Texas Hands Over Social Security Numbers

AUSTIN, Texas, (UPI) — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office accidentally handed over the Social Security numbers of millions of Texas voters to lawyers, officials say.

Lawyers challenging the Texas Voter ID law were given access to a voter database for analysis. Abbott’s office thought the attorneys would only be able to see the last four digits of Social Security numbers, of the 13 million voter records on the disks, about half included complete Social Security numbers, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

First Assistant Attorney Daniel Hodge assured Texas voters the information was never in danger of becoming public. The database was handed over on six password-protected encrypted disks under protective order from the court. When Abbott’s office learned of the mistake, a state police officer was dispatched to retrieve the disks from New York, Washington and Boston on April 12, the report said.

“At no time were these Social Security numbers exposed to the public,” Hodge told the Express-News. “No one was ever at risk.”

Rebecca Acuna, spokeswoman for the Texas Democratic Party, responded to the incident Wednesday.

“It’s shocking that a person who claims to be so concerned by identity theft could be this reckless with Texans’ most private information. Greg Abbott clearly has misplaced priorities,” she said. “This scenario wouldn’t have happened if Abbott spent as much time protecting Texans as he does trying to disenfranchise them.”

The Voter ID law was signed into law by Texas Gov. Rick Perry last year, but has been on hold by the U.S. Department of Justice until Texas can prove the law will not discriminate against minority voters.

The law would require voters to present one of five acceptable types of photo ids at their polling places. Critics say the law, which does not count college IDs among the acceptable types of ID, discriminates against younger voters, as well as poor or disabled voters who may not have the means to acquire a photo ID.

Teacher Arrested For Facebook Messages

HOUSTON, (UPI) — A Houston middle school teacher was arrested and charged for allegedly sending inappropriate text and Facebook messages to students, police say.

Paul Roberts, a Stafford Middle School award-winning math teacher, was suspended Tuesday for “inappropriate electronic communication between a teacher and students,” the school said.

He was arrested Tuesday and charged with improper relations with a student, a second-degree felony, KTRK-TV, Houston, reported. Superintendent Lace Hindt said the messages were brought to his attention by a parent who found them on her son’s phone. The messages were suggestive and full of foul language. He allegedly had sent similar messages through Facebook as well.

The school district told KHOU-TV, Houston, there were at least two students who confirmed having received inappropriate messages from Roberts.

Roberts is being held in Fort Bend County Jail in lieu of a $7,500 bond. He had started teaching at Stafford last year.

Boehner: Let Obamacare Pay Student Loans

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The House will vote on taking money from the U.S. healthcare-overhaul law to keep student-loan interest rates from doubling, House Speaker John Boehner said.

Boehner, R-Ohio — who said the vote would happen Friday — accused President Barack Obama of political theatrics in his two-day tour of three university campuses in swing states to get Congress to extend the low interest rate on federal student loans.

“You know this week, the president is traveling the country on the taxpayer’s dime, campaigning and trying to invent a fight where there isn’t one and never has been one on this issue of student loans,” Boehner said in a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday.

“Let’s fix the problems for young Americans and leave the campaign theatrics for the fall,” Boehner said.

The House speaker said the $5.9 billion one-year extension of the low interest rate would be paid for out of a $17 billion prevention and public health fund in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s signature healthcare law. Boehner called the healthcare money a “slush fund.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., responded, saying Republicans were “yet again asking working families to pay the price instead of closing tax loopholes that benefit special interests.”

House Democrats introduced their own measure, which would cancel tax subsidies for big oil companies as a way to pay for freezing student loan rates at current levels.

At his college stops, Obama assailed congressional Republicans for actions he said held up legislation to prevent the interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans from doubling to 6.8 percent July 1.

Those loans are taken out by nearly 8 million students each year.

A few hours before Boehner spoke, Obama told University of Iowa students a Boehner spokesman had said Obama’s focus on student loans was an effort to “distract people from the economy.”

“Now think about that for a second, because these guys don’t get it,” Obama told the boisterous student audience. “If you do well, the economy does well. This is about the economy. What economy are they talking about? You are the economy.”

Obama spoke to audiences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder Tuesday.

The low interest rate resulted from the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which reduced interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans for the following four academic years to the current 3.4 percent, with the proviso the rates would revert to 6.8 percent July 1.

When the 2007 law was passed, 77 Republicans — including many still in Congress — voted for it, The New York Times said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated a one-year freeze on the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate would cost $6 billion.

Official: Army May Lay Off 29,000 Soldiers

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Budget cuts may make the U.S. Army lay off 29,000 enlisted soldiers and officers, a Pentagon official said as GOP lawmakers sought to restore defense funding.

“I hate to throw out numbers, but I have seen numbers that will approach the enlisted category perhaps as high as the mid-20s — 23, 24,000,” Thomas R. Lamont, the Army’s top personnel official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee Wednesday.

“And on the officer contingent — again these are very rough numbers and all based again on assumptions and attrition rates — officers may go up to 4,500, maybe 5,000,” said Lamont, assistant Army secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

“There will be some officers — and there will be some very good non-commissioned officers — that will want to stay in the Army and will probably not,” added Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, Army deputy chief of staff.

Lamont and Bostick were among military officials testifying a day before House Armed Services Committee panels were to begin marking up the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Bill.

The Republican-controlled committee has said it intends to add about $8 billion to the $546 billion for defense set by the Budget Control Act that ended last year’s U.S. debt-ceiling crisis.

The crisis threatened to push the federal government into sovereign default on or about Aug. 3, 2011.

The act will trigger across-the-board spending cuts of more than $100 billion a year, starting next fiscal year, if Congress doesn’t identify ways of cutting the deficit at least $1.2 trillion during the next decade.

