Man hit in head by airplane propeller dies

EL CAJON, Calif., Jan. 30 (UPI) — A man was fatally injured Monday when he was hit in the head by an airplane’s propeller at a Southern California airport, authorities said.

Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told the Los Angeles Times the accident occurred about 8:30 a.m. at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, San Diego County.

Gregor said the man apparently was trying to hand-crank the Piper Cherokee plane when he was struck. He was taken to a hospital where he died a short time later.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board were to investigate.

Jury strategy to figure in militia trial

DETROIT, Jan. 30 (UPI) — Opposing sides in the trial of eight militiamen charged with plotting to overthrow the U.S. government will look for contrasting jurors, a jury expert said.

Long-time jury consultant and psychologist Arthur Patterson said the defense needs a jury comprised of people suspicious of government, especially law enforcement. Jurors who say they feel they have been discriminated against, conspiracy theorists and non-analytical people would be prized as well in the upcoming Hutaree terror trial, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

The perfect Hutaree juror for the prosecution would be a patriotic and politically conservative individual.

Both sides need educated jurors able to understand legal concepts and First Amendment issues, Patterson said.

Eight members of the Christian militia stand accused of plotting the violent overthrow of the government, a plan that included the slaying of a police officer and subsequent bombing of the officer’s funeral.

A federal grand jury indictment, unsealed in March 2010, accused nine members of the Hillsdale County militia, who claim to prepare to battle the forces of the Antichrist, of seditious conspiracy and attempting use of weapons of mass destruction.

The ninth defendant, Joshua J. Clough, 29, pleaded guilty to using a firearm in December. He also admitted he was a member of the Hutaree militia, training with them in a military-style using explosives with the intent of blowing up law enforcement officers and their vehicles.

The actual questioning of the jurors — the process known as voir dire — is to begin Feb. 7 with the trial projected to take 6-8 weeks, the newspaper said.

Iran shrugs off sanctions’ impact

TEHRAN, Jan. 30 (UPI) — An Iranian official Monday sloughed off the effect of sanctions against his country saying Iran’s “strategic depth” gives it strength to resist enemy pressures.

Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, Iran’s armed forces deputy chief of staff for cultural affairs and defense publicity, was reacting against the Jan. 23 agreement among the European Union members to prohibit Iranian oil imports and freeze Iran’s Central Bank assets within the EU, Iran’s semi-official news arm, the Fars News Agency, reported.

“Due to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic depth in all parts of the world, we are able to pass through the enemies’ pressures,” Jazayeri said at a Tehran news conference.

Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said the sanctions are intended to pressure Iran into resuming talks concerning its nuclear program, Fars said.

“The hurried decision by EU states to use oil as a political tool will have a negative impact on the world economy and specially on the recovering European economies which are fighting to overcome the global financial crisis,” Jazayeri said.

Three detained in mass killings

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Jan. 30 (UPI) — Police in Birmingham, Ala., say they have detained three people in connection with a home invasion killing of five people but they are looking for more leads.

Five people were shot to death — four execution-style — Sunday morning around 3:30 a.m. at a home in Ensley, a suburb of Birmingham.

It is unclear who reported the crime, but someone called police and reported a robbery in progress, The Birmingham News reported.

Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said the victims, whose names have not been released, appeared to have been targeted, WBRC-TV, Birmingham, reported Monday.

Three people, aged 17, 18 and 24 were taken into custody Sunday night. They have not been charged and their names have not been released.

“The suspects have been interviewed by detectives and are currently in the custody of the Birmingham City Jail on an extension as the investigation moves forward,” said Sgt. Johnny Williams of the Birmingham Police Department.

Man orders chicken, eats wire.

BROOKLYN, N.Y., Jan. 30 (UPI) — A New York bus driver says he is suing a fast food chicken outlet, claiming he nearly choked on a two-inch coil of wire that was cooked into his food.

