30 Egyptian Migrants Drown In Mediterranean

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, July 29 (UPI) — Egyptian security forces said they found the bodies of 30 undocumented migrants floating in the Mediterranean Sea north of Alexandria.

The young men from the governorates of Kafr al-Sheik, Gharbiya, Damietta and Alexandria drowned in an attempt to emigrate from Egypt to Italy, al-Masry al-Youm reported Friday. They were aboard a fishing boat for a week before it sank, the report said.

Security officials arrested the vessel’s owner, who investigators said took $8,400 from each passenger and received a call from someone on board before the boat sank but didn’t alert authorities.

Brain Waves Activate Car’s Braking System

BERLIN, July 29 (UPI) — German scientists say an experimental driving simulator identifies brain waves of a driver about to press the brakes and can brake faster than the driver could.

The Journal of Neural Engineering described an experiment with 18 test subjects wearing a cap wired with EEG sensors.

When the drivers in the simulator thought about slamming on the brakes, the car did so automatically a fraction of a second more quickly than they could, ABC News reported Friday.

Brain waves told the car to hit the brakes an average of 130 milliseconds faster than the driver’s foot did, the researchers said.

In the experiments, that translated into a car doing 62 mph needing 12-15 fewer feet to come to a stop.

“Waiting for the driver’s response can lead to a slow response in emergency situations,” said Stefan Haufe of the Berlin Institute of Technology.

“Therefore, in order to obtain a faster confirmation, our study suggests that it is feasible to detect a driver’s intention to brake, which naturally precedes any observable actions.”

The researchers said the technology is far from real-world applications at this point.

“The EEG system has to cope with a multitude of artifacts” — random electronic noises — “that are stronger than the neural signals,” they said.

Judge Strikes Down Broad Florida Drug Law

ORLANDO, Fla., July 29 (UPI) — Florida’s main anti-drug law is unconstitutional because it makes no allowance for intent, a federal judge says.

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven, ruling in Orlando earlier this week, said the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is the nation’s only drug law to target people who possess illicit drugs unknowingly thanks to legislative action in 2002.

She called the statute “atavistic and repugnant to the common law,” the Palm Beach Post reports.

Prosecutors argued the law does not punish innocent conduct since possession of a banned drug is never legal.

Nellie King, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, hailed Scriven’s ruling as “courageous,” with “monumental” implications.

“What is surprising is the government’s belief that stripping the intent requirement from the drug statutes was lawful from the start,” she said.

The Legislature’s decision to deny its citizens basic rights dating back to English common law is “alarming and arrogant,” King said. “Judge Scriven’s ruling simply renews the mandates inherent in the Constitution which our Legislature opted to ignore.”

The state is expected to appeal.

Kendrick Given 1-year Ban From Tennis

LONDON, July 29 (UPI) — U.S. tennis player Robert Kendrick has been suspended for one year due to a positive test for a banned stimulant, international tennis officials said Friday.

Kendrick, a 31-year-old ranked No. 105 in the world, tested positive for the stimulant Methylhexaneamine during the French Open. He admitted taking the substance but said it was in a capsule he took to fight jet leg and he wasn’t seeking a performance advantage.

Kendrick lost his first-round match in Paris.

The International Tennis Federation accepted Kendrick’s explanation but said a player is responsible for any substance he consumes. Kendrick will be banned from competition until May 21, 2012.

Kendrick has been ranked as high as 69th in his career. A professional since 2000, he’s never won an ATP tournament and never advanced beyond the second round of a Grand Slam event.

Wind Farm Proposal Gains In Florida

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., July 29 (UPI) — A wind energy farm with 500-foot towers on the edge of the Florida Everglades is closer to realization with a decision by Palm Beach County.

The county commissioners’ vote to amend development rules Thursday eases the way for 80 wind turbines on 16,000 acres of sugar cane land near Belle Glade.

The Sierra Club and Audubon Society warned rotating blades would threaten migrating birds such as eagles, wood storks and the Everglades snail kite, and their lights would disorient them, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

“They will be drawn (to the towers), they will circle these and they will die,” said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club.

The wind arms can spin at almost 200 mph, with each tower expected to generate enough energy to power 400 homes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrote to Wind Capital Group July 1, urging more study of potential wildlife threats.

