, 11:3; Perry: 11 questions, 10:32, Paul: 9 questions; 9:40; Bachmann: 9 questions, 8:43; Huntsman: 8 questions, 8:14; Santorum: 6 questions, 7:41; Cain: 7 questions, 5:19.

An article in Forbes said that Paul, Gingrich and Romney performed most strongly in the debate.