With wildly high temperatures, wicked weather and wildfires across the country, there are more warnings than usual posted about fireworks safety this year. In addition to harming themselves, people are also in danger of lighting up their entire neighborhoods.
"What people donâ€™t realize is while theyâ€™re setting off fireworks and sparklers in this hot, dry heat or wind, that fires can move very quickly, putting their neighborhood directly in threat," said Mike Apicello, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
"Look for open, wide spaces to ignite fireworks, and stay away from fire fuels such as grass, which in this type of heat, cure out really fast. And with the high winds, all it takes is an ignition, even in an urban environment. A bottle rocket on a shake roof would ignite a fire very rapidly.
"Our fire resources are going to be very busy across the nation this July Fourth, so please use caution," he said.
In the event of high winds, drifting embers can easily start a fire, so if it's too windy for you to safely ignite, it's best to set the sparklers aside for another day.
Apicello advises checking locally before you do anything, adding that fireworks are not allowed in national parks.
After all, fireworks aren't legal everywhere. CNN Radio reports in this podcast about where you can and can't ignite them.
Each year, more than 100 fireworks-related injuries are reported to hospitals, according to the National Council on Fireworks Safety.
Last year alone, 65% of those injuries happened, not surprisingly, during the 30 days around the Fourth of July, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported.
Two groups in Los Angeles just canâ€™t seem to get together on a day of solidarity.
For more than a decade, May 1 - which is the labor movement's International Workers' Day, or May Day -Â has been about immigration in Los Angeles. Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, said for many years people in the United States didn't celebrate the day, but CHIRLA has tried to change that in Southern California.
â€ś[Itâ€™s] a major day of mobilization. All around the world people mobilize en mass," Salas said. â€śAnd weâ€™re very proud to have brought back to the United States the engagement of May 1.â€ť
(Click the audio player to hear more on this story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope)
This year, however, immigration will share the day with the Occupy protesters. Nationwide, Occupy organizers are calling for large-scale demonstrations across the country on International Workers' Day, which is Tuesday.
Salas says CHIRLA and other immigrant-rights groups have tried to get together with the Occupy movement for the day. But Michael Novick, an organizer for Occupy Los Angeles, says the two sides just couldnâ€™t â€śgel.â€ť
Jenna Talackova was born a man. She began the process of becoming a woman at age 14 with hormone treatments and then had surgery at the age of 19.
â€śI have always dreamed of being in the Miss Universe competition and having an opportunity to represent my country, Canada,â€ť said the 23-year-old beauty contestant. Â â€śI was told by representatives of the Miss Universe Canada Pageant that I could not compete because a rule stated that I had to be a naturally born woman,â€ť she said.
The Miss Universe Pageant is owned by Donald Trump who, after much attention, changed his mind and said Talackova could compete. But, Talackovaâ€™s attorney Gloria Allred says, she and her client want the â€śnaturally bornâ€ť rule eliminated.
There are some pageants specifically for transgender women and transvestites, but Talackova wants to compete in mainstream pageants. Allred said allowing Talackova to compete but not changing the â€śnaturally bornâ€ť rule doesn't address the problem.
That rule has already been dropped from most sports from high school to the Olympics. Transgender people can compete in high school, college, the Olympics and the LPGA. The NCAA amended its transgender policy just last year.
â€śWe met with several of our committees that deal with some of these issues and the main policy issues had to do with mixed team status and had to do with the use of banned substances - testosterone,â€ť said Mary Wilfer, associate director of health and safety at the NCAA.
She said that after a year of testosterone suppression medication, a male becoming a female will lose a sufficient amount of male muscle-building strengths and other benefits of testosterone and therefore has no unfair advantage over other naturally born females when it comes to athletic competitions.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar is the senior director of advocacy for the Womenâ€™s Sports Foundation. The WSF was part of a group that helped form the transgender policies for the high school and college level.
â€śIn high school itâ€™s about gender identification. Whatever somebody says they are is what they get to participate in,â€ť said Hogshead-Makar. The WSF took its policy for the NCAA from the International Olympic Committeeâ€™s policy that mandates that transgender women must be at least two years post-gender reassignment surgery in order to compete.
Another group that helped shape the NCAAâ€™s policy is the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Shannon Minter, a transgender man, said itâ€™s true that just because a woman was once a man, it does not make her a better or stronger athlete.
â€śThereâ€™s lots of women actually, transgender women now, who are competing in womenâ€™s sports. And you know, I will say that none of them are at the top of their field,â€ť Minter said.
The U.S. Postal Service is in a precarious financial situation, telling Congress it faces the "equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy."Â Losing billions of dollars a year, it is considering whether to close more than 3,600 post offices and lay off tens of thousands of workers.
The service faces many problems, including a drop in mail volume in recent years. But the service, which employs nearly 572,000 people, says some of its difficulties are inflicted by the federal government - through a law governing how the agency funds workers' retirement health benefits.
In 2006, Congress passed a law requiring the Postal Service to wholly pre-fund its retirement health package -Â that is, cover the health care costs of future retirees, in advance, at 100%. The Postal Service, which is a corporation owned butÂ not funded by the federal government, is the only government-related agency required to prefund retirees' health benefits.
"No one prefundsÂ at more than 30%," said Anthony Vegliante, the service's executive vice president.
There are no nationwide rules written to protect high school athletes from sudden death due to hot weather.
