Turkey builds Mideast profile on ruins of suspended ties with Israel

ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Turkey is building its political and military profile as a regional power while contributing to EU moves to promote mediation for peace and humanitarian assistance in the region’s multiple crises, from Libya, Syria to the Palestinian territories.

As the West and European Union in particular ponder their role in a reforming Egypt, Turkey has already accomplished a high-powered dash to Cairo, secured contracts worth $1 billion and reached political accords that are seen likely to outlive the transition from the military to a democratic civilian regime.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan led a 268-member trade delegation to Cairo in the midst of a tense standoff between the generals and the politicians and walked away with wide-ranging economic and political accords.

Erdogan was a peace mission nominally on behalf of Europe and NATO, which has seen its stock rise after the largely successful installation of a transitional government in Libya, even as the uncertain future of deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi looms on the horizon.

Turkey was the colonial power in the vast expanse that includes Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian territories right up to the early part of the 20th century. Ankara commanded respect in Gadhafi’s Libya without subscribing to his politics. Despite frequent rows over payments for multimillion-dollar contracts, Ankara was able to “handle” the maverick former leader without cozying up with him.

Turkey’s current diplomatic rise is a complex outcome of Erdogan’s measured brinkmanship, an ongoing quarrel with Israel that raised Turkey’s standing among the Arabs and the EU’s dependence on Turkey’s unrivaled diplomatic contacts in the Middle East and North Africa region.

“He is polling as the most popular politician, by far, in virtually every country of the Middle East, and for the revolutionary generation who turned to the Middle East’s only Muslim democracy for inspiration, he is a conquering hero,” The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto said of Erdogan in a dispatch from London.

Syndicated columnist Patrick Seale described Turkey’s rise as part of the emergence of the region’s alternative “heavyweights” including Saudi Arabia. At the heart of the problem, Seale said, was growing anger in the region over lack of progress in a resolution of the Arab-Israeli problems.

Seale called it “in effect a rebellion against American and Israeli hegemony as spectacular as the Arab Spring itself. The message these regional powers are conveying is that the Palestine question can no longer be neglected.”

Turkey, until recently a close military and political partner of Israel, broke ranks after an Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza in May 2010.

The Gaza flotilla raid left nine peace activists dead and 10 of the Israeli commandos wounded, one seriously. The flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Turkish-Israeli ties went downhill from that incident and in September this year Turkey downgraded relations with Israel because of its refusal to apologize over the attacks.

Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel in 1949, before Iran under the pro-Western Pahlavi monarchy.

Survey Shows Obamacare Partially Increased Costs

The landmark achievement of the President Barack Obama Administration came under attack as the Affordable Care Act was found to partially increase healthcare costs, Fox News reported.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey shed light on the fact that the rising healthcare costs for employers may be one of the reasons that few jobs are hiring. Insurance premiums rose by 9 percent in 2011, according to the data, and workers and families had to pay more for services.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the 8 percent increase for single workers and the 3 percent rise for families came during a period of severe economic uncertainty. The costs may have increased further if the majority of Americans weren't grandfathered in to their old plans, according to the Kaiser survey's researchers.

An increase in healthcare premiums is another drawback to the Obama plan, according to Karen Ignagni, chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans.

"It's the price, the cost, that is driving premiums," she noted, alleging further that health-plan profits were not linked to the increased cost.  

Alabama To Enforce Immigration Laws After Ruling

A Federal judge ruled that Alabama law enforcement officers can check the immigration status of individuals who they suspect are in the country illegally, The Washington Times reported.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn ruled that Alabama is not explicitly prohibited by Federal law from enacting the provisions of its own immigration law. This means that law enforcement officials are able to check registration papers for immigrants and the State can enact its own penalties for violators.

"Local officials have some inherent authority to assist in the enforcement of Federal immigration law, so long as the local official ‘cooperates’ with the Federal government," Blackburn said in her ruling.

The ruling is expected to be appealed by the President Barack Obama Administration, and leading liberal groups in the country are likely to challenge the law, CBS News reported.

While liberal leaders denounced the verdict, Zan Green and other Tea Party activists noted that the this could bring about the end of illegals receiving benefits from the pockets of Alabama citizens.
 

Obama Calls America Soft, Puts Forth Sales Pitch

President Barack Obama called America soft and noted that the country needed to regain its competitive edge to return to glory in an interview in Orlando, Fla., Fox News reported.

The President and his Vice President Joe Biden were all over the air waves as part of a push to get support for the economic stimulus plan that the Administration put forth. Biden noted that the current problems facing the country could no longer be blamed on former President George W. Bush, according to the news outlet.

