Burger King Agrees To Use Cage-Free Eggs And Pork

The burgers at Burger King may be double-stacked, but the pigs and chickens used to produce their products won’t be.

By 2017, Burger King plans to buy all its eggs and pork from cage-free facilities.

“We believe this decision will allow us to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers,” said Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer.

Those who push for the humane treatment of animals are pleased that Burger King is raising the bar.

“For every cage-free egg or piece of bacon from a gestation-free pork system that Burger King sells, animals have been spared lifelong confinement in a cage so small they can barely even move,” said Matthew Prescott, the Humane Society of the United States food policy director.

In times past, animals “were going to be slaughtered at some point, but they could have a decent life,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS. Pacelle believes that the treatment of food animals has worsened in the past 50 years.

Recently, Hellman’s, Sonic, Subway, Ruby Tuesday and Kraft Foods have increased the percentage of cage-free eggs they use in their products.

But not everyone thinks the trend is a positive one. Those who oppose cage-free facilities believe that it causes disease occurrence, as well as prices, to increase.

Pacelle disagrees: “When you are good to animals, there are often good outcomes the rest of the way,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

So Now It’s Doggiegate?

Last week in this space, I predicted that this year’s Presidential contest would be the dirtiest in our history. Guess I should have added that some of the attacks against Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, would also be among the silliest we’ve seen.

The latest example — and I’m sure there will be many more to come — is the “Seamus scandal.” In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s based on a vacation trip the Romney family took to Canada more than 20 years ago.

Not wanting to put Seamus, the family dog, in a kennel while they were gone, but not having room for him in the family car, Romney built a special box for the Irish setter and tied it to the roof of the car.

When I first heard the story, all I could think of was the image of Aunt Edna (played by Imogene Coca) strapped in a rooftop rocker in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” But in the movie, Aunt Edna was already dead. In real life, Seamus made the trip back and forth in complete safety.

Nevertheless, some of President Barack Obama’s fierce defenders have latched onto the story, convinced it proves that Romney is a heartless, uncaring elitist. New York Times columnist Gail Collins has written about the incident more than 50 times! Obama strategist David Axelrod has taken to tweeting pictures of dogs. There is even a website devoted to “Crategate.” The Facebook page Dogs Against Romney has more than 50,000 friends.

I don’t know how much damage the story has actually done to Romney’s reputation. But out of all of the fuss and bother has come an even weirder tale. It seems that when Obama was a child growing up in Indonesia, he and his family actually dined on dog.

I kid you not. Bloggers are having a field day with the allegations. There are rumors that Obama eats “pup tarts” and loves “chicken poodle soup.”

Can the campaign get any weirder than this?

Yes, it can. And if the Supreme Court declares that any part of Obamacare is unConstitutional, it probably will.

The Court is expected to issue its ruling sometime this summer. Most analysts predict that, at a minimum, the insurance mandate — the very heart of Obamacare — will be struck down. Many analysts expect all 2,700 pages of the law to be rejected.

Obama has already gone on the offensive against the Court. In a speech last month, he declared:

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

Of course, there would be nothing unprecedented at all by the Court issuing such a ruling. Obama’s comments revealed such a patently distorted view of history that even many of his supporters were appalled. The funniest reaction may have come from Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), who wrote:

His comments belie a grasp of constitutional concepts so lacking that perhaps the University of Chicago Law School should offer a refund to any students “taught” constitutional law by then-Professor Obama!

Ann Coulter pondered whether Obama actually passed any of the courses he took on the U.S. Constitution, writing: “I guess now we know why Obama won’t release his college and law school transcripts!”

Conservative columnist Thomas Sowell was even more blunt. He wrote:

There is no way that Barack Obama has never heard of it or really believes it to be “unprecedented” after two centuries of countless precedents.

In short, he is simply lying.

… On this and on many other issues, you would have to know what the facts are to know that he is lying. He is obviously counting on the fact that, in this era of dumbed-down education, many people have no clue as to what the facts are.

He is also counting on something else — namely, that the pro-Obama media will not expose his lies.

Can I hear an amen?

One Federal appeals court judge has put the Justice Department squarely on the hot seat over the President’s remarks. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments recently in another case challenging certain aspects of Obamacare. As Dana Kaersvang, the government’s attorney, began arguing in favor of Obamacare, Judge Jerry Smith interrupted.