Lajzer Grynsztajn, 50, has filed suit seeking unspecified damages against JFK Fried Chicken in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn claiming he needed emergency surgery to remove the wire that had lodged in his throat.

“The more I think about it, I get angry,” he told the New York Daily News. “I almost died for something stupid like that?”

The 11-year Metropolitan Transportation Authority veteran said he stopped by the chicken place Jan. 9, sat down and ate a meal of two chicken breasts and fries, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

“I felt a sharp pain, like I was choking,” Grynsztajn said. “I thought I was choking on a bone.”

He left the restaurant, started coughing up blood and wound up at Lutheran Medical Center where a doctor discovered a wire so deeply down his throat, he had to be anesthetized before the doctor could take the wire out, court documents say.

The newspaper said a man who answered the phone at JFK Fried Chicken denied the bus driver’s charges saying, “I think this guy is (expletive) us,” before hanging up.

Grynsztajn says he has given up on takeout food.

“I don’t eat out anymore,” he said.

4th SoCal collision victim, boy, 11, dies

FONTANA, Calif., Jan. 30 (UPI) — An 11-year-old boy died Monday, becoming the fourth fatality of a three-vehicle crash at an intersection in Fontana, Calif., authorities said.

The other three fatalities of the 9:35 p.m. Sunday collision were three brothers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Fontana police Sgt. Billy Green said a sport utility vehicle ran a red light, hit two other cars and rammed a utility pole. In one car was a 40-year-old Fontana woman whose 11-year-old son, Noah Ferrer, died Monday in surgery. The woman’s name and condition were not reported.

Two men in the SUV, a 35-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga and his 39-year-old brother from Bloomington were dead at the scene and their 37-year-old brother from Fontana died at a hospital, Deputy Mark Johnson of the San Bernadino County coroner’s office said.

Green said while the cause of the crash was being investigated, police found beer cans and firearms in the brothers’ SUV.

Dentist gets prison for bad work, fraud

RIVER FALLS, Mass., Jan. 30 (UPI) — A River Falls, Mass., dentist was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to assault and fraud charges.

Michael Clair, a dentist who used a paper clip to strengthen a root canal, pleaded guilty to assault on patients, tampering with evidence and Medicaid fraud, The (Fall River, Mass.) Herald News reported Monday.

Superior Court Judge Richard T. Moses sentenced Clair to 2 1/2 years at the House of Correction with 1 1/2 years of his sentence suspended for five years after his release, during which he will be on probation.

Clair was also ordered to pay restitution to the state and the two former patients who were identified as victims in the case, and will no longer be allowed to practice dentistry in Massachusetts.

Prosecutors alleged Clair was paid $130,000 in all from MassHealth for work he did. The bills were submitted under the name of other dentists at his Harbour Dental in Fall River.

“It is unfair,” said Brenda Almeida, whose son, Joshua Almeida was one of the victims. “He should have gotten more time. With what my son went through, the pain and suffering, he should have gotten more time.”

Ill. nuke plant loses partial power

BYRON, Ill., Jan. 30 (UPI) — A low-level emergency was declared Monday at the Byron nuclear generating station near Rockford, Ill., because of a partial power loss.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region III spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said two diesel generators are running at the facility, which lost power to its 1,136-megawatt unit, one of two at the site. The second unit, a 1,164-megawatt unit, was operating at full power, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Mitlyng said workers at the Exelon Corp. plant about two hours northwest of Chicago reported seeing smoke from a transformer following the outage. No fire was found.

Steam was released from the plant and was being monitored for tritium levels, fire officials said.

Slain child’s father deported back to Oz

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 30 (UPI) — The father of a 10-year-old Australian girl slain by her step-mother has been deported from the United States back to Australia, his attorney said.

Adam Baker, living in Hickory, N.C. since his daughter, Zahra’s killing by wife, Elisa in 2011, was sent back to his home country, Baker’s attorney, Shell Pearce said.

Baker was being detained to testify in the case against his wife, who as part of a deal with prosecutors pleaded guilty to second-degree murder almost a year after the disabled child was reported missing from her Hickory home, WBTV-TV, Charlotte, N.C., reported Monday.

During the plea hearing, Baker was allowed to address the court and spoke directly to his wife.

“I trusted you with the most precious thing in my life,” Adam Baker said. “You not only lied to me, you also lied to Zahra. You took the life of the most loving and lovable little girl.”

Under the deal, Elisa Baker will receive a maximum of 18 years in prison instead of the normal 60 years, WBTV-TV said.

Baker himself faced several felony charges unrelated to his daughter’s case including reconnecting power without authorization, communicating threats and assault.

All were downgraded to misdemeanors. A Catawba County judge dismissed the threats charge but the assault charge stuck and Baker was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Immigration decided to deport Baker, Pearce said.

Genesis of I-75 crashes revealed

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Jan. 30 (UPI) — Florida officials said Monday the first in a series of deadly crashes on Interstate 75 near Gainesville began when a semi truck swerved into another vehicle.

The report by the Florida Highway Patrol detailed what authorities believe happened in the first crash involving the first injury, The Gainesville Sun reported. Ultimately, 10 people died and 21 people were injured in crashes that involved seven tractor-trailer rigs and 12 passenger vehicles.

Three vehicles were involved in the initial crash at 11:55 p.m. Saturday — a 2012 Freightliner semi, as well as a 2000 Toyota sport utility vehicle and a 2002 Lexus SUV, Trooper M.J. Todd wrote in the report.

Todd said all three vehicles were traveling north in the center lane of I-75. The semi tried to avoid the Toyota by veering right, but ultimately hit it. As the two vehicles were coming to a stop, the Lexus hit the back of the semi’s trailer, becoming stuck, Todd said.

Willee Moss, 59, a passenger in the Lexus, was the only person injured and was hospitalized in serious condition.

No charges were filed related to that collision.

“There was heavy smoke in the area, causing low visibility,” Todd said.

An meteorologist said the smoke was trapped by a temperature inversion.

“Since the smoke continued all night, it kept getting denser and denser,” meteorologist Henry Margusity said. “The cold air settled into the highway. Over time, the smoke just had nowhere to go. The cars were basically driving into a smoke-filled room. You just can’t see.”

Obama: Georgia free trade accord possible

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) — President Obama, meeting with Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili in Washington, said a free trade agreement with the former Soviet republic is possible.

Obama told reporters Monday during a joint media opportunity with Saakashvili that the two agreed to “a high-level dialogue between our two countries about how we can continue to strengthen trade relations between our two countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement.”

Acknowledging a lot of work needed to be done, Obama said the two leaders “think it’s a win-win for the United States and for Georgia as we continue to find opportunities for businesses to invest in Georgia, for us to be able to sell Georgia our goods and services, and Georgia to be able to sell theirs as well.”

Saakashvili said the prospect of a U.S.-Georgia free trade agreement “because that’s going to attract lots of additional activity to my country, and basically helping our nation-building process.”

Obama also complimented the Georgian leader for his work in building a “sovereign and democratic country.”

“And one of the first things that I did was express my appreciation for the institution-building that’s been taking place … in Georgia; the importance of making sure that minorities are respected; the importance of a police and system of rule of law that is being observed,” Obama said, noting these were the kinds of institution-building activities that would make a difference now and in the future.

Obama also pledged to strengthen the countries’ defense cooperation and assured Saakashvili that the United States would support Georgia’s aspirations to become a NATO member.

Saakashvili thanked Obama for the complimentary words about Georgia’s reforms and for supporting the country’s bid to join NATO.

“Obviously, the reform process is never over, but these reforms would not have happened without strong commitment and support and advice from your administration and from the United States and your people on the ground,” Saakashvili said. “We deeply appreciate all this.”

Rapid Virus Evolution Witnessed In Lab

EAST LANSING, Mich., Jan. 27 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they have observed how a new virus evolves and how diseases can quickly gain dangerous mutations.

Scientists at Michigan State University showed for the first time how a virus called “Lambda” evolved to find a new way to attack host cells, a change accomplished in just four mutation steps.

While Lambda isn’t dangerous to humans, the research demonstrated how viruses evolve complex and potentially deadly new traits, researcher Justin Meyer said in an MSU release Thursday.

“We were surprised at first to see Lambda evolve this new function, this ability to attack and enter the cell through a new receptor — and it happened so fast,” Meyer said. “But when we re-ran the evolution experiment, we saw the same thing happen over and over.”

This study follows recent news that scientists in the United States and the Netherlands produced a deadly version of bird flu just five mutations away from becoming transmissible between humans.

While it’s highly unlikely the bird flu virus could naturally obtain all of the beneficial mutations all at once, it might evolve sequentially, gaining benefits one by one, Meyer said.

When the genomes of the adaptable Lambda virus were sequenced, they always had four mutations in common, he said.

“In other words, natural selection promoted the virus’ evolution because the mutations helped them use both their old and new attacks,” Meyer said. “The finding raises questions of whether the five bird flu mutations may also have multiple functions, and could they evolve naturally?”

Rescued Snakes Wintering In Wine Chiller

LAKE FOREST, Ill., Jan. 28 (UPI) — About 200 snakes whose winter den in northeast Illinois would have been disturbed by railway repair have been given a new home in a wine chiller.

Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, told the Chicago Tribune the chiller makes an ideal hibernating den: “It can be set right at the temperature snakes need to survive in winter — about 48 degrees.”

Chris Kubic, a Grayslake North High School teacher and snake enthusiast, told Carmichael about the possibility the snakes would be disturbed and sent out into lethal conditions. Kubic also discussed the problem with EnergySolutions, which owns the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Plant and is involved in the track work.

Earlier this month, Kubic, Carmichael and Michael Corn, professor of biology emeritus at the College of Lake County, moved the snakes. They were helped by EnergySolutions contractors.

“The railroad workers were just amazingly cooperative,” Corn said. “They could have probably done their job in several hours but they spent the whole day with us saving as many snakes as we could.”

The snakes are now in boxes filled with earth and leaves, about 20 to a box, in the wine chiller. Carmichael said the den held mostly garter and brown snakes, with a few western fox snakes.

In the spring, they will be moved again to a new den site near the old one but inside Illinois Beach State Park.

Lost Ladybug Project Tracks Insects

ITHACA, N.Y., Jan. 28 (UPI) — Scientists at Cornell University in New York are trying to figure out why some species of ladybug are vanishing and what can be done to save them.

Leslie Allee, one of the leaders of the Lost Ladybug Project, said the insects, cute as they look, have an important role as predators that eat other insects, The Ithaca Journal reported.

“If we didn’t have ladybugs we would need to use much higher levels of pesticides,” Allee said. “So not only are they saving us money and saving crops, but they are also contributing to human health by reducing the level of pesticides that are needed.”

The project depends heavily on volunteers who search for ladybugs and send in photographs and specimens. Since the project was started in 2000, 13,370 photos have come in from the United States and Canada.

Three species of ladybug have become rare in New York, Allee said. One, the nine-spotted ladybug, was actually thought to be extinct in the state until a volunteer saw one on a sunflower on an organic farm in Amagansett on the east end of Long Island.

Oil Drilling Increased, API Says

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) — The United States, even with an increase in wells in the fourth quarter, can do better in terms of the number of domestic oil wells drilled, a trade group said.

The American Petroleum Institute said 6,149 oil wells were completed during the fourth quarter of 2011, a 10 percent increase from 2010 levels.

“There’s good news that domestic drilling continued to increase into the fourth quarter of 2011,” Hazem Arafa, director of API’s statistics department, said in a statement. “And with policies that allow greater access to the vast energy resources right here at home, we can provide even more of the energy our country needs while hiring more American workers and generating more revenue for our government.”

