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.