"Right now — understandably, totally legitimate — this is a referendum on Obama and Biden and the nature and state of the economy," Biden told public radio listeners. "It's soon going to be a choice."

Though the Obama Administration began to take some of the blame for their complicity in the current economic chaos that exists, Biden went on to say that he believed that America could be in a worse place.

The Washington Post reported that Obama gave the interview in Florida to try and reach across the aisle to grab voters in the swing State.  

Ask Your Supermarket Where Its Cantaloupes Are Grown

ATLANTA, Sept. 29 (UPI) — U.S. health officials advise consumers that if they know a cantaloupe is not from Jensen farms it is OK to eat, but if the grower is unknown, throw it out.

“Jensen farms cantaloupe — contaminated with Listeria — may be present in people’s refrigerators or cut up in fruit salads. So if you have a doubt, you can ask the supplier or supermarket what the source was,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Thursday in a telephone news conference.

“Many of the cantaloupes themselves may not have a label on them. The case (box) that they came in would, but they have been recalled, but the supermarket would know. So consumers should know to check the label or ask a supermarket and if they can’t confirm that it’s not Jensen farms, then it’s best to throw it out.”

People most at risk for Listeria are the elderly, pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune systems such as those who have undergone a transplant or are on treatment for cancer, Frieden said.

“However, even people without a weak immune system can develop fever and diarrhea with Listeria, and Listeria is an illness that in those with underlying conditions can be quite serious or deadly,” Freiden said.

“This is the deadliest outbreak of a foodborne disease that we’ve identified in more than a decade.”

Since the recalled cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through Sept, 10, 13 people have been confirmed dead from Listeria and dozens have been made ill, the CDC said.

“Even though the shelf life is coming to an end around now, the incubation period for Listeria is on average one to three weeks and can be as much as two months or more,” Freiden added. “So unfortunately there is continued risk from product that’s already out there.”

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said although Listeria was quickly identified as the bacteria, it is not know how it contaminated the cantaloupes.

As Minds Get Quicker, Teens Get Smarter

SAN ANTONIO, Sept. 29 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they have demonstrated for the first time that adolescents become smarter because their brains process information faster.

Researchers David Pillow, Anissa Snyder and Peter Kochunov — psychologists at University of Texas at San Antonio — said their findings make intuitive sense.

“Our research was based on two well-known findings,” Coyle said in a statement. “The first is that performance on intelligence tests increases during adolescence. The second is that processing speed — the brain taking in and using new stimuli or information — as measured by tests of mental speed also increases during adolescence.”

To find the relationship between these two phenomena, the psychologists analyzed the results of 12 diverse intelligence and mental speed tests administered to 6,969 adolescents ages 13-17 in the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Intelligence was measured by performance on cognitive tests of diverse abilities, such as vocabulary knowledge, math facts and mechanical comprehension. Mental speed showed up in timed tests of computing and coding — matching digits and words and other arithmetic tasks.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found in both of these categories, the researchers could see the older teenagers did better and worked faster than the younger ones. Running the data in numerous ways, the study discovered the measured increase of intelligence could be accounted for almost entirely by the increase in mental speed.

Touching Helps Promote Learning

NOTRE DAME, Ind., Sept. 29 (UPI) — People’s ability to learn and remember information depends on what they do with their hands while they are learning, U.S. researchers suggest.

Professor James Brockmole and postdoctoral fellow Christopher Davoli of the University of Notre Dame said people holding objects they’re learning about process detail and notice differences among objects more effectively. In contrast, keeping hands away from the objects helps people notice similarities and consistencies among those things, the researchers found.

Study participants were asked to analyze a set of complex geometric patterns in a series of images — half did so while holding their hands alongside the images, while the other half held their hands in their laps.

The study, scheduled to be published in Memory and Cognition, showed it was harder for people to recognize the commonalities among identical but differently colored patterns if they held them in their hands, suggesting that information near the hands is processed at a deeper level of detail.

This orientation to detail, in turn, hampers people’s ability to consider the similarities that exist among slightly different objects, the study said.

“Near the body, and especially near the hands, attention to detail is crucial because subtle differences among objects can differentiate the harmful from the benign,” Brockmole said in a statement. “We needed to recognize which berries were poisonous and which were not; what snakes will bite and which will not. On the other hand, people can think about objects that are farther away from the body in more categorical terms since details are less important.”

Expert: If Your Boss Is A Psychopath, Leave

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Sept. 30 (UPI) — One in 25 bosses may be a psychopath, and a U.S. researcher suggests if an employee suspects his or her boss fits the description, it’s best to find a new boss.