“Collisions with turbine blades are often fatal, and usually resulting in the animal being effectively eliminated from the breeding population,” the agency said.

George Gentile, representing Wind Capital, said a yearlong review would determine the risk to wildlife.

Convicted Killer Guilty Of 1973 Murder

TUCSON, July 29 (UPI) — A man already convicted of rape and murder in Wisconsin has been found guilty in Arizona of kidnapping, raping and killing a young woman there in 1973.

William Floyd Zamastil, 57, was convicted Thursday after a trial in federal court in Tucson. He faces a life sentence with no parole when he is sentenced in October.

The victim, Leesa Jo Shaner, 23, vanished May 29, 1973, when she drove to Tucson International Airport to pick up her husband. Her car was found at the airport and her body four months later in a shallow grave at Fort Huachuca.

“The FBI is extremely gratified by this verdict,” Phoenix Division FBI Special Agent in Charge James Turgal Jr. said. “While there can be no real justice for Leesa Jo Shaner’s family, at least they were able to witness her killer being called to answer for his crimes.”

Shaner’s husband, son, mother and three sisters were in court almost every day during the trial, Turgal said.

Zamastil first became a suspect in the case in 1979, officials said. He was then serving a life sentence in Wisconsin.

‘Octomom': Drugged When Agreed To Implants

LOS ANGELES, July 29 (UPI) — Californian Nadya Suleman, known as “Octomom,” says she was drugged and didn’t know what she was signing when she agreed to be implanted with 12 embryos.

Appearing on Thursday’s “Dr. Drew” show, she said fertility doctor Michael Kamrava had handed her a note about what she would do if “too many [embryos] grew.”

“He gave it to me to sign right there while I’m laying down and I signed it and didn’t read it,” Suleman said, CNN reported.

Kamrava had his California medical license suspended July 1 for gross negligence, KABC-TV, Los Angeles, reported. The California Medical Board ruled Kamrava “did not exercise sound judgment” when he transferred the 12 embryos in 2008.

Suleman, 36. said she never intended to have eight children in January 2009 in addition to the six she already had.

The single mother living on public assistance conceived all 14 children through in vitro fertilization.

Suleiman said she had been turned into a “parody without permission.”

“I have the spotlight. I know it’s my responsibility [for my kids] to brush it away and get rid of the Octomom character,” she said.

Suleman said she suffers anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactivity and obsessive compulsive disorder and was taking a “cocktail of drugs,” including Valium.

Mich. Woman Attacked While Feeding Bear

ONTONAGON, Mich., July 29 (UPI) — A Michigan woman who suffered injuries to her arms, legs and back when she was attacked by a bear belonging to a friend said she is grateful to be alive.

Linda Beck of Ontonagon County in the Upper Peninsula said she has been feeding her friend’s bears for years, but she never had any problems with the animals until one of them ran at her July 18, WLUC-TV, Marquette, Mich., reported Friday.

Beck said she fled from the bear, but it caught up and knocked her to the ground.

“I knew I needed more help than what I could give to stop her. So, I started to pray. And all of a sudden, as soon as I was done praying, there was a little water bucket over there. And I grabbed it and put it over her face,” Beck said.

Beck said she didn’t have time to lock the gate while fleeing and the bear escaped.

“Michigan State Police arrived on the scene. I had radio contact with him and he had seen the bear outside of the larger fence. So, it was out and at large. We discussed it on the radio and felt that the best case was to euthanize the bear for public safety at that time,” said Sgt. Steven Burton of the state Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division.

Beck was airlifted to Wausau, Wis., where she received surgery for her injuries.

“I’m alive, and I thank the Lord for that,” she said.

Loughner Lawyers Appeal Forced Medication

SAN DIEGO, July 29 (UPI) — Lawyers for Jared Loughner, accused in a Jan. 8, 2011, Tucson shooting spree, have appealed a judge’s order that allows him to be medicated without his consent.

In court papers, lawyer Judy Clarke argued Thursday that Loughner’s constitutional rights are being violated by forced treatment, the Los Angeles Times reported. U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns said last month doctors at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo., could force Loughner to take psychotropic medication but was reversed on July 12 by an appeals panel.

