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.