Law And Order

California city wants to make bullying a misdemeanor

May 8, 2014
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The City Council in Carson, California unanimously voted in favor of a measure making bullying a misdemeanor this week. The anti-bullying ordinance still has to pass a final vote later in May, NPR reported.

Groups are already questioning how effective the measure would be, though. The ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to cause any person between kindergarten age through 25 years old to "feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested," notes the Los Angeles Times. Meant to include cyberbullying, City Council members say the ordinance would better protect groups especially vulnerable to bullying; they say that includes gay, overweight, disabled, and gifted children.

What is not spelled out is what does and does not constitute a provocation under those terms: What if a "joking" text message is not taken as such by the recipient? What should happen to classmates of a young girl left out of a game at recess, does that warrant calling the police? And as for the age cutoff at 25, that feels entirely arbitrary.

Carson Mayor Jim Dear told Reuters he and fellow Council members are aware of the challenges, but that they support the measure: "We're not talking about putting a five-year-old in jail, we're talking about intervening in both the bully's life, who is a person who is hurting too, and the victim's life."

While the goal of a bully-free community is commendable, Carson's ordinance appears to have an awful lot of tweaks to iron out before it can adequately enforce such an ideal.

intrigue

Former Russian spy may have been poisoned twice

8:10pm ET
Carl Court/Getty Images

In London, an inquiry is now underway into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned in late 2006 and died weeks later.

Lawyer Robin Tam said that evidence would be shown that Litvinenko "was poisoned with polonium not once, but twice," the Los Angeles Times reports. In November 2006, Litvinenko met with two Russians for tea at a hotel in London, where his drink was spiked. He died a few weeks later after being hospitalized for radiation poisoning, but before he passed away, Litvinenko said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hit. Russia denied the allegation and said it would not extradite the men Britain identified as the prime poisoning suspects: Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi.

Tam said this wasn't the first time that Litvinenko became ill after being with the men; following a meeting in mid-October, Litvinenko complained of not feeling well. Ben Emmerson, a lawyer for the Litvinenko family, said he was killed because he had shared information with countries looking into ties between organized crime syndicates and the Kremlin: "He had to be eliminated — not because he was an enemy of the Russian state itself or an enemy of the Russian people — but because he had become an enemy of the close-knit group of criminals who surround Vladimir Putin and keep his corrupt regime in power."

egg-cellent

Scientists just found a way to 'unboil' an egg

7:38pm ET

Anyone can boil an egg, but scientists have figured out a way to "unboil" one, The Huffington Post reports. University of California, Irvine, and Australian scientists reversed the effects boiling has on proteins found in egg whites.

"In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold," researcher Gregory Weiss said in a news release. "We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order."

Reconstituting proteins could streamline manufacturing cheese and other foods. It could also speed up development of drugs used to treat cancer.

outer space

Huge ring system around distant exoplanet is heavier, bigger than Saturn's

7:07pm ET

The sixth planet from the sun has nothing on J1407b, a giant expolanet with rings 200 times larger than Saturn's.

The planetary ring system was discovered in 2012, and is the first of its kind to be found outside of the solar system. In Astrophysical Journal, researchers write that the scale of the rings is even greater than first thought: More than 30 individual rings are tens of millions of miles in diameter, and between each ring there are gaps that point towards the presence of exomoons, Discovery News reports.

"The star is much too far away to observe the rings directly, but we could make a detailed model based on the rapid brightness variations in the star light passing through the ring system," lead author Matthew Kenworthy of Leiden Observatory said. "If we could replace Saturn's rings with the rings around J1407b, they would be easily visible at night and be many times larger than the full moon."

the hackers are coming

Government revamps social media security after Central Command hack

6:16pm ET
Screenshot/NBC

Remember the embarrassing U.S. Central Command hack on Twitter and YouTube from earlier this month? No classified information got out, but there were a whole lot of pro-ISIS posts.

The General Service Administration released new social media security guidelines Tuesday to stop that from happening again (they hope), BuzzFeed News reports.