Doctors have continued to give Loughner medication, saying he could otherwise harm himself or others. Clarke, in her appeal, argued they could use less intrusive methods, giving him tranquilizers instead of “brain-altering chemicals.”

Loughner was found incompetent to stand trial for the Tucson shootings, which left six people dead and 13 injured. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was holding a constituent event, appears to have been the target and is still recovering from a gunshot wound in the head.

Canada Settles $80M Indian Land Dispute

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, July 29 (UPI) — The Canadian government has agreed to pay a Manitoba Indian reservation $80 million to settle a 108-year-old land dispute, officials in Ottawa said Friday.

Chief Terry Nelson of the Roseau River First Nation band, 60 miles south of Winnipeg, said the settlement ended an “injustice [that] has plagued our people,” the Winnipeg Free Press reported.

In 1903, the federal government took 12 parcels of land covering some 7,700 acres from the band and sold it to farmers and settlers, the Winnipeg Sun said. That was a loss of 60 percent of the reservation, the reports said.

The band first filed a claim in 1986, which was rejected, as was a second one in 2001.

A 2007 claim for compensation resulted in Friday’s settlement, the newspapers said.

The Indian band has some 2,325 members, the Free Press said.

Illinois Considers Ads On License Plates

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., July 29 (UPI) — The Illinois secretary of state’s office said it is researching the possibility of boosting revenue by putting corporate logos on license plates.

Officials said the office’s study will determine potential costs of the program and whether there would be interest from the public, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

The officials said drivers would potentially receive registration discounts for choosing the corporate-branded plates.

The office’s study is due Jan. 1.

More Muscle Mass Reduces Diabetes Risk?

LOS ANGELES, July 29 (UPI) — Increasing muscle mass may reduce the odds of developing diabetes, a new U.S. study suggests.

While previous research has focused on reducing body fat, a study by researchers at UCLA suggests a link between higher muscle mass and a lower risk of diabetes, USA Today reported Thursday.

“Our findings suggest that beyond focusing on losing weight to improve metabolic health, there may be a role for maintaining fitness and building muscle mass,” Preethi Srikanthan, a professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, said.

To see if there was a correlation between higher levels of muscle mass and lower levels of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, the study analyzed data from 13,644 adults taking part in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers found each 10 percent increase in the skeletal muscle index — the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight — corresponded to an 11 reduction in insulin resistance.

“Extra fat has bad effects, but more muscle has good effects,” Daniel Rubin, a professor of medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, says.

“These data are also consistent with data we see on exercise, that it helps decrease diabetes risk, and that a lack of exercise and weight gain increase risk.”

Almagro Wins Twice, Moves To Swiss Semis

GSTAAD, Switzerland, July 29 (UPI) — Top-seeded and defending champion Nicolas Almagro won two matches Friday in claiming a semifinal berth at the Swiss Open tennis tournament.

Almagro’s second-round match Thursday was suspended because of rain after five games so he led off Friday’s play with a 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win over Jarkko Nieminen to earn the right to play a quarterfinals match.

He went against fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, seeded fifth this week, in the quarterfinals, winning 6-4, 7-5 while showing little sign of fatigue. He won 80 percent of the points on serve, losing 12 points over 11 service games and not dropping serve.

Eighth-seeded Marcel Granollers needed just 70 minutes to oust local favorite and No. 2-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-2. Granollers faced only one break point and piled up five breaks in nine receiving games.

He’ll next go against third-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, who was pushed to a third set before getting past Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Youzhny won just one more point (34-33) than Haider-Maurer in the third set but had the set’s only break.

No. 4-seeded Fernando Verdasco also went the distance before topping Julien Benneteau 6-4, 5-7 6-1. He won 63 percent of the points in the third set.

Verdasco draws Almagro in Saturday’s semifinals.

Plans Advance For British Nuclear Plant

WILLITON, England, July 29 (UPI) — Preliminary work on Britain’s first new nuclear power plant in 20 years has gotten the go-ahead despite strong opposition.

The West Somerset District Council in southwestern England approved EDF Energy’s site preparation work for Hinkley Point C Thursday.

The area has had nuclear power stations for more than 50 years. The nearby Hinkley Point A is now closed, and Hinkley Point B is scheduled to shut down in 2016.

