NLRB Moves Forward With Union Election Rule Change

On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted to move forward with portions of a union election rule after the board’s only Republican member showed up to vote in opposition.

Democratic members of the labor board, Chairman Mark Pearce and Craig Becker, voted to advance the proposal, and Brian Hayes, a Republican, voted no. There was some speculation that Hayes would throw a wrench into the vote by simply refusing to participate, as he has threatened recently to resign over the union election rule.

Labor unions say the new rule will help reduce delays in union elections, but business groups argue it gives employers little time to talk to their employees about unionization before voting takes place, according to The Hill.

Hayes said that the Democratic members of the NLRB locked him out of the deliberations over the union rule in a bid to pass it by the end of the year.

The NLRB did not consider the full union election rule Wednesday, and voted only on portions that limit litigation surrounding union elections. The members of the NLRB must finish voting on other measures concerning the rule by the end of the year because Becker’s appointment expires at the end of the year. When Becker’s time is up or if Hayes resigns, it would leave the board with only two members, denying it the three-member quorum required for rules votes by a 2010 Supreme Court decision.

Billy Graham hospitalized in N.C.

ASHEVILLE, N.C., Nov. 30 (UPI) — Evangelist Billy Graham, 93, has been hospitalized in North Carolina with a possible case of pneumonia, his organization said.

A statement said Graham was admitted to Mission Hospital in Asheville for observation and treatment, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Pulmonologist Mark Hellreich was testing Graham for the condition Wednesday, the newspaper said. He was last treated for pneumonia in May.

The statement said Graham was alert, smiling and waving at hospital employees when admitted.

The Observer reported Graham’s longtime spokesman, Larry Gross, said Graham developed a cough, congestion and a slight fever, and doctors decided to keep him hospitalized overnight.

The statement said Graham is looking forward to spending Christmas with his family in his Montreat home.

Trump flirting with running as independent

NEW YORK, Nov. 30 (UPI) — TV personality and self-proclaimed brand Donald Trump now says he may run for U.S. president as an independent if he is not happy with the Republican candidate.

Trump told CBS News he will be able to make a decision in May.

“Come May, when the ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ is completed, my contract to NBC is completed. I’m a free agent, as the expression goes,” he said Tuesday. “I can make a decision. You know, obviously it would have to be as an independent.”

Trump, one of many seemingly long-shot candidates who have briefly topped the polls in the crowded Republican field, withdrew in May. He blamed laws that require networks to give equal time to all candidates.

He said he has “very good relationships” with all the Republican candidates but has not made up his mind about an endorsement. On Tuesday, he tweeted that he expects President Obama to start a war with Iran to boost his chances of re-election.

In a new book “Time To Get Tough,” Trump says his net worth is more than $7 billion, $3 billion of that “brand value.”

Gunman killed in Topkapi Palace

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Turkish police shot and killed a gunman who wounded two people in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, officials said Wednesday.

Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the gunman was a Libyan national, Today’s Zaman reported.

The newspaper said a witness described the gunman as an Arab. The man walked into Topkapi Palace and closed the doors after shooting a soldier in the leg and a private guard in the abdomen, the witness said.

The Ottoman-era palace is one of Istanbul’s major tourist attractions.

Witnesses said the gunman fought with police for more than an hour.

Today’s Zaman said witnesses reported the gunman shouted “God is great” in Arabic and said he was from Syria. The newspaper said that raised concerns the incident was linked to tensions between Turkey and Syria over that country’s crackdown on protesters.

However, Sahin said the gunman was a Libyan national born in 1975 and identified him as Samir Salem Ali Elmadhavri, who had entered Turkey during the weekend and arrived at the scene of the shooting in a car with Syrian plates.

Half of Russians not following elections

MOSCOW, Nov. 30 (UPI) — Less than half of Russian voters say they’re following campaigns ahead of the Sunday’s parliamentary elections, a poll indicates.

The poll, by Russian polling agency VTsIOM, found only about 48 percent of voters said they’re paying attention to the campaigns in the coming elections, RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

Among young people, there’s even less interest: Nearly three of four said they have no interest in the elections, the poll found.

Voter interest was much higher among backers of the A Just Russia party, with 64 percent saying they’re interested, and other parties that do not usually win seats in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, with 66 percent saying they’re interested.

Widespread Internet use in Russia notwithstanding, 59 percent of those polled identified television as their main source of information about the election. Only 19 percent said they got their election information mainly from print media and 14 percent from radio.

RIA Novosti said a similar poll before the 2003 parliamentary elections found about 60 percent of Russians were following the election campaign.

The poll is based on a survey of 1,600 people in 46 regions Nov. 26 and Nov. 27. The margin of error is 3.4 percentage points.

