Recently in National News Category

FCC to vote on net neutrality

Facing criticism from all sides, the Federal Communications Commission plans to take on net neutrality regulations despite a federal court ruling in April that said the FCC does not have the authority to regulate how Internet service providers deal with network traffic, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Since becoming FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski has been promising new regulations for phone and cable companies that offer broadband access. He said Wednesday that the new rules would guarantee that providers treat all data on their networks the same, a concept known as net neutrality, National Public Radio reported.

But critics say the new rules do not fulfill their intended purpose, NPR reported.

Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, D.C., says the proposed rules are full of loopholes.

Meinrath says the biggest loophole may be that wireless networks would be exempt from a lot of the rules governing classic, wired Internet, NPR reported.

"No one was particularly happy with what the FCC chairman is proposing. But that doesn't mean it's not the right answer," said Kevin Werbach, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a former technology consultant to the Obama administration.

"I can understand those in the public interest community who would like to see something stronger. But having something in place is going to be much better than nothing," he said. "And the reality is that nothing is the alternative."

The full commission will vote on the proposed rules on Dec. 21, NPR reported.

Radiation from the hundreds of full-body scanners at airports, which will be implemented in time for the holidays, has some worried for their health, while federal officials are trying to reassure the public that the machines are safe.

The Transportation Security Administration says radiation from one scan is almost equal to three minutes in an airplane at 30,000 feet, where atmospheric radiation levels are higher than on the ground, the Associated Press reported.

"We are confident that full-body X-ray security products and practices do not pose a significant risk to the public health," U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials and the TSA wrote in a letter last month.

The scanner shows a picture of an unclothed body with facial features blurred. If passengers opt out of the machines, they have to go through a pat-down search, the Detroit Free Press reported.

About 385 scanners have already been installed in more than 60 airports, the AP reported. The TSA plans to have 500 scanners total in place by the end of the year.

Some travelers have expressed concern over the radiation and have said that the pat-downs are uncomfortable and privacy has become an issue, Detroit Free Press reported.

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Michael Conway said he has not received complaints about the new safety precautions, Detroit Free Press reported. He recalled criticism about the system after the failed Dec.25 attempt by the almost underwear bomber.

"In their defense, for somebody who was here on Christmas Day, who spent here all day and night dealing with media inquiries, everybody was pointing their finger at the U.S. government and saying 'Why didn't you stop that guy," Conway said. "They've now deployed the procedures to stop 'that guy,' and they're still getting criticism. I can see the TSA's side on it."

Recreational marijuana has been rejected by California voters, while 10 cities have approved new or higher taxes on marijuana sales.

California's Proposition 19 would have allowed for the possession of up to an ounce of pot and may have brought in tax revenue, the New York Times reported. Prop 19 included a provision that would have legalized small scale cultivation of marijuana throughout the state.

Despite continued debate, marijuana has been accepted by some as a legitimate source of revenue for states struggling under the recession.

"As part of treating this business like any other business in the city, we need to update our business operation tax to include them," said Amy Williams, a spokeswoman for the City of Sacramento. The city approved a 4 percent tax on medicinal marijuana.

other cities, including San Jose, Long Beach and Oakland approved special marijuana taxes after struggling with deficits brought on by the recession, the Associated Press reported.

Nine municipalities in Colorado approved a higher sales tax on medical marijuana, which was approved in 2000, the AP reported.

The first openly gay Episcopal bishop, whose consecration spurred a divide in the global Anglican Communion, plans to retire in 2013 because of the effect the worldwide uproar has had on him, his family and his New Hampshire diocese, he said Saturday.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson, 63, announced his retirement early to give the diocese time to find a replacement and to get approval of the national church, which can take two years, the New York Times reported. The mandatory retirement age for Episcopal bishops is 72.

"The fact is, the last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you," the bishop said while addressing congregants, the Associated Press reported. "Death threats and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark."

Robinson, who has become a national figure and a prominent symbol in the international gay rights movement, gave the opening invocation for a concert prior to President Obama's inauguration in 2009.

Robinson and his partner of over 20 years, held a civil union ceremony in 2008, the AP reported.

Robinson supported same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and calls himself an evangelist to people alienated from Christianity, the New York Times reported.