Those reductions — split evenly between defense and non-defense programs — would hit the Pentagon with a $54 billion cut in 2013.

The Obama administration seeks to cut defense spending in fiscal 2013, but increase it afterward, just not as fast as previously planned.

The House GOP plan calls for defense spending to be at the same rate next year as it is this year, and future increases to be higher than the White House plan.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Jan. 26 that under the 2013 defense budget, the Army would lose 80,000 soldiers as the Army shrinks to 490,000 from a 570,000 peak, but he did not say then whether the reduction would be through layoffs or through attrition as soldiers retire.

Panetta said the number of Marines would drop by 20,000 to 182,000, the Air Force would buy fewer new Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jet fighters and scrap 92 cargo planes and jets, and the Navy would lose seven cruisers.

Pay raises would be limited beginning in 2015, and healthcare fees for retirees would rise, Panetta said, adding the moves would not compromise security.

Funding for special operations forces trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions, such as the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, would continue to grow as would the military’s fleet of drones, Panetta said.

The troop reductions “are potentially devastating to our national security,” Senate Armed Services Committee member Joseph Lieberman, Ind-Conn., said after Panetta presented his proposed “tough budget choices” needed to reach $487 billion in cuts over 10 years.

These reductions, which would require congressional approval, “are the result of budget pressure, not what is best for America’s security,” Lieberman said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif., said Wednesday he would seek to increase funding for new M1 Abrams battle tanks, guided-missile Navy destroyers and a mobile air defense system in the defense budget, and seek to put a brake to the planned reduction in military force numbers.

Percentage Of Mixed-Race U.S. Babies Up

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The percentage of mixed-race babies born in the United States rose from 5 percent to 7 percent in 10 years, a demographer said.

William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution analyzed Census figures, The Washington Post reported. He said that in 2009, the year before the 2010 Census, more than 7 percent of newborns had parents of different races, while the number of children who have one white parent and the other black or Asian doubled.

Frey said there appear to be two trends at work. One is that there are more mixed-race couples, and the other that a mixed-race identity is more acceptable.

“I think people are more comfortable in identifying themselves, and their children, as mixed race,” he said. “It’s much more socially acceptable, more mainstream, to say, ‘That’s what we want to identify them as.'”

Frey said older people with one black parent tend to identify as black — citing President Barack Obama as an example.

The War On Error

All right, all you fearmongers, war profiteers, chicken hawks, anti-Muslim bigots and conservative riffraff: You are all welcome to return to the humdrum drone of your daily existences. Despite your intransigence, your racism and your willingness to endanger the future of the world in favor of gross partisanship, President Barack Obama has finally delivered on that Nobel Peace Prize he won a few years back. That’s right, you right-wing curmudgeons: Thanks to Obama, peace is at hand.

In a Monday article in National Journal, a senior Obama flunky announced: “The war on terror is over.” While I’m sure you share my amazement that such an enormously important revelation was left to some State Department sock puppet as opposed to a bells-and-whistles Rose Garden press event, you should be less interested in who rang the bells of peace and more interested in why the announcement hasn’t been trumpeted across the proverbial rooftops of the world.

Surely, Obama — rocked as he is by a proliferation of scandals — would be loath to pass up an opportunity to play tough guy with the eyes of the world upon him. Bolstered by corporate media coverage that comes in somewhere between “fawning” and “restraining order,” Obama gravitates toward smiling photo ops the way Michael Moore gravitates toward Crisco. Granted, announcing victory in the War on Terror isn’t as cool as — say — dinner with Oprah Winfrey. Nonetheless, declaring an end to the threat posed by the suicide bomber set has to rank up there in liberal fantasies with free attendance at a Bill Ayers bomb-making seminar.

Surely, Obama wouldn’t delegate to some Foggy Bottom functionary the responsibility of declaring an end to the threat posed by subhuman savagery of the Islamofascist death cultists after decades of hijackings, kidnappings and bombings. After all, an almost-blind item in a magazine article isn’t likely to swing back the millions of voters who have abandoned Obama in recent months. Plus, if Obama passes on the presser, then the first lady loses a built-in excuse for a new wardrobe.

Surely, the random acknowledgement of the end of the defining conflict of our age wasn’t merely some cynical political gamesmanship — a test balloon to see if Americans would buy such nonsense, re-visualize Obama as some sort of wartime savior and forgive the disgrace he has heaped upon us during his occupation of the White House. Furthermore, if Obama and his minions did decide to sneak a major change in terror policy (from “Islamofascist are bad” to “What Islamofascists? You mean Akbar? He’s just misunderstood”) past the voting public, then the anonymous State Department mouthpiece who declared the War on Terror as finished as John Edwards’ chances of winning another election had better start watching his back.

Surely, Obama didn’t deliberately mute the announcement in order to shade a direction in policy away from Islamofascists who promise action-film deaths for everyone who opposes burqas, clitoridectomies and honor killings and toward patriots who commit the unpardonable sin of opposing Obama. Just because legions of Obama’s Democratic co-conspirators have traded in focus on Shariah proponents for focus on the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association doesn’t mean that the President has shifted his watchful gaze from real terrorists to a ludicrous target, does it? For example, even the most unhinged liberal recognizes that an Islamofascist with a brick of Semtex and a dream is more dangerous than a 4-year-old girl from Montana, right?

And surely Obama isn’t leaking out some of sort of stealthy olive branch to the rising Islamofascists in the Mideast. We know that Obama would never sell out the safety and security of millions of people in order to appease the twisted sensibilities of sand-pounding lunatics, don’t we?

There is good news, however. Since the War on Terror has concluded, our men and women in uniform can pack their gear and head home. