While iPods, Kindles, and Angry Bird stuffed animals were some of the hottest items of the 2011 Christmas season, December saw record-breaking numbers for gun sales, as droves of Americans found firearms and ammunition under their Christmas trees. According to FBI statistics, gun dealers requested more than 1.5 million background checks to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December, the highest single-month figure since the statistics first began being recorded.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking the U.S. District Court in San Diego to grant constitutional rights to killer whales who perform at marine parks. Targeting SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, the lawsuit of the animal rights group charges that harboring whales for public entertainment purposes violates the 13th Amendment ban on slavery, indicating that animals should possess the same rights as American citizens.
A 35-year-old Navy veteran, Luis Lebron, is suing the state of Florida over its policy that all welfare applicants be drug tested prior to receiving benefits. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), America’s legislative lobbying and litigation artisans whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States," will be representing Lebron.
The fatal shooting of an African-American teen has spurred a national controversy, as racial tensions ignite and media outlets exploit and capitalize on the story of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s death. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whom the New York Times labels a "white" Hispanic, shot and killed the teen after Martin allegedly attacked Zimmerman and banged his head against the sidewalk.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is backing a controversial component of an existing computer fraud law that makes it a crime to use a fake name on Facebook or embellish your weight on an online dating profile such as eHarmony. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 25-year-old law that mainly addresses hacking, password trafficking, and computer viruses, should enforce criminal penalties for users who violate websites’ terms of service agreements, alleges the Justice Department.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest labor unions in the country, is reported to have released a 70-page manual, the "Contract Campaign Manual" on "Pressuring the Employer," which encourages union members to use coercion and scare tactics to intimidate managers and corporate authority figures in the private sector.
A new service offered by Google is raising some eyebrows, as users now have access to monthly reports that reveal all their online activities using Google products (Gmail, YouTube, Google+ social network, online search, etc.). Called "Account Activity," the new feature will allow users to "step back and take stock of what you’re doing online," Google product manager Andreas Tuerk noted in a blog post. "Knowing more about your account activity also can help you take steps to protect your Google Account."
As the 2012 election nears, a report published by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States asserted that nearly two million deceased Americans are still registered to vote, while one in every eight voter registrations contains significant errors. More than 2.7 million Americans have active registrations in more than one state, and approximately 12 million contain address inaccuracies, likely preventing them from receiving voting-related mail; further, more than 50 million eligible U.S. citizens are unregistered.
In a formal "request for information," the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked software companies for a digital tool that would systematically scan the entire social media realm to find potential terrorist-related threats and intelligence information. While hundreds of intelligence analysts are already probing overseas Facebook and Twitter posts, U.S. law enforcement officials claim digital software could sift through more data than humans ever could.
Google announced Tuesday a new social networking maneuver that will rummage through photos and commentary on its budding social network, Google+, so search results can provide more personal information for web browsing. The addition, which was employed the same day it was announced, will tailor search results by filtering content to the unique interests of each user browsing the Internet.