Senate Democratic leaders expect a gun bill to move to the Senate floor that includes most of the proposals backed by President Barack Obama, with the notable exception of a ban on military-style, semiautomatic weapons, a top aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said. The bill would likely seek to limit the capacity of ammunition magazines; expand background checks to include sales at gun shows and other private transactions; and require better record keeping to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illnesses. It would also try to curb gun sales in states with more relaxed gun laws to buyers in states with stricter laws. The goal is to get the bill to the Senate floor next month, at which point lawmakers could then seek to amend the legislation by adding a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons or other provisions.
Boy Scouts of America board members will meet this week to debate ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, prompting groups both for and against the move to converge on its Texas headquarters for demonstrations. The national executive board, which lists more than 70 members, is expected to vote on Wednesday, the last day of a three-day meeting, on whether to lift the ban they had reaffirmed just last year amid criticism from gay rights groups and gay former Scouts and Scout leaders. The Boy Scouts has not responded to inquiries about the private meeting, but activists for and against lifting the ban said they expected a vote on Wednesday. The board meeting comes as the century-old youth organization that prides itself on teaching boys life skills such as camping and leadership, faces membership declines and a donations boycott by some corporations over its anti-gay policy.
Health concerns are prompting proposals to restrict the sale of highly caffeinated energy drinks, USA Today reports. Chicago Alderman Ed Burke last month introduced an ordinance that would ban the sale of energy drinks that contain 180 milligrams of caffeine and two other substances. That would end sales of many 24-ounce energy drinks. A hearing on Burke’s proposal has not been scheduled, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has not said whether he supports it. His concern was prompted by a study for the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found the number of emergency room visits involving the drinks rose from about 10,000 in 2007 to more than 20,000 in 2011. The study said energy drinks can cause insomnia, fast heartbeat and seizures.
Civil rights attorneys are seeking an injunction against further surveillance of Muslims without evidence of crimes and a new court-appointed auditor to oversee police activities by the NYPD. Describing continuing surveillance of Muslims as “widespread and intense,” the civil rights lawyers complained that the NYPD has monitored public places where Muslims eat, shop and worship and has kept records and notes about police observations despite any evidence of unlawful or terror-related activities. The lawyers said the NYPD’s actions violate rules, known as the Handschu guidelines, that a court had imposed as part of a 1985 landmark settlement with the NYPD to a lawsuit they filed. The NYPD and New York City Mayor Bloomberg have said the department follows the Handschu guidelines and did not break any laws over the course of its surveillance of Muslim communities.
The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month. The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor. The proposal would require local television stations and other broadcasters to sell a chunk of airwaves to the government that would be used for the public WiFi networks. It is not clear whether these companies would be willing to do so. The FCC’s plan is part of a broader strategy to repurpose entire swaths of the nation’s airwaves to accomplish a number of goals, including bolstering cellular networks and creating a dedicated channel for emergency responders.