“I want to be sure that you are telling us that the Attorney General and the Department of Justice do recognize the authority of the federal courts through unelected judges to strike acts of Congress or portions thereof in appropriate cases,” Smith said. He ordered Kaersvang to write him a letter stating the position of the U.S. attorney general and the Justice Department on the concept of judicial review.

“The letter needs to be at least three pages, single spaced, no less and it needs to be specific. It needs to make specific reference to the president’s statements,” the judge said.

We can’t know for certain how the Supreme Court will rule. But there is no question that most Americans want to see the Federal mandate repealed. The latest opinion poll I’ve seen puts the number at 72 percent of Americans who want this part of Obamacare overturned. A smaller majority want the entire measure repealed. And that was even before we saw the latest estimates of what this incredible boondoggle will cost.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office released new estimates of what the Affordable Care Act will cost us taxpayers over the next 10 years. It turns out it’s not nearly as affordable as Obama and his supporters promised.

In March 2010, the CBO estimated the Obamacare would cost $940 billion over the next decade. Their new number is a staggering $1.76 trillion. Since taxes will cover less than half that amount, Obamacare will add a chunk to our national debt.

It’s now been two years since Obamacare was rushed through Congress. At the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

Well, now we know what’s in it. And the more we learn, the less we like it.

Let’s hope that in November, most voters pay attention to issues that really matter — such as their freedom and prosperity — and ignore such frivolous sideshows as doggiegate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Military Terror Training Ramping Up

Recently, a State Department official quietly announced that the “War on Terror” had officially come to an end, but Americans are still subject to all of its implications.

Terror is now a commonplace theme in American life, used by the ruling class in the decade following September 11, 2001, to strip citizens of liberty and basic Bill of Rights protections.

Americans expect to hear about the “threat of a terrorist attack” and they expect to see drills that involve military vehicles patrolling their communities, even though such obvious militarization of the state has not always been the norm in this country. It has become the norm in other nations throughout history, with tyrannical circumstances.

In the name of safety, societies will do almost anything, even to the detriment of the individuals within; thinkers through the ages have warned us against the very nature of our new “safer” military state:

  • “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” — Benjamin Franklin’s statement was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania (1759).
  • “In some ways she [Julia] was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda. Once when he happened in some connexion to mention the war against Eurasia, she startled him by saying casually that in her opinion the war was not happening. The rocket bombs which fell daily on London were probably fired by the Government of Oceania itself, ‘just to keep people frightened’. This was an idea that had literally never occurred to him.” — George Orwell writes in his dystopian novel “1984.”
  • “Over-grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.” — George Washington
  • “This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears, he is a protector.” — Plato
  • “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” — James Madison
  • “Terrorism is the best political weapon, for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.” — Adolf Hitler

There are countless other quotations warning of the dangers of allowing domestic military control to become the rule of the state out of fear.

But fear of terror still reigns in the United States. With the warming spring and summer months it appears that Americans throughout the country will witness terror drills conducted by local military and law enforcement agencies.

In May, the United States will invite airborne troops from Russia to hold joint anti-terror drills in Colorado. It will be the first time that the Russian airborne forces have held exercises with the U.S. airborne forces on the U.S. territory.

From Business Insider:

 It’s worth noting the Russians will have access to U.S. military weapons training at the Army’s Fort Carson — “Home of America’s Best” — ahead of the scheduled May 24-31 drills. They’ll also be trained to understand and operate hardware used by U.S. forces in airborne missions including “parachuting, operation planning, reconnaissance, assault operations and evacuations by helicopter.”

If you live in Minnesota, don’t be alarmed if you receive an empty pill bottle in your mailbox on May 6. It is only a test — “Operation Medicine Delivery” — wherein the State’s Postal workers and law enforcement officials are practicing to deliver medicine to about 37,000 households in the event of an Anthrax attack. It’s a strategy that’s been studied nationally since 2004, but has not been tested full scale until now.

At Fort McClellan in Anniston, Ala., a government contractor is seeking people to act as role players in a “mass casualty exercise” on the base from May 8-13.