EDF says the power station will help secure Britain’s power supply and has supporters like Rupert Cox, head of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, who told The Guardian: “It’s an opportunity to kickstart the local economy.”

Crispin Aubrey of the Stop Hinkley campaign told the council the plant will leave a “devastated wasteland,” and the work EDF has been given permission for is more than “preparatory.”

“The extent of the activity … means it is effectively the beginning of construction of the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power station,” he said.

“The real purpose of this application is not to significantly advance the timing of the new plant, it is to destroy all that is precious about the site so that when the main application for the power station is made … it will meet with less opposition.”

Boehner Plan Tied To Budget Amendment

WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — A plan to join U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s debt reduction bill to a balanced budget amendment won the backing Friday of some key Republicans.

The House was expected to vote on the measure later in the day, The Hill reported. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he would vote for it, and the Club for Growth, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax group, gave it some support.

A vote had been expected Thursday on a bill sponsored by Boehner, R-Ohio, to raise the debt ceiling. But Republican leaders in the House did not bring it to the floor, instead spending the evening trying to bring more of their representatives on board. That gave the House another option.

Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., introduced a deficit reduction plan late Thursday that is similar to the one Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., put forward in the upper house.

President Obama, warning “We are almost out of time,” called on congressional leaders Friday to reach agreement to resolve the crisis.

“A lot of crises we can’t predict or avoid. … This isn’t one of those crises,” Obama said in a 6-minute speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, warning again the deadline is Tuesday for avoiding default on some bills and losing the U.S. triple-A credit rating.

Calls to the House spiked dramatically in the morning after the president urged listeners to get in touch with their representatives and demand action, The Hill said.

Obama said doing nothing actually would result in “a tax increase on everyone” because if the U.S. credit rating takes a hit, interest rates will go up on everything from car and business loans to mortgages and credit card rates.

He said both Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have come up with acceptable solutions that just need minor tweaks to win approval.

Reid said he is ready to move forward.

“No matter how long Republicans delay, the deadline will not move. We have hours — I repeat, hours — to act,” Reid said.

“That is why, by the end of the day today, I must take action on the Senate’s compromise legislation. … This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., have urged members of their party to come to their senses.

Obama urged Democrats and Republicans to find “common ground … that can get support from both parties in the House.”

The president said he’s even willing to accept some sort of “enforcement mechanism” to keep spending under control as debate over a more comprehensive reform package continues in coming months.

“We are almost out of time,” Obama warned.

“The time for compromise is now.”

Two GOP House members from South Carolina — Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney — told reporters Thursday night they were going to a nearby chapel to pray over the matter and for their leadership.

The House impasse appeared to hand the initiative to Reid pushing an alternative version of the debt bill, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Lawmakers who had said they’d oppose the Boehner plan were summoned to the speaker’s office where he tried to persuade them to change their minds, they said.

Most emerged saying they were still “no” votes, the Journal reported.

“He’s asking for my vote. I’m still where I was,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. “The speaker was very respectful.”

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said, “I’m still a no.”

Boehner’s plan would immediately raise the debt ceiling $900 billion, accompanied by $917 billion in spending cuts. A special lawmaker committee would then recommend further cuts of $1.8 trillion in the next decade. If the cuts are adopted, the debt ceiling could go up another $1.6 trillion.

Reid wants to raise the debt ceiling at least $2.4 trillion so it wouldn’t have to be raised again until after next year’s election. It would also cut spending $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

Like Boehner’s plan, Reid’s calls for a lawmaker committee to find ways of reaching his deficit-reduction goal.

Senate leaders say Boehner’s bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate even if it did pass the House. They planned to hold an initial vote Saturday on Reid’s plan.

But Reid’s plan also faced a challenge of winning the 60 votes needed to shut down a possible filibuster, some officials said.

City May Improve Zoo’s Bison Pen

ELGIN, Ill., July 29 (UPI) — Officials in Elgin, Ill., have taken steps to improve the fencing for the city zoo’s bison pen and may add more bison to the exhibit.

The Elgin City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to soliciting bids to improve the fencing at Lords Park Zoo, but no funding for the project has yet been approved, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

The improvement project is being spearheaded by Friends of Lords Park Zoo, which has been pushing for officials to improve the facility. The zoo’s exhibits include bison, deer, elk and farm animals.