Jamie Dickey Ungerleider of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said 4 percent of business leaders are psychopaths — characterized by being amoral and concerned only with their own power and selfish pleasures.

Evelyn Williams of Wake Forest University Schools of Business said knowing any boss’ work style could be the key to succeeding, but a longer term solution if one lands a psychopathic boss — leave.

“Leaders who are psychopaths are extremely charming, highly manipulative, see other people as objects and don’t feel guilty about using people to reach their own ends,” Ungerleider said in a statement. “Sometimes people put a boss in that category because they’re being treated badly, but those are bad actions or bad decisions, not a personality disorder.”

Ungerleider said working very hard to impress a psychopathic boss might backfire.

“These people use the skills and talents of people under them to shine for their own managers,” Ungerleider said. “If you shine a little too brightly while you’re helping them stand out, that becomes a threat. Most of them won’t hesitate to throw you under the bus.”

Chopped Romaine Recalled Voluntarily

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — A California farm is recalling 90 cartons of chopped romaine lettuce because of possible tainting by Listeria monocytogenes, but no illness has been reported.

“We are fully cooperating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and we are contacting all of our customers to ensure prompt removal of any product potentially associated with the recall,” Steve Church of True Leaf Farms said in a statement. “We are committed to conducting this recall quickly and efficiently to reduce any risk to public health.”

The voluntarily recalled bags of romaine were packed in True Leaf Farms cardboard cartons and distributed by Church Brothers LLC. The lettuce was shipped Sept. 12-13 in 2-pound bags carrying a “use by date” of 9/29/11. Produce affected by the recall had the bag and box code B256-46438-8.

The chopped romaine was sent to an institutional food service distributor in Oregon who further distributed it to at least two additional states, Washington and Idaho.

The FDA notified the farm that a sample taken as part of a random check from a single bag of chopped romaine tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Anyone in possession of the recalled romaine should not eat it, and should either destroy it or call 800-799-9475. Visit www.churchbrothers.com for updates.

Drug Sting Nets Dozens At Boeing Plant

RIDLEY PARK, Pa., Sept. 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Justice Department said more than two dozen Boeing employees were arrested Thursday on drug-related charges in a multi-agency sting operation.

Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration participated in the operation that led to 23 individuals indicted and 14 others charged with “attempted possession of the various drugs being sold by their co-workers,” which are misdemeanor charges, the department said in a statement.

All but one of those charges was arrested, officials said.

The department alleges Boeing workers at the Ridley Park, Pa., plant, south of Philadelphia, were involved in selling prescription drugs, including fentanyl, known as Actiq, which is a pain killer prescribed to cancer patients; oxycodone, known as OxyContin, which is also a pain killer; and alprazolam or Xanax, primarily used as an anti-anxiety drug.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger said, “This investigation and prosecution focused not only on the sellers but also on the users because of the critical role that these employees play in manufacturing military aircraft.”

“Prescription drug abuse has been on the rise in our community and this is just one example of how pervasive the problem is,” he said.

The plant, which manufactures military helicopters, is one of two operated by Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, part of Boeing Defense, Space and Security.

 

Japanese Auto Supplier To Pay $200 Million For Price Scam

DETROIT, Sept. 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Justice Department said a Japanese parts supplier for the automobile industry would pay $200 million to settle a case of price fixing and bid rigging.

Three executives from Japan — Junichi Funo, Hirotsugu Nagata and Tetsuya Ukai — agreed to serve prison sentences that range from 12 to 18 months after pleading guilty to their part in the scam, the department said in a statement.

Four separate one-count felony charges were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

The company and the executives “engaged in a conspiracy to rig bids for and to fix, stabilize and maintain the prices of automotive wire harnesses and related products sold to customers in the United States and elsewhere,” the statement said.

The charges are part of a broader ongoing investigation in auto parts price fixing with cooperation from the three executives.

“As a result of this international price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy, automobile manufacturers paid non-competitive and higher prices for parts in cars sold to U.S. consumers. This cartel harmed an important industry in our nation’s economy,” said Sharis Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

“When companies partner to control and price fix bids or contracts, it undermines the foundation of the United States’ economic system,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena said.

Bank Of America To Add $5 Monthly Debit Card Fee

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept. 29 (UPI) — Bank of America said it will impose a $5-per-month fee on most of its debit card accounts in a policy that would begin in early 2012.