"This is the one place on earth where I am not 'the gay bishop,'" he said in his retirement announcement in New Hampshire, the New York Times reported. "I believe that you elected me because you believed me to be the right person to lead you at this time. The world has sometimes questioned that, but I hope you never did."

Synagogues in Chicago take precautions

Two synagogues in Chicago learned that they were targets of a failed bomb plot and institutions around the area started taking precautions Friday.

"Since two of the suspicious packages that were intercepted were addressed to religious institutions in Chicago, all churches, synagogues and mosques in the Chicago area should be vigilant for any unsolicited or unexpected packages, especially those originating from overseas locations, " FBI Special Agent Ross Rice said according to the Telegraph.

One of the packages was addressed to Or Chadesh, a small group for gay and lesbian members of the congregation at the Emanuel Syangogue in Chicago, the Telegraph reported. Rabbi Larry Edwards, of Or Chadesh, said that "he could not help but wonder" whether his congregation was targeted for being both Jewish and gay.

"We are a small congregation and I would describe the reaction as one of determination not to let this get to us," Edwards said. "But certainly security has been beefed up and we'll be taking extra precautions."

Other synagogues are increasing security and being especially careful with incoming mail, CNN reported. Some leaders of Chicago synagogues have said that this incident will not interfere with services, although it reinforces beliefs that the Jewish community is a common target of hostility.

"We live in a world that contains some people that are hostile to us and we want to respond to that hostility with caution," said Bob, who leads Etz Chaim in Lombard, Illinois. "At the same time, we're not going to go hide in the basement."

After firing Juan Williams, NPR's funding may be threatened

National Public Radio has faced severe backlash for firing commentator Juan Williams Wednesday for comments he made on Fox News.

NPR's decision has been criticized by the public, politicians and lawmakers who may cause long-term damage to public broadcasting, The Washington Post reported. Some Republican politicians have urged Congress to reduce or eliminate federal funding for public television and radio, including House Minority Whip Cantor of Va., Sen. Jim DeMint of S.C., and former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Ga.

Vivian Schiller, NPR's president, told employees at a meeting Friday that she regretted how the incident was handled. Other NPR staff at the meeting expressed disappointment for how NPR responded to the situation, The Washington Post reported.

NPR reported that comments Williams made on The O'Reilly Factor regarding Muslims violated NPR's ethics policy. According to NPR, he said that he gets nervous when he sees other airline passengers wearing "Muslim garb."

Williams responded to his firing during an appearance on Fox news Thursday, NPR reported. He said that his comments were misconstrued and that NPR had an ulterior motive for firing him.

"I don't fit in their box. I'm not predictable, black, liberal," Williams told Bill O'Reilly during his program. "They were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I appear on Fox News. They don't want me talking to you."

Other prominent Republicans, such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, have spoke out against NPR's decision. Gingrich said that it was "an act of total censorship" and called for major cuts in their funding, NPR reported.

Federal sources provide $154 million annually to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Endowment for the Arts, 2 percent of which helps fund NPR. CBS has over 800 member stations that rely on tax subsidies, NPR reported.

Williams has been given a three-year $2 million contract with Fox News. According to NPR he is "enjoying the full embrace of Fox News."

Trials treating spinal injury patients with human embryonic stem cells began Monday at an Atlanta hospital after approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA gave Gergon, a San Francisco based biotech company, approval to use stem cells to treat people with spinal cord injuries after tests with rats gave promising results, BBC reported.

The stem cells used in the trials are leftover from fertility treatments. The cells are manipulated to become nerve cells that could help regenerate injured spinal cords, ABC reported.

The trials at the hospital will test if the treatment is safe. It is unknown if the treatment will be effective for patients with spinal cord injuries.

"We can only admit one patient a month for the first few patients," Tom O'Karma, president and CEO of Geron Corporation said. "It will take about six months to a year before we have enough rigorous data to be able to say something about safety and any possible efficacy that we detect."

Patients will be treated with the experimental stem cells within 14 days of spinal cord injuries, BBC reported.

"The global stem cell and regenerative medicine community will be awaiting results of this safety trial with much anticipation," Ben Sykes, executive director of the UK National Stem Cell Network, said.