The zoo has only one remaining bison, Pokey, after the animal’s companion, Cahoya, died recently at the age of 24. Officials said they have been considering offers of bison donations.

British Military Cuts More Civilian Posts

LONDON, July 29 (UPI) — The British Ministry of Defense is cutting 7,000 more civilian jobs, a top official says.

The cuts are laid out in a letter from Permanent Undersecretary Ursula Brennan, The Guardian reported Friday.

With 25,000 previously announced reductions, the defense civil service, whose tasks include making sure contracts do not go over budget, will now be slashed by a third within nine years.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox announced plans last week to reduce the army by 7,000 military positions but did not mention further civilian cuts.

The Brennan letter states the department needs to “bear down further on non-frontline costs. … For civilians, we will be extending the earlier planned reductions, coming down to a total of 53,000 civilians by 2020.”

Union leaders said the announcement reflected “what the MoD can afford, not what it needs.”

Despite major cutbacks announced in last year’s strategic defense and security review, the military budget was still more than 1 billion pounds ($1.64 billion) higher than projections.

Funding For New Space Telescope In Danger

WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — U.S. politicians say they may pull the funding plug on the James Webb Space Telescope, the intended successor to the Hubble telescope with 100 times the power.

As part of the overall U.S. budget debate, a House appropriations committee vote this month proposed killing the telescope, whose $6.8 billion cost is already up 50 percent over a 2005 estimate and could go even higher, USA Today reported Friday.

A committee report said the step “will ultimately benefit NASA by setting a cost discipline example for other projects.”

A report last year headed by John Casani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the telescope’s cost had increased about $1.5 billion since 2008.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., head of the House science spending committee, said he supports the telescope’s mission but only if NASA commits to making fundamental changes in its budget process.

The budget-busting Webb telescope threatened NASA’s other science missions, he said.

Supporters of the telescope have mobilized to try and save it.

“It will be a game-changer, revolutionary,” University of Chicago astrophysicist Michael Turner said.

“Losing the telescope would be a huge blow to U.S. science and prestige,” Turner said. “We would basically be telling the world we can’t do great things anymore.”

U.S. Issues Alert For CAR

WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — Armed bandits and militia groups pose a danger to U.S. nationals traveling in the Central African Republic, the U.S. State Department warned.

U.S. citizens in the Central African Republic are advised by the State Department to avoid all but necessary travel outside the capital city Bangui.

The State Department warns the crime rate is high in the country and military and civilian security forces are known to harass international residents and foreign visitors.

The warning adds that bandits and poachers pose a threat to foreigners, with some poachers threatening game hunters on the region. The Lord’s Resistance Army also poses a threat in the eastern part of the country, the warning states.

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for LRA leader Joseph Kony and five other top commanders in 2006.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs last week accused the LRA of killing at least 26 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in June.

Pemex Now 4th Place As Global Oil Producer

MEXICO CITY, July 29 (UPI) — After almost 13 years as the third largest producer in the world, Mexico’s Petroleos Mexicanos has dropped into fourth place.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., more commonly referred to by its acronym PDVSA, claimed third place. Petroleos Mexicanos — Pemex — was regulated to the No. 4 spot.

The Statistical and Information Energy Intelligence Group’s “PIW Ranking 2011Global Report” said Pemex in 2010 produced 3 million barrels per day, while PDVSA managed to increase production over Pemex’s output by 170,000 more barrels per day, Mexico’s informador.com reported Friday.

Mexico has ranked eighth in the world in terms of proven reserves. Venezuela however, has established itself as having the world’s second largest reserves of crude oil in the world, only exceeded by Saudi Arabia.

The Oil and Gas Journal listed Venezuelan oil reserves at 20.2 times greater than those of Mexico.

Pemex reported Thursday that its net profit for the January-June period this year was $1.14 billion, its biggest profit since June 2008. The company cited surging crude prices and the fact that Mexican oil traded with a premium over the U.S. crude benchmark as key reasons for the strong financial showing.

Pemex revenues underwrite nearly one-third of Mexico’s federal budget and its investment budget is determined by Mexican authorities and legislators, while also accounting for 10 percent of Mexico’s export earnings.

For the last seven years however Mexico’s Pemex’s crude oil output has showed a steady decline, falling from about 3.4 million barrels a day in 2004 to just less than 2.6 million barrels a day currently.

The United States imports approximately one-half of Pemex’s output. U.S. Energy Administration statistics indicate, the United States total crude oil imports average about 9 billion barrels a day. The top four exporting countries are Canada (2.7 billion barrels per day), Mexico (1.3 bbpd) and Saudi Arabia (1.1 bbpd), with Venezuela in fourth place at 930 million barrels per day.

Worldwide demand for crude rose about 3.2 percent from a year earlier in the three months that ended June 30.

Pemex is trying to reverse its drop in oil output as the cost of the company’s benefit programs soar, leaving the company to face a possible $115 billion pension shortfall by 2019 as benefits owed to tens of thousands of retiring workers have greatly exceeded the funds set aside thus far to pay for retirement benefits.

Complicating the Pemex revenue picture is corruption. Transparency International recently rated Mexico 3.1 for corruption on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being very corrupt and 10 being very clean.

House postpones vote on Boehner’s bill (again)

Late last night, after many delays, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) finally decided to postpone the vote on his proposal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit at least until today. He is expected to regroup with House Republicans this morning, in the hope that he can overcome the resistance in his own party to the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“The Senate, meanwhile, is continuing to wait for the House to act before it takes up any legislation to lift the debt ceiling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will hold a vote to table, or discard, the House bill immediately after — and if — the House passes the bill,” read an article for C-SPAN.org.

However, it is likely that Boehner’s bill could become a vehicle for compromise, as Reid’s own bill is just as unlikely to pass in the Republican-controlled House. The longstanding impasse seems to be grating on the nerves of even the highest-ranking members of Congress.

“Republicans have taken us to the brink of economic chaos,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, according to an article for Reuters. “The delay must end now so we can focus on the American people’s top priority: creating jobs and growing the economy.”

Some members have even given up all hope of a deal being reached before the Aug. 2 deadline.

“I felt for some time that a default was likely,” Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, told POLITICO. “Now, it’s more likely than not.”

Court Rules Canada Out Of Tobacco Suits

OTTAWA, July 29 (UPI) — The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday the federal government cannot be a defendant in a class action lawsuit over smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

The nine judges were unanimous in their decision that tobacco companies alone could be named in lawsuits filed by the four provincial governments of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Ontario. Four other provinces have announced they are drafting similar lawsuits, Postmedia News reported.

British Columbia was the first to sue the country’s largest cigarette maker, Imperial Tobacco, 13 years ago to try to recover as much as $10 billion in healthcare costs, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said. Ontario is seeking $50 billion, the reports said.

The federal government provides some funding for universal medical care, but provinces and territories administer their own medical systems.

The high court rejected tobacco companies’ arguments the federal government had been negligent in protecting citizens and should therefore be included as defendants, the CBC said.

Flat-screen TVs Improve Their Energy Use

LONDON, July 29 (UPI) — Flat-screen TVs are greener than the cathode ray tubes they replaced and have cut their electricity consumption by more than half, U.K. energy campaigners say.

Technology advances have allowed flat-screen TVs, long criticized by environmentalists for their power consumption, to cut their average energy use by 60 percent since 2006, The Guardian reported Friday.

The energy efficiency site Sust-it, which compiled the data by examining 1,800 models, said new lighting developments were largely responsible for the improvement.

“The main thing that’s driving it is the LED technology to backlight the TV,” Sust-it founder Ross Lammas said. “There has been a surge in the past 18 months, with LED TVs really picking up. They were very expensive at first, but are now equivalent in price to LCDs.”

Martyn Hocking, editor of Which? Magazine, said the magazine’s own research confirmed Sust-it’s findings.

“Flat-screen TVs are significantly more energy efficient these days,” he said. “Forty-inch TV’s would often use up to 300 watts three years ago, but some now use as little as 70 watts. We’re seeing similar results with other white goods, such as fridges, freezers and washing machines.”

Sust-it said modern flat-screens now use less energy than the boxy tube televisions they replaced.

A new 32-inch LED TV uses about 75 percent less energy than a 32-inch CRT, costing $13 a year to run rather than $52, it said.