The fee is an effort to recoup revenue lost with new bank rules that take effect in October that limit fees banks can charge retailers when customers use debit cards to make retail purchases — a charge known as a swipe fee, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

The bank said it would alert customers of the change with at least 30 days’ notice. Bank spokeswoman Betty Reiss said some premium accounts and accounts connected to Merrill Lynch, which BofA purchased in January 2009, would not be affected by the new charge.

The charge also will not apply to debit cards used for cash withdrawals at automatic teller machines, the newspaper said.

The National Retail Federation — a trade group that represents retailers in the United States and elsewhere — criticized BofA for instituting the new fee.

“Every time Congress takes a step to protect consumers, the banks use it as an excuse to raise fees,” Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said in a statement. “We’ve seen it when Congress limited late fees and overdraft fees and now we’re seeing it with swipe fees. Just as merchants and consumers are about to get some relief, they’re doing it again.”

Duncan said the new fee “speaks more to the nature of the card industry than to whether swipe fee reform should have been passed.”

Pro Teams Losing May Not Mean Losing Money

ITHACA, N.Y., Sept. 29 (UPI) — Revenue sharing, television contracts and other non-gate income make it possible for MLB teams to make money whether they win or lose, U.S. researchers say.

Stephen Mosher, professor of sport management and media at Ithaca College, N.Y., noted that the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have just posted their 19th consecutive losing season — the longest stretch of futility in any major professional American sport — have been making millions of dollars annually.

In fact, the cost of signing top-flight players to lucrative contracts would take a deep bite out of annual profits, leading some analysts and economists to conclude that if the Pirates turned themselves into winners, they wouldn’t be helping their bottom line, Mosher suggested.

“The situation with the Pirates is just one example where a team would benefit more from losing than winning,” Mosher said in a statement. “Many of the owners of franchises intentionally lose money because it helps the bottom line for their other businesses.”

Should the Indianapolis Colts, who are infinitely less formidable with their star quarterback Peyton Manning out indefinitely after neck surgery, consider tanking the rest of the season to put themselves in better position to draft a top quarterback in the next NFL draft? Mosher asked.

“Such moral dilemmas are routinely presented to professional sports teams, but more often than not, the moral issues take a back seat to the business and entertainment goals of organizations,” Mosher said.

“Given that sport is one of the few remaining enterprises in our culture that actually claims to develop good citizens and build character, is losing deliberately the best way to run an organization? The claim that ‘we owe it to the game’ needs to be considered very, very seriously.”

U.S. Incomes Dropped In August

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Consumer incomes fell in August, dropping for the first time in 22 months, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday.

Incomes dropped 0.1 percent in August, after rising 0.4 percent in April, 0.3 percent in May, 0.2 percent in June and 0.1 percent in July.

Consumer spending, often cited as representing 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, rose 0.2 percent in August after rising 0.7 percent in July.

Real dollars highlight the difference. In July, spending rose by $88.4 billion. In August it rose by $22.7 billion.

Incomes in August fell by $7.3 billion, a radical swing south from the $17.1 billion consumers added to their incomes in July.

Data on disposable income has also formed a steady progression, rising 0.3 percent in April, 0.2 percent in May, 0.1 percent in June and July, and falling flat in August.

In August, core prices, which exclude energy and food prices, rose 0.1 percent after rising 0.2 percent in July. For all items, prices rose 0.2 percent, compared with 0.4 percent in July.

Three Brothers Share Same Birthday

PRESTON, England, Sept. 30 (UPI) — A British woman said her infant son is her third boy to be born on the same birthday, two days before their father’s birthday.

Sammy Kellett, 24, of Preston, England, said her son Kyle was born Sept. 20, giving him the same birthday as brothers Keiran, 6, and Kaiden, 3, The Sun reported Thursday.

“I couldn’t believe it when I’d done it again,” Kellet said. “I still can’t. It’s crazy, it’s mad. I’ve got three KKs, all the 20th of the ninth.”

She said both Kyle and Keiran were born four days earlier than their due date, while Kaiden was seven days late.

The boys’ birthday comes only two days before that of their father, Merv, 35.

“They were obviously all meant to be,” he said.

The parents said they were told the odds of all three boys being born on the same day was 133,590 to 1.

 

 

Couple Honored For 70th Anniversary

KAYSVILLE, Utah, Sept. 30 (UPI) — A city council in Utah passed a resolution honoring a couple celebrating a 95th birthday, an 89th birthday and a 70th wedding anniversary on the same day.

The Kaysville City Council passed a resolution declaring Sept. 30 — the 95th birthday of Woody Pilcher, the 89th birthday of Nellie Pilcher and the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary — Nellie Pilcher Appreciation Day, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

The Pilchers’ daughter, Patricia Lee, who has been married for 48 years, said her parents give an excellent example of marriage.