API claimed last week that plans announced by U.S. President Barack Obama to open 39 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration actually left more than 85 percent of offshore areas off limits to energy explorers. His critics added the lease sale was part of a program that became effective in 2007.

The president said from Las Vegas that his actions on Gulf of Mexico exploration “could result in a lot more production of domestic energy,” however.

House May Try Again With Keystone XL

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) — “All options are on the table” to ensure the White House moves quickly on the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, a U.S. lawmaker said.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on ABC News’ “This Week” that House leaders may insert language on the Keystone XL pipeline into a pending jobs bill.

“All options are on the table (for the pipeline),” he said. “If it’s not enacted before we take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, it’ll be part of it.”

House leaders inserted language into a law extending payroll tax benefits that gave U.S. President Barack Obama until mid-February to decide if Keystone XL was in the national interest. Obama in mid-January denied a permit for the pipeline, citing the “arbitrary” deadline.

Pipeline company TransCanada wants to build Keystone XL to carry so-called tar sands oil from Canada to refineries along the southern U.S. coast. Critics say crude oil from Canada is some of the dirtiest oil. Backers say it will enhance U.S. energy security and stimulate a weak U.S. economy.

“This is the epitome of a shovel-ready job project that the president ought to be approving,” Boehner added.

TransCanada said it would reapply for a U.S. permit, adding Keystone XL planning is proceeding as scheduled.

Bed-Wetting May Be Due To Constipation

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 28 (UPI) — Bed-wetting isn’t always due to a bladder issue — constipation is often the culprit — U.S. researchers found.

Dr. Steve J. Hodges, assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and lead author of the study, said bed-wetters should be examined for constipation. If it turns out that is the problem, children and their parents might avoid an unnecessarily long, costly and difficult quest to cure nighttime wetting.

The study, published in the journal Urology, found the 30 children and adolescents who sought treatment for bed-wetting all had large amounts of stool in their rectums, despite the majority having normal bowel habits.

After treatment with laxative therapy, 83 percent of the study participants were cured of bed-wetting within three months.

“Our study showed that a large percentage of these children were cured of nighttime wetting after laxative therapy,” Hodges said in a statement. “Parents try all sorts of things to treat bed-wetting — from alarms to restricting liquids. In many children, the reason they don’t work is that constipation is the problem.”

The importance of diagnosing this condition cannot be overstated, Hodges said.

“When it is missed, children might be subjected to unnecessary surgery and the side effects of medications,” Hodges said. “We challenge physicians considering medications or surgery as a treatment for bed-wetting to obtain an X-ray or ultrasound first.”

Walnuts Shrink Prostate Tumors In Mice

DAVIS, Calif., Jan. 29 (UPI) — Prostate tumors in mice fed the human equivalent of 3 ounces per day of walnuts grew smaller and slower than tumors in control mice, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Paul A. Davis of the University of California, Davis, and colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., said in addition to lower plasma insulin-like growth factor 1, a biomarker strongly associated with prostate cancer, walnut-fed mice had lower low-density lipoprotein, the “bad” cholesterol, as well as distinct differences in their livers.

“These results make me very hopeful that walnuts may be beneficial both in terms of avoiding cancer and slowing cancer growth and therefore should be included in a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables,” Davis said in a statement.

Walnuts are widely recognized as being heart-healthy and now, this research in prostate cancer along with previous published research from Marshall University reporting that walnuts slow the development and growth of breast cancer tumors in mice, show walnuts maybe a weapon in the fight against prostate cancer as well, Davis explained.

“Walnuts are a whole food that provides a rich package of healthful substances, including omega-3 fatty acids; gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E; polyphenols, organic chemicals; and antioxidants,” Davis said. “These likely then work synergistically.”

The findings were published in the British Journal of Nutrition.



Early Elective U.S. Births Drop

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — Many U.S. hospitals reduced the number of early elective deliveries — birth before 39 weeks — in 2011 from 2010, a hospital quality watchdog group says.