From an ad posted on Craigslist:

Military Mock simualted disaster role players

Government contractor is seeking individuals to act as role players to participate in a “mass casualty exercise” on the Ft McClellan military installation. Role players will participate in an exercise that will replicate civilians in the anniston area that have been injured during a disaster that is used in the scenario over 6 days. Role players will be medically treated during this exercise at numerous locations on Ft McClellan. The objective of this exercise is to train and assess medical units with regards to civilians that have been injured during a disaster.

It has been speculated by some highly respected intelligence officials that a fabricated crises will arise in the months leading up to the 2012 Presidential election. Some people believe the training exercises are extremely valuable and feel safer, others believe them to be propaganda efforts at best and, at worst, preparation for a false flag event.

Rubio Puts On His Big-Boy Britches And Talks Tough

Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R-Tea Party sellout) donned his big-boy britches Wednesday and unveiled a hawkish foreign policy that surely endeared him to the military-industrial complex.

Rubio, who has eligibility issues that rival those of President Barack Obama, unveiled “new proposals on foreign policy” at the Brookings Institution that sound like more of the same empire building and interventionism we’ve seen for the past several decades. In his speech he advocated for a more active and energetic foreign policy and “repeatedly stressed,” according to Human Events, that American engagement has made the world a better, freer and richer place.

In reality, American engagement abroad has made America — and more importantly, Americans — bankrupt and much less free. And there are many in the Mideast particularly, and in other parts of the world generally, that would argue that they are much worse off thanks to American interventionism.

Rubio also pulled out the old Cold War bogeyman that sends tingles down the spines of all neocons: Russia. “[Vladimir] Putin might talk tough, but he knows he is weak,” the speech text reads. “Everywhere he looks, he sees threats to his rule, real and imagined. And so he uses state-owned media to preach paranoia and anti-Western sentiments to Russians. He faces a rising China to the east and hostile Islamic forces to the South, but he tells his people the biggest threat they face is from NATO.”

It turns out threats to Putin’s rule are real and come from U.S.-backed non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which worked to disrupt and delegitimize Russian elections. The mainstream media also created protests that weren’t occurring by using news footage from other countries and claiming it was from Russia. But this is a topic for another day.

“I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all,” Rubio said. “Who warn that we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.’” Rubio, I’m sure, is glad there are so few of those in the GOP. In fact, outside of Ron and Rand Paul I’m at a loss to name any on the national stage.

Warmongering Senator John McCain and his lapdog Senator Lindsey Graham were pleased with Rubio’s speech, I’m sure, as was the Brookings Institution, which is a neocon think tank funded by the fascist global corporations.

According to the Institution’s website, Brookings expert Leo Pasvolsky was instrumental in refining the blueprint for the United Nations. It also brags that, after 9/11, “With remarkable speed, Brookings experts produced influential proposals for homeland security and intelligence operations. They also testified before Congress and used the Institution’s outreach capacity, including its in-house television studio, to explain the new global reality to a frightened public.”

Tea Partiers, you have been duped. Your darling Rubio is another puppet of military-industrial complex. A team of Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio will ensure more years of war and conquest abroad and increased deficit spending and greater tyranny at home.

Conceal In Style

If you carry a concealed firearm, you know that sometimes it can be difficult to remain inconspicuously armed in your everyday clothing.

Sometimes a holster is not an option and can’t be easily concealed.

Iconic clothier Woolrich, realizing this problem, has designed a pair of $65 chino pants that have the clean profile of a standard pair of pants with no external cargo or utility pocketing, but offer the added advantage of a hidden chamber pocket strategically placed for weapons concealment.

The New York Times reports that the company is not alone in creating innovative clothing options for individuals who exercise their 2nd Amendment rights every day, and demand for concealed carry garments for daily wear is on the rise.

The Times reports:

Carriers of concealed guns say the new options are a departure from the law enforcement and military look, known as “tactical,” long favored by gun owners.

The latest styles, by contrast, are called “concealed carry” or “covert fashion.”…

…companies are rushing to meet the demand for concealed-carry clothing. Under Armour, best known for its sports and action gear, will be adding a jacket and a plaid shirt with Velcro pockets for easy gun access.

Increased demand for these types of products could be a good sign for gun rights activists, as it may mean gun ownership for protection is growing in popularity.

Reports indicate that in recent years, gun sales are on the rise. According to figures released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, gun sales jumped from $19 billion in 2008 to $31 billion in 2011. The FBI’s figures show more than 14-million criminal background checks requested for firearms purchases in 2010 and that number has grown. Employment in the firearms industry jumped 30 percent in the same three years.

Student Banned From Prom Because Of Confederate Flag Dress

Texanna Edwards, a high school student in Dyer, Tenn., arrived at the prom but was told she could not enter because of her clothing.

Her dress resembled a Confederate flag.

Edwards, who says she helped make the dress, doesn’t understand why students are allowed to don the rebel flag on clothing during school, but she was not allowed in the door.

“We asked why they thought that, but they kept saying the same thing over and over. We kept asking people walking inside – black and white – and everyone said they loved it. Two black women even went off on the principal. They were upset with the principal. No one was upset with me,” said Edwards.

“Its heritage, not hate,” answered a black student when asked about the fashion statement.

Edwards wore a camouflage dress to a previous school function.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted is rebel flag and camouflage, and I’m all about my horses,” the senior said in her defense.

Odd-Shaped Galaxy Puzzles Astronomers

PASADENA, Calif. (UPI) — Most galaxies are either round or are flat, slender disks like our Milky Way, but one nicknamed the Sombrero galaxy manages to be both, U.S. astronomers say.

The Sombrero galaxy, which in visible light looks like its namesake wide-brimmed hat, is a round elliptical galaxy but has a thin disk embedded inside, making it one of the first known to exhibit characteristics of the two different types, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Tuesday.

Astronomers have used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to capture an infrared image of the galaxy that reveals it unusual structure.

“The Sombrero is more complex than previously thought,” Dimitri Gadotti of the European Southern Observatory in Chile said. “The only way to understand all we know about this galaxy is to think of it as two galaxies, one inside the other.”

While it is tempting to think the giant elliptical swallowed a spiral disk, astronomers say this is highly unlikely because that process would have destroyed the disk structure.

Instead, they say, the giant elliptical galaxy may have been inundated with cosmic gas more than 9 billion years ago, with the gas being pulled into the galaxy by gravity and falling into orbit around the center and spinning out into a flat disk.

“This poses all sorts of questions,” ESO astronomer Ruben Sanchez-Janssen said. “How did such a large disk take shape and survive inside such a massive elliptical? How unusual is such a formation process?”

The answers could help piece together how other galaxies evolve, the researchers said.

 

Study: Bees Affected By Selenium Pollution

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (UPI) — Honeybees’ foraging behavior and survival could be impacted by the chemical element selenium at polluted sites, U.S. scientists say.

Although selenium in very low concentrations is necessary for the normal development of insects — and humans — it becomes toxic at only slightly higher concentrations, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, said.

In many Pacific Rim countries and near coal-fired power plants worldwide, selenium occurs most often in soluble forms, such as selenite, which can be taken up by plants that then incorporate the element into their nectar and pollen that the bees gather, the researchers said.

Bees feeding on these food sources can inadvertently take in significant amounts of selenium, researchers said.

“Nature has not equipped bees to avoid selenium,” entomology Professor John T. Trumble said in a university release. “Unless the rates of concentrations of selenium were extremely high in our experiments, the bees did not appear to respond to its presence.”

Bees that had been fed selenate in the lab were less responsive to sugar (as sucrose), which interfered with their foraging behavior.

“The selenium interfered with their sucrose response,” researcher Kristen R. Hladun said. “Such bees would be less likely to recruit bees to forage because they wouldn’t be stimulated to communicate information about sucrose availability to the sister bees.”

Also, forager bees that were fed selenium in moderate amounts over a few days in the lab died at a significantly younger age, the researchers said.

 

Study: More Plastic In Ocean Than Thought

SEATTLE (UPI) — Research on how much plastic litters the oceans may vastly underestimate the true amount because it only looks at the surface, a U.S. researcher says.

University of Washington oceanographer Giora Proskurowski said he was on a research cruise in the Pacific Ocean and noticed the water surface was littered with tiny bits of plastic — until the wind suddenly picked up and the plastic “disappeared.” Taking water samples from 16 feet he discovered the wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface.

The finding suggests data collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5, a university release reported Wednesday.

“That really puts a lot of error into the compilation of the data set,” Proskurowski said.

Proskurowski and his study co-authors have developed a simplified mathematical model to match historical weather data, collected by satellites, with previous surface sampling to estimate more accurately the amount of plastic in the oceans.

“By factoring in the wind, which is fundamentally important to the physical behavior, you’re increasing the rigor of the science and doing something that has a major impact on the data,” Proskurowski said.

 

 

Judge Views BP Settlement Favorably

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) — A U.S. district judge in New Orleans said during a preliminary hearing he viewed a $7.8 billion oil spill settlement from BP in favorable terms.

BP announced last week it reached a definitive agreement for $7.8 billion, paid to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, to settle the bulk of the claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier was quoted by The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London as saying he was “leaning in favor” of the settlement claims from the British oil company.

BP attorney Rick Godfrey said the courts were considering whether the settlement was “reasonably fair and adequate to justify sending out notices.”

BP still faces fines from the U.S. government for violations of the Clean Water Act.

A former engineer with the company was accused this week of obstructing justice by destroying electronic documents that suggested the company was giving misleading information about the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 accident.

The judge, sitting in New Orleans, said it would likely be November before he issues a final approval.

Pieces Of Meteorite Found In California

LOTUS, Calif. (UPI) — A NASA astronomer says he found fragments of the meteor that exploded in a giant fireball over California Sunday morning.

Petrus Jenniskens said he found fragments of the object Wednesday in a parking lot of Henningsen Lotus Park, located in the small town of Lotus in El Dorado County near California’s historic Sutter’s Mill.

“This meteor itself must have been big,” Jenniskens told the San Francisco Chronicle, “probably in the kiloton range. But now we need to find more fragments so we can begin to understand how it broke apart and what was inside it.”

Scientists from the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., have been searching throughout the week, he said.

Four years ago Jenniskens trekked across Africa’s Nubian Desert to recover fragments of a small asteroid and bring them to the United States.

He says the public can help in the search for fragments of the California meteor.

“Now we’re hoping that anyone who has any videos or amateur photos of the explosion itself will contact us so we can begin to understand the meteor’s trajectory before it exploded.”

Expert: No Such Thing As A Healthy Tan

NEWMARKET, Ontario (UPI) — A Canadian dermatologist cautions that a healthy tan is no tan at all and that there is no sunny side when it comes to tanning.

Dr. John Turner, dermatologist at the Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, said he has seen melanoma in patients as young as 14.

“Contrary to common belief, skin cancer is not an older person’s disease. Young people today associate tans with attractiveness, thanks to television shows and magazines that glorify the bronzed look, but the truth is that there is no such thing as a healthy tan,” Turner said in a statement. “A tan is actually the body’s response to irreparable skin damage at the cellular level and each time a person gets a tan, his or her risk of skin cancer rises.”

Tanning beds, in particular, often used by those as young as in their teens, can emit up to five times more harmful ultraviolet rays than the sun and studies show that use of tanning equipment before the age of 35 increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, Turner added.

The main way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid too much ultraviolet radiation — from either the sun or tanning beds — especially if excess exposure begins in adolescence or young adulthood.

Those at greatest risk of developing melanoma are people with fair skin, freckles, red or blond hair, a history of severe sunburns even as a child, an unusual number of moles, a family history of melanoma, and excessive ultraviolet exposure from the sun or tanning beds, the Canadian Dermatology Association said.

 

Vitamin D May Help Lower Blood Pressure

LONDON (UPI) — A study showed giving vitamin D supplements in Europe in winter can help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension, Danish researchers said.

Study leader Dr. Thomas Larsen and a group of researchers studied 112 patients visiting the Holstebro Hospital in Denmark — at the 56th northern latitude, about the same latitude as Glasgow and Moscow. The study participants had initial levels of vitamin D measured, and then were given either vitamin D or a placebo for 20 weeks. At the beginning of the study, 92 of the 112 patients were found to have low levels of vitamin D.

The researchers found those patients taking the vitamin D supplement showed a significant reduction in central systolic blood pressure, when compared to the placebo group.

There was also a reduction in ambulatory blood pressure — blood pressure measured at the upper arm, where several measurements are taken during the day — in those patients who were originally vitamin D deficient, although this reduction was of borderline significance.

“Probably the majority of Europeans have vitamin D deficiency, and many of these will also have high blood pressure. What our results suggest is that hypertensive patients can benefit from vitamin D supplementation if they have vitamin D insufficiency,” Larsen said in a statement. “Vitamin D would not be a cure for hypertension in these patients, but it may help, especially in the winter months. However, it is important to stress, that this was a small study, and that larger studies are needed to provide solid evidence.”

The findings were presented at the European Society of Hypertension meeting in London.

Kids: Obesity, Higher Blood Pressure Link

LONDON (UPI) — Children who are heavier early in life are at an increased risk of hypertension and cardiometabolic problems later in life, Australian researchers say.

Professor Lawrie Beilin of the University of Western Australia in Perth and colleagues tracked 1,186 children from birth to age 14 for weight and blood pressure.

The study found the top 32 percent of the children with rapid weight gain from birth to age 14 experienced abnormal blood pressure had increased blood pressure detectable as early as age 3.

“By following this group of children from birth to adolescence, we have shown that increasing fatness in the early years, particularly the years from birth to age 3 were associated with higher blood pressure and cardiovascular risk later life,” Beilin said in a statement. “If we could both reduce the number of overweight babies, and reduce amount of fat which children accumulate in early life, then we would see lower levels of risk for hypertension and diabetes, and other metabolic conditions.”

The findings were presented at the European Society of Hypertension conference in London.

Berries May Reduce Brain Decline

BOSTON (UPI) — Blueberries and strawberries — high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties — may reduce brain decline in older adults, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Elizabeth Devore of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston said flavonoids, found in plants, have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study — 121,700 female registered nurses ages 30-55 who completed health and lifestyle questionnaires beginning in 1976. Since 1980, participants were surveyed every four years regarding their frequency of food consumption.

The study published in the Annals of Neurology found women with a higher berry intake delayed cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.

The authors cautioned that while they did control for other health factors in the modeling, they cannot rule out the possibility that the preserved cognition in those who eat more berries also may be influenced by other lifestyle choices, such as exercising more.

“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women,” Devore said in a statement. “Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”

Unintended Pregnancies Spike In 20s

NEW YORK (UPI) — Half of pregnancies among all U.S. women are unplanned, but among unmarried women ages 20–29 two-thirds of pregnancies are unintended, researchers say.

Mia Zolna and Laura Duberstein Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute in New York said nearly 10 percent of unmarried women ages 20-29 — 95 per 1,000 — experienced an unintended pregnancy in 2008, a slight increase since 2001, when it stood at 92 per 1,000.

“One of the most powerful ways that we can improve the health and well-being of women and their families is to make contraception easier and more affordable to use,” says Guttmacher policy expert Adam Sonfield. “Expanding insurance coverage and public funding for the most effective methods of contraception — and for the counseling and education needed to help women and couples choose the method that is best for them — can go a long way toward reducing unintended pregnancies and births in this high-risk age group.”

In 2008, black and Hispanic women had rates of unintended pregnancy twice those of their white counterparts, while rates among poor women were more than four times the rate for women in the highest income group, the researchers.

“Young people typically have sex for the first time around age 17, but generally don’t marry until their mid-20s, putting them at high risk of unintended pregnancy and birth for a decade or more,” Lindberg said. “We can’t just focus on reducing teen pregnancies anymore.”

Foreclosures Up In Half Of U.S. Cities

IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — Roughly half of 212 U.S. cities tracked by market researchers saw foreclosure activity rise in the first quarter of 2012, a private firm said.

RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties, said 114 of 212 cities with populations above 200,000 experienced increased foreclosure activity January through March.

In larger cities, the ratio held with 26 out of 50 metropolitan areas experiencing increases. City increases were led by Philadelphia, up 49 percent; Indianapolis, up 37 percent, and New York, up 24 percent.

The largest quarterly decreases among the 50 largest U.S. cities were Portland, Ore., where foreclosures fell 28 percent quarter to quarter; Las Vegas, down 26 percent, and Providence, R.I., down 24 percent.

