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Nation briefs for June 11

1st commercial drone flights OK’d by FAA

LOS ANGELES — Marking a milestone for the industry, Monrovia, Calif., drone maker AeroVironment Inc. recently announced a contract to use an unmanned aircraft to perform routine commercial services over land in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration rules.

The company’s small drone, called Puma AE, is now scouring BP Exploration Inc.’s Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska, a first under FAA authorization.

As the U.S. Navy moves toward developing its first fleet of aircraft carrier-based combat drones, a dogfight broke out in Washington about the direction of the program.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Congress moves to ensure faster care for vets

WASHINGTON — United in response to a national uproar, Congress is suddenly moving quickly to address military veterans’ long waits for care at VA hospitals.

The House unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to make it easier for patients enduring lengthy delays for initial visits to get VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead. The Senate was poised to vote on a similar bill within 48 hours, said Democratic leader Harry Reid.

The legislation comes close on the heels of a Veterans Affairs Department audit showing more than 57,000 new applicants for care have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments and an additional 64,000 newly enrolled vets who requested appointments never got them.

Feds update advice about fish

WASHINGTON — Eat more fish. But stick to kinds with less mercury.

That’s the message federal regulators sent Tuesday in updating their advice about eating fish for pregnant women and nursing mothers, as well as women who might become pregnant and small children.

A decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency recommended maximum amounts of fish those groups should consume. But the new guidance includes a minimum amount, suggesting pregnant women eat at least 8 ounces and as many as 12 ounces per week of fish low in mercury in order to promote fetal growth and development.


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