8 suspects will face charges Sunday including robbery, assault and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes after allegedly torturing two teenage boys and a man in New York for being gay.

According to police, a gang called the Latin King Goonies beat and sodomized a 17-year-old boy on Oct.3, who was being recruited for the group, after hearing that he was gay.

The suspects took the teenager to an unoccupied apartment early Sunday morning. They forced him to strip naked and then tortured him by hitting him with a beer can, cutting him with a box cutter and then sodomizing him the wooden handle of a plunger until he admitted to having had a sex with a 30-year-old man who lives a few blocks from them, the Associated Press reported.

The teenage boy received treatment at a hospital but said the injuries were from a unknown assailants on the street, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, CNN reported.

According to Kelly, an eighth suspect was arrested for his apparent involvement in the anti-gay attacks, leaving a ninth suspect who has yet to be apprehended, CNN reported. His attorney arranged for him to turn himself in, but he never did, Kelly said.

Later that night the gang tortured another 17-year-old boy in the same vacant apartment because they thought he was gay, police said.

The 30-year-old man was brought to the location where the teenage boy was being held and was beaten and sodomized with a small baseball bat, CNN reported.

Pending charges against the 8 apprehended suspects include unlawful imprisonment, abduction, sodomy, assault, robbery, and menacing, all as hate crimes, CNN reported.

Police announced that they arrested Bryan Almonte, 17, Steven Caraballo, 17, Brian Cepeda, 16, Nelson Falu, 17, Ildefonzo Mendez, 23, Denis Peitars, 17 and David Rivera, 21, on Friday.

Elmer Confresi, 23, was arrested Saturday and the ninth suspect Ruddy Vargas-Perez, 22, is still at large, CNN reported.

The teenagers are being charged as adults and all suspects are from the Bronx.

"I was sickened by the brutal nature of these crimes," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday at a press conference. "Hate crimes such as these strike fear into all of us."

Rutgers plans to hold a vigil Sunday for a student who committed suicide after a video of him having a sexual encounter with another man was put online.

The body of Tyler Clementi, 18, a Rutgers University freshman, was found Thursday in the Hudson River more than a week after he jumped from the George Washington Bridge, CNN reported.

Two Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy, according to the Middlesex County, New Jersey, prosecutor's office, after they allegedly set up a camera in Clementi's room without his consent and then broadcast his sexual encounter online, CNN reported.

Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi , and Molly Wei, both 18, were charged after purportedly using a Webcam to stream live images on the Internet of Clementi having an intimate encounter with another man, the Associated Press reported.

Clementi jumped of the bridge, which spans the river between New York and New Jersey, three days after the video was broadcast.

Rutgers remembered Clementi during a moment of silence at a football game and on Friday, students wore black and could leave flowers and keepsakes at a "makeshift memorial" for him, the AP reported. A Facebook group was made in remembrance of Clementi.

According to the AP, the Rutgers Glee club paid tribute by singing an a capella version of "Rutgers Prayer," which is usually sung in the event of a tragedy at the university or after the death of a prominent community member.

Clementi is one of several young adults who committed suicide in the past month who are thought to be victims of homophobia, the AP reported. A memorial service was held Friday for a young California boy, Seth Walsh, 13, who hanged himself after being harassed by other students about being gay.

Rutgers will conduct a vigil Sunday in honor of Clementi.

Lawsuits were filed against Bishop Eddie Long, who vowed to battle allegations that he sexually took advantage of four men from his congregation, the Guardian reported.

According to the Guardian, he compared himself to David and Goliath while addressing members of his church Sunday, and vowed to fight the claims that he coerced four male parishioners into sexual relationships.

The New York Times reported that four men, who used to be members of a youth group he led, accused him of repeatedly persuading them to commit sex acts with money, gifts and vacations.

Long, who is the pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia, considers himself socially conservative and has said that same-sex marriage should be banned and, according to the Guardian, has described homosexuality as a "spiritual abortion."

The accusations will not be investigated, according to federal and state authorities, because the four men said they were either 17 or 18, older than Georgia's age of consent, which is 16, during their reputed relationships with Long, the Associated Press reported.

According to the AP, Long said as he addressed his congregation Sunday, ``There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. That's not me. That is not me."

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