Although up from the previous quarter, in 64 percent of the 212 areas tracked, foreclosure activity dropped from the first quarter of 2011.

“First quarter metro foreclosure trends were a mixed bag. While the majority of metro areas continued to show foreclosure activity down from a year ago, more than half reported increasing foreclosure activity from the previous quarter — an early sign that long-dormant foreclosures are coming out of hibernation in many local markets,” said Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer in a statement.

Stockton, Calif., experienced the highest foreclosure rate among U.S. cities in the first quarter with one in every 60 housing units involved in foreclosure processes.

Modesto, Calif., posted the second highest foreclosure rate and 10 other California cities were among the top 20, the firm said.

But the largest annual increases were outside California. From the first quarter of 2011, foreclosure activity rose 52 percent in Orlando, Fla., 41 percent in Indianapolis, 38 percent in Hartford, Conn., 37 percent in Miami and 33 percent in Philadelphia, RealtyTrac said.

First-Time Jobless Claims Virtually Still

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Labor Department said first-time jobless claims dropped by 1,000 in the week ended Saturday with 388,000 initial claims filed.

It was the second consecutive week gains were marginal. In the previous weekly report, the department said 2,000 fewer first-time claims were filed.

To put it into perspective, the gains are so small that this week’s revision summarily wipes them out.

Last week’s report said 386,000 first-time claims were filed. The figure is frequently revised and this week the Labor Department corrected the figure to 389,000, canceling out two weeks of marginal improvements.

The four-week rolling average, which gives a steadier figure, rose by 5,500 last week and by 6,250 this week, the department said. The four week rolling average this week stands at 381,750.

The biggest increases in initial jobless claims for the week ended April 14 were in New York ( up by 3,352), California (up by 3,060) and Georgia (up by 2,179).

The largest decreases were in Washington state (down by 5,700), Pennsylvania (down by 5,362) and Oregon (down by 3,649).

The U.S. unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, unchanged from February to March.

Consumer Confidence Flat In Europe

BRUSSELS (UPI) — The European Commission said Thursday economic confidence was flat in the European Union and in the eurozone in April.

Revising figures released in a previous “flash estimate,” the Economic Sentiment Indicator for the EU in April now stands at 93.2, unchanged from the previous month, the commission said.

For the eurozone, the 17-nation regions that shares the euro as currency, the index fell by 1.7 points to 92.8.

In the eurozone, confidence in the industrial and service sectors weakened, while confidence improved for the retail sector.

In both regions, the index “remains well below its long term average,” the report said.

The index assigns the 1990-2009 average a numerical value of 100. Below 100 indicates confidence has fallen below that 20-year average.

Among the seven largest economies in Europe, confidence fell sharpest in Italy (down 5.7 points), Poland (down 2.3 points) and Spain (down 1.8 points).

The index improved in the Netherlands (up 1.2 points) and in Britain, where the index jumped 4.2 points.

Only Germany maintains a confidence level higher than its long-term average. In Germany, the index fell 1 point in April, the report said.

 

Mortgage Rates Remain Low

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Average U.S. mortgage rates for long-term, fixed-rate contracts held near all-time lows in the week, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said.

In the week ending Thursday, average rates for 30-year contracts dropped from 3.9 percent to 3.88 percent with 0.7 point. Thirty-year mortgage rates averaged 4.78 percent the same week of 2011.

Average rates on 15-year contracts averaged 3.12 percent, down from 3.13 percent in the previous week and one tick above the record low of 3.11 percent.

A popular contract for refinancing, 15-year mortgages averaged 0.6 point. A year earlier, rates for 15-year mortgages averaged 3.97 percent.

Five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.85 percent in the week, up from 2.78 percent with an average 0.6 point. A year earlier, five-year adjustable rate contracts averaged 3.51 percent.

Average rates on one-year treasury-indexed adjustable mortgages fell from 2.81 percent to 2.74 percent with 0.6 point. A year ago, rates for these loans averaged 3.15 percent.

Freddie Mac’s vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft said interest rates remained low while investors waited for word from the U.S. Federal Reserve on monetary policy, which was left unchanged, the Fed announced Wednesday.

In additions, “The housing market has also shown some improvement as well. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s purchase-only house price index rose at a monthly rate of 0.3 percent in February,” he said in a release.