Two high school football players in Georgia collapsed and died on August 2 after practice. This makes at least three possibly heat-related deaths on high school football fields in the past week.
Atlanta Public Schools on Wednesday banned all outdoor student activities until after 6 p.m. through the end of the week because of high heat and humidity in the region. The restriction covers all grades at all schools and includes football, other sports and band practices. Many coaches and band directors have moved practices indoors, the district said.
"We think it was the worst week in the last 35 years in terms of athlete deaths," said Dr. Douglas Casa, chief operating officer of the Korey Stringer Institute of health medicine at the University of Connecticut and author of the book "Preventing Sudden Death in Sports and Physical Activity."
A major 10-mile stretch of one of the busiest freeways in the world is being shut down for an entire weekend for a widening project. It's being called "Carmageddon."
More than 250,000 cars a day use the stretch of Los Angeles' I-405 freeway that connects the San Fernando Valley with the West Side. But this weekend it will be closed, leaving traffic backups that observers predict could be anywhere from 28 to 65 miles long.
The project involves demolishing the Mulholland Bridge, whose supports are too close to the current freeway to add a carpool lane. To do that, the entire freeway on both sides must be shut down for 53 hours.
City and transportation officials are urging people to stay home and avoid the area altogether. It's predicted that all surface streets and other freeways will be jammed with people who must get from the valley to the West Side, so all those who do not need to travel shouldn't, officials say.
"We have front-loaded with extra resources from the California Highway Patrol and LAPD, in the event that we're having a spike of issues that may be the causal effect of road rage," said California Highway Patrol Capt. Greg Hammond.
It's not just about impatience in a long backup, but other issues could arise, such as cars running out of gas or overheating. Drivers who must attempt to get from one side of town to the other are urged to make sure they are gassed up andÂ have plenty of water in the car - and triple the expected travel time.
Japan's crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where the exposure of spent nuclear fuel has contributed to radiation problems there, has highlighted a challenge with nuclear waste: Spent nuclear fuel is never really spent. It remains radioactive and potentially dangerous.
The Japan incident has American politicians advocating to move the United States' nuclear waste, often stored in pools and casks on the grounds of nuclear power plants, away from highly populated areas. And it exposes the fact that the country hasn't come up with a more permanent storage solution.
"Basically, we right now do not really have a long-term strategy" for nuclear waste storage, said UCLA professor Albert Carnesale.
So, what is to be done with the country's 70,000 tons of commercial spent nuclear fuel and the 3,000 additional tons per year that the nation will produce? In 2002, Congress approved Nevada's Yucca Mountain as a site where nuclear fuel would be stored. But after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama told the Energy Department not to use it.
Obama then created the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. The panel, with 15 experts including Carnesale, is studying what to do with spent nuclear fuel.
Click the audio player to hear the rest of the story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope:
The contract between NFL owners and the players' union is set to expire March 3. Many people are asking whether Sunday's Super Bowl will be the last NFL game played in 2011. What is at stake for the players, the owners and the fans?
Rick Horrow, a sports business analyst, attorney and professor, says the NFL has never been stronger.
"If you donâ€™t believe me," Horrow said, "take a look at the Super Bowl. Astronomical ratings."
If a lockout or walkout happens on March 4, the players stand to lose not only salary and health benefits, but also a good chunk of their playing careers, according to Horrow. The average NFL player's career is between three and four years.
"You canâ€™t get that back," Horrow said.
For the owners, things are not that tough.
"The owners ... get one year of television payments, which they negotiated in good faith," Horrow said. "That, by the way, is $4 billion."
The fan should know that if a lockout does happen March 4, the 2011 season still could be saved. Owners and the players' union still will have the spring and summer to get a deal done, Horrow said.
Click the audio player to hear the full story from CNN Radio's Jim Roope:
The housing market is a major indicator of economic strength.
Is that market better today than it was a year ago? Existing home sales are expected to increase 5% to 10% in 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Home Builders says new home starts are expected to increase by 21%.
"But what you have to realize is that the bar is so low from last year, that it's not much to talk about improvement," said Guy Cecala, CEO and publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. "We're improving from a terrible situation, but we're far, far away from any of the housing signs that we saw as recently as three or four years ago."
It is not a healthy market. Foreclosures continue to be a big problem. CNNMoney's Les Christie says 11 million to 12 million homes are still on the brink of repossession.
It all hinges on economic recovery.
"If fewer jobs are lost, there will be fewer foreclosures," Christie said. "If home prices start to rebound, there will be fewer," he said
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ď»żA lot of Democrats are not happy with President Barack Obama's deal with Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, but many small-business owners are.
CNN Radio's Jim Roope talked with Louie Cardona, owner of Cardona Manufacturing in Burbank, California. The precision machine shop produces parts for everything from cars to aircraft. Cardona explained what benefits a tax cut extension would have for small businesses.
"The main reason, of course, is because it would give us the same tax structure we'd been seeing the past several years," Cardona said. "If I had to pay more in taxes, I wouldn't have the money to reinvest in machinery."
Cardona said his business is about 30 percent down over the past two or three years, and he doesn't see things getting any better soon. So, he would be very happy with the tax cut extension if Congress approves it.
"It gives us more money in our pocket,â€ť Cardona said.
CNN Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi confirms what Cardona said.
"This really doesnâ€™t have the same stimulus effect as an actual tax cut," Velshi said. "It's an extension of something you are already not paying."
To hear the complete story, click on the audio button.