Mom gets life for killing children in fire

DETROIT, Nov. 30 (UPI) — A Michigan woman was sentenced to life in prison without parole Wednesday for starting a fire that killed her young son and daughter.

Sharon Hinojosa of Huron apologized to members of her family, telling them “I’m so sorry,” The Detroit News reported. She did not admit deliberately setting the fire.

“I’m hurting too,” she said during the hearing in Wayne County.

During her trial, Hinojosa said the fire in her boyfriend’s trailer that killed Anthony, 4, and Alyana, 3, in October 2009 began accidentally. Prosecutors said she started the fire because she was angry at her boyfriend.

“You leaving Anthony and Alyana in that trailer while leaving with your youngest child is a betrayal of what a mother is supposed to stand for,” Circuit Judge Daniel Hathaway said. “You will have the rest of your life in prison to consider that.”

Honey Bee Health Linked To Protein

BERGEN, Norway, Nov. 29 (UPI) — A protein called vitellogenin is vital to promoting the health of honey bees, a researcher in Norway said.

Heli Havukainen of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences said research on honey bee health suggests vitellogenin guides bees to do different social tasks, such as caregiving or foraging, as well as supports the immune system.

The health of honey bees, which are major crop pollinators, has become a topic of considerable concern due to massive deaths of bee colonies in the United States and Europe.

Havukainen said vitellogenin can be described as a freight train consisting of a locomotive and a carriage. The protein carries fat as its cargo. The vitellogenin “train” travels in the bee’s blood and delivers the fat cargo at different local stops or stations, the university said Tuesday in a release.

Scientists had previously thought vitellogenin was one entity, like a cargo ship, unable to separate from its cargo, Havukainen said.

Havukainen said the findings are the first step in determining how vitellogenin affects social behavior, immunity and stress resistance.

Soft Robot Inspired By Starfish

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve created a soft robot inspired by animals without internal skeletons such as starfish, squid and worms.

The robot, described in a report published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is composed of elastomeric polymers and uses five actuators, along with a pneumatic valving system that operates at low pressures, to give it motion. PNAS said a combination of crawling and undulation gaits allow the robot to navigate over and under obstacles.

“Instead of basing this and other designs on highly evolved animals as models, we are using simpler organisms for inspiration,” a team led by Harvard University chemistry professor George M. Whitesides said in the journal article, which was quoted on Nature.com.

“These organisms, ones without internal skeletons, suggest designs that are simpler to make and are less expensive than conventional hard robots, and that may, in some respects, be more capable of complex motions and functions.”

Whooping Cranes Looking For Food In Texas

HOUSTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Whooping cranes are making a comeback along the Texas coast but the brackish marshes they need for food may be too salty this winter, environmentalists said,

The Aransas Project, an environmental coalition, claims state regulators aren’t allowing enough fresh water to flow into the marshes where the birds live, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.

The group is asking a federal judge to order the state to develop a water use plan that leaves enough in the river basins to protect the cranes’ habitat. The case goes to trial Monday in Corpus Christi.

About 300 whooping cranes are expected to winter in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge,about 50 miles north of Corpus Christi.

The birds, protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, feed on blue crabs that live in the brackish marshes along the coast. The crabs, however, require some fresh water to live and drought conditions have made the the San Antonio Bay and estuary system too salty for them, the Aransas Project said.

State regulators say proving water for the birds could threaten the availability of water for existing users, the newspaper said.

“The future of the whooping crane hangs on the outcome of the trial,” Jim Blackburn, the Houston attorney for the Aransas Project, told the newspaper. “Federal intervention is the only chance for its long-term survival.”

Bacteria Adopt Just-In-Time Strategy

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say some bacteria use the same strategy as companies who apply an on-demand, just-in-time strategy to conserve resources and reduce costs.

A study by Indiana University biologists and Brown University physicists found certain bacteria wait until the last minute to synthesize the glue that allows them to attach permanently to surfaces.

The research, published in the journal Molecular Microbiology, found single bacterial cells use their flagella and pili to facilitate the timely release of adhesive polysaccharides upon initial contact with other surfaces.

“For bacteria, surface attachment by single cells is the first step to important processes such as biofilm formation and host infection,” IU microbiologist Pamela Brown said Tuesday in a release. “What we found is that the interaction of bacterial cells with a surface using their flagellum and pili stimulates the on-the-spot production of polysaccharide adhesins, propelling the transition from transient to permanent attachment.”

Indiana University said the findings suggest pathogenic bacteria may carefully time adhesin release to protect themselves from premature exposure to a host’s immune system during infection.