“I’ve never seen either one of them be selfish,” Lee said. “It’s not 50-50, it’s 100-100.”

CEO Threatens Firings Over Milk

HACKENSACK, N.J., Sept. 30 (UPI) — A New Jersey business executive who had to go without milk for his coffee threatened to fire workers who do not replace the dairy product in the office fridge.

Keith Zakheim, chief executive officer of Beckerman Public Relations in Hackensack, sent an angry e-mail to employees Tuesday after he found the milk that was left in the office was “literally three drops, an amount that would maybe fill the tummy of a prematurely born mouse,” the New York Post reported Thursday.

“I have repeatedly requested until I am blue in the face that the person that finishes the milk must replace the milk,” Zakheim wrote. “It’s not complicated and is a simple sign of respect for fellow employees.

“The person that did this is either incredibly lazy, obnoxiously selfish or woefully devoid of intelligence — three traits that are consistent with the profile of FORMER Beckerman employees,” the e-mail read.

“I am gravely serious when I write this — if I catch someone not replacing the milk, or at least, in the case where the downstairs store has closed already, not sending an e-mail to the office so the first person that arrives … can pick one up upon arrival — then I am going to fire you. I’m not joking,” the CEO wrote.

“Have fun explaining that one to your next employer,” the e-mail read. “This is not a empty threat, so PLEASE don’t test me.”

Obama In Diapers Sign Draws Protesters

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 30 (UPI) — A group of about 60 people protested outside a New Orleans home where a man mounted a sign depicting President Barack Obama in a diaper.

The protesters, who included former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, gathered outside Timmy Riley’s Calhoun Street home Wednesday to demand the removal of the sign, which they said is disrespectful to Obama and African-Americans in general, WDSU-TV, New Orleans, reported Thursday.

However, the sign remained in place through Wednesday and police said Riley has the right to express himself.

“We see it every day. It’s a monstrosity, and I can’t believe somebody would put it up. But (Riley has) the right to do that, unfortunately,” neighbor Veronica Lyons said.

San Diego Marijuana Stores Face Eviction

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 30 (UPI) — San Diego authorities said a North Park neighborhood building owner agreed to evict medical-marijuana dispensaries and massage parlors.

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the owner of the building, at 4009-4010 Park Boulevard, agreed to evict four medical marijuana dispensaries and a dozen massage parlors after authorities determined the businesses were violating zoning laws, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Police said they believe the marijuana businesses were the cause of recent increases in traffic, loitering and public cannabis smoking in the area.

Goldsmith said the building owner agreed to pay $10,000 in civil penalties without admitting liability.

Study: Farmland Species Depend On Weeds

HULL, England, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Weeds, widely considered nuisance plants, are in fact vital to the existence of many farmland species of birds, insects and animals, British researchers say.

Since many weeds produce flowers and seeds, they are an integral part of the ecosystem and provide food for more than 330 species animals, researchers at the University of Hull said.

The scientists created complex “food webs” linking all farmland insects, birds and mammals known to feed on the seeds found on a typical farm.

“We understand a lot about farmland birds and mammals, but little about the plants and insects that underpin them,” Hull biologist Darren Evans said.

“In this study, we discovered not only the importance of weed and non-crop species for many farmland animals but that the vast majority of seed-feeding animals on farms are insects, which are often overlooked by conservationists.”

Farmers can sustain biodiversity by managing uncultivated, semi-natural habitats such as hedgerows and woodlands, researchers said, but even small changes to cropped areas, such as allowing some weed species, could provide a quantity and variety of seeds for the farm and the animals that feed on them.

 

NASA: Fewer Asteroids Are Near Earth

PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 29 (UPI) — New observations by an orbiting observatory suggest there are significantly fewer asteroids of a medium size near Earth than previously thought, NASA said.

Analyzing data from the agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, astronomers estimate there are roughly 19,500 — not 35,000 — mid-size near-Earth asteroids, a NASA release said Thursday.

The NEOWISE survey project, the most accurate census to date of near-Earth asteroids that orbit within 120 million of the sun into Earth’s orbital vicinity, scanned the entire celestial sky twice in infrared light between January 2010 and February 2011.

“NEOWISE allowed us to take a look at a more representative slice of the near-Earth asteroid numbers and make better estimates about the whole population,” Amy Mainzer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said. “It’s like a population census, where you poll a small group of people to draw conclusions about the entire country.”

Scientists say the improved understanding asteroid numbers may indicate the hazard to Earth of a collision could be somewhat less than previously thought.