Agencies should set up "social media stakeholder teams" to quickly respond to incidents like Central Command's, the guidelines say. They should also set up two-step verification for all logins and follow federal recommendations for setting up strong passwords. Oh, and ensure no former employees have access to the accounts.

Check out the full list of guidelines here.

do you want to build a snowman?

Snowstorm forecasts weren't actually that far off

5:36pm ET
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

As New Yorkers woke up to less snow than anticipated, many questioned the validity of weather forecasts predicting a possibly historic blizzard. But forecasters and atmospheric scientists said the models weren't far off.

The storm was extremely powerful, but the intensity hit 50 to 100 miles east of forecasts, and New York City fell just outside the blizzard range.

"In the big picture, this was not a bad forecast," Columbia University atmospheric scientist Adam Sobel told The New York Times. "But if you sit in New York City, this was a bust."

Arguably, some New Yorkers should be thanking the skewed forecasts for getting them a day off work.

$$$$

Apple smashes revenue expectations behind massive iPhone sales

5:09pm ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple Inc. on Tuesday reported a record profit for the last fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 27, thanks in part to enormous sales totals of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The tech giant sold 74.5 million iPhones in that three-month span, a 44 percent spike from the same quarter last year. The sales surge helped the company post $74.6 billion in quarterly revenue — a 30 percent increase from last year's $57.6 billion haul, and well above the roughly $67.7 billion analysts expected.

Science!

Study: Sleeping aids could increase the risk of Alzheimer's

4:14pm ET
Xurxo Lobato/Cover/Getty Images

A new study from the University of Washington School of Pharmacy found that over-the-counter sleeping drugs could increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, found that some sleep aids and anti-allergy pills contain "anticholinergic" blocking effects, which, if taken in large doses, can increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Anticholinergic drugs block acetylcholine, a chemical transmitter in the nervous system that Alzheimer's patients often lack.

The researchers suggested that doctors prescribe lower doses and fewer anticholinergic drugs for older patients, though more research is needed to understand sleep aids' potential risks.

Who you gonna call?

Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig lead cast of all-female Ghostbusters reboot

4:05pm ET

The cast for the long-awaited return of the Ghostbusters franchise has finally been assembled. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon are reportedly set to take the lead roles in an all-female reboot of the franchise.

The casting hasn't been formally confirmed, but is widely expected to go through. Melissa McCarthy has already signed on, and The Hollywood Reporter says that "negotiations are ongoing" for the remaining three stars. Most tellingly, director Paul Feig has already tweeted a picture of the quartet:

The Ghostbusters reboot comes at the end of a long, long road for the franchise, which saw the prospect of a third Ghostbusters movie dangled in front of fans for more than a decade. The 2014 death of original Ghostbusters star Harold Ramis, along with the continued reluctance of Bill Murray to join the project, led to the idea of a reboot instead of a sequel.

AirAsia Flight 8501

Indonesian military's search for crashed AirAsia jet is officially over

3:24pm ET
Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

Indonesia's military has withdrawn its search for the bodies of AirAsia Flight 8501. Seventy of the 162 passengers' bodies have been recovered.

The plane crashed over the Java Sea in December while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Rescue divers have recovered the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder.

"The operation has been ongoing for 30 days, so the joint team has been pulled out," Rear Admiral Widodo, head of the navy's western fleet, told Reuters. "We apologize to the families of the victims. We tried our best to look for the missing victims."

The civilian National Search and Rescue agency has said it may continue the search for the bodies, and it will hold a press conference on Wednesday.

Super Bowl

Marshawn Lynch perfectly trolled the NFL for forcing him to speak with the media

2:59pm ET
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a noted distaste for speaking with the press. But with the NFL threatening to fine him a reported $500,000 should he skip out on Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch dutifully answered questions for the press on Tuesday with a single response: "I'm just here so I won't get fined."

This year alone, the NFL fined Lynch $100,000 for refusing to sit through two media avails.

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