The Leapfrog Group, an employer-driven hospital quality watchdog group, said 39 percent of reporting hospitals kept their early elective delivery rate to 5 percent or less, compared with 30 percent of reporting hospitals the year before.

Since Leapfrog highlighted data on this unsafe practice last year, early elective deliveries emerged as a priority issue for national and local health organizations, the National Priorities Partnership and through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Partnership for Patients campaign.

Childbirth Connection, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the March of Dimes said a fetus needs at least 39 completed weeks of gestation to fully develop.

There are medical reasons to schedule a delivery before this time including the high blood pressure at the end of pregnancy or broken membranes before labor begins, but these are rare, Leapfrog officials said.

In 2011, 757 hospitals voluntarily reported their rate of early elective deliveries through the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. The average rate fell from 17 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2011. Several states have an average rate at or below the national average, including California, Colorado, and Massachusetts.

Ohio reported the lowest average rate at 7.6 percent, while the average rate of hospitals reporting from Alabama was 22.5 percent.

The four largest health plans — Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint — said they will continue their awareness campaign to expectant mothers that the last weeks of pregnancy are important, there are risks for mothers and babies if births are scheduled before 39 weeks for non-medical reasons and expectant mothers should investigate the rates of early elective deliveries for hospitals in their community.

Pakistan court lifts Haqqani travel ban

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 30 (UPI) — A travel ban on Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, has been lifted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

At the same time, the court gave a judicial commission two more months to complete an investigation into the memo scandal that led to Haqqani’s resignation in November, Press Trust of India reported.

Haqqani has been labeled a traitor in Pakistan after Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz alleged Haqqani had drafted a memo backed by President Asif Zardari that asked the U.S. government to help oust Pakistan’s military leadership.

Zardari and Haqqani have denied any involvement in the alleged memo.

The nine-judge court granted a request by Haqqani’s lawyer, Asma Jehangir, to ease travel restrictions for her client, who has family abroad, but said he would have to inform the Supreme Court’s registrar’s office when he travels abroad. Haqqani also is required to return to Pakistan within four days when the judicial commission or the Supreme Court summons him.

The Supreme Court formed the judicial commission Dec. 30 and gave it four weeks to complete its investigation, which would have given the commission until Monday. Attorney General Anwar-ul-Haq told the court the government had no objections to the commission’s term being extended.

The Supreme Court rejected a request from Ijaz that the commission be asked to record his statement outside Pakistan. The court said it should be left to the commission to decide whether to record Ijaz’s statement in Pakistan or abroad.

Advice: Stay Home When Whooping Cough Hits

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., Jan. 30 (UPI) — Two public school districts in New York’s Saratoga County each have two students with confirmed cases of whooping cough, school officials say.

At Broadalbin-Perth, the school district’s Web site reported there was one confirmed case in each of its two buildings, while the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school system said two students have come down with whooping cough.

Saratoga County Health Department officials said they were concerned that some children are returning to school too soon after being tested for the highly contagious illness, also known as pertussis, and said if a pediatrician tests a child’s throat for whooping cough, it means the doctor feels the child may have the illness, the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union reported.

If a child has the disease, he or she must stay home until test results are confirmed or until antibiotic treatment is completed, health officials said.

“If your child is healthy, there is no need to keep them home from school,” Stephen Tomlinson, superintendent of the Broadalbin-Perth district, said in a statement. “The students who have been diagnosed with pertussis are being treated at home and will not be in school for the duration of their illness. That being said, if your child displays any of the symptoms of whooping cough, please keep them home from school and contact your child’s school nurse as soon as possible.”

Earlier in the month, the New York City school system reported a three-fold increase in whooping cough cases in the city.

Several upstate counties have reported one of two cases of whooping cough.

The newspaper said the number of cases of whooping cough in the United States has trended upward since the 1980s, with 25,000 reported cases in 2005, the most since 1959.

Pigeon Fever Found In Arkansas Horses

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Jan. 30 (UPI) — Some horses in Arkansas have been diagnosed with pigeon fever, a usually non-fatal disease but one uncommon in the state, health officials say.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture said in a release Monday cases were reported Friday by horse owners near Fort Smith in the northwestern region of the state and near El Paso in central Arkansas.

“Pigeon fever is not very common in Arkansas,” said Mark Russell, assistant professor-equine extension at the university. “It’s more prevalent in drier climates, but the recent drought in parts of Arkansas may be why we’re seeing it now.”

The university said more than 30 cases were also reported in Louisiana in December, and KXAS-TV, Dallas, said the disease was on the rise in northern Texas with dozens of cases reported last month.

Jeremy Powell, a university extension veterinarian, said cattle are also susceptible to the disease, which causes pectoral abscesses, but humans are not.

The abscesses “cause the appearance of a protruding breast like a pigeon breast — which accounts for the name of the disease,” Powell said. “These can also occur in along the belly and the lower neck region or on a front or rear limb. Often an owner will think the horse has been injured due to a kick from another horse.”

The abscesses also can appear on the horse’s face and, less frequently, deep ones can occur in lungs, kidneys or liver. Affected horses may appear weak and exhibit stiffness or lameness.

The disease is transmitted by insects, primarily flies, though horse-to-horse contact or contaminated soil also can spread it.

DHS changing security-trade approach

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is changing how it approaches the security-trade relationship as it moves into 2012, Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

“This transition will be a key, on-going focus for the department in 2012 as we continue our drive toward a risk-based, information-driven approach to security, where what we know about a piece of cargo or a passenger allows us to better assess its risk and identify threats at the earliest point possible,” Napolitano said Monday in Washington during her second annual address on the state of homeland security.

Recognizing that “security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive,” Napolitano said the country can enhance security while reducing wait times, which will expedite travel and keep costs down.

One way security is strengthened while travel and trade are expedited is through the department’s trusted traveler and trusted shipper programs.

“These programs rely on mutually agreed-upon information sharing,” she said, “which allows us to know more about a traveler or piece of cargo before it begins its journey.”

The programs also offer an economic benefit to all involved by speeding up the movement of goods and people critical to business.

She specifically praised two programs and said the administration plans to expand in 2012 — Global Entry, an international program, and TSA PreCheck, a domestic one.

The programs offer “expedited screening for travelers who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying,” Napolitano said. In exchange for the information, travelers can expect expedited screenings that may not include removing their shoes, laptops, jackets or belts.

The strategy is to reduce the size of a search.

“If we have to look for a needle in a haystack, it makes sense to use all of the information we have about the pieces of hay to make the haystack smaller,” she said.

Napolitano said the two strategies are different from profiling because profiling is “not necessarily intelligence driven.”

“For example, we may have information that leads us to believe that certain travel routes are problematic. We can see that from a person’s travel history,” she said. “We may have information that we’re looking for, not for all people from a particular country, but for a person who has traveled here, here and here, and from a particular age group.”

As the department advances toward a risk-based strategy, Napolitano said Homeland Security will try to strike the right balance between efficiency and security and to prevent terrorists from trying to game the pre-screening process.

“And what’s critical is that both of these initiatives strengthen security while expediting travel for those travelers we know the most about,” she said.

Napolitano also urged Congress to take up immigration reform.

“The bottom line is that our nation’s current immigration laws are sorely outdated and in need of revision,” she said. “President Obama views such a revision as both a matter of fairness and as an economic necessity. … [We] have acted on clear and common sense priorities when it comes to immigration enforcement under the existing laws.”

While the department has come a long way since its founding in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, “we remain aware of how a successful terrorist attack or natural disaster can inflict economic damage beyond its human toll,” the secretary said.

“Threats against our nation, whether by terrorism or otherwise, continue to exist and evolve,” Napolitano said. And [the Department of Homeland Security] must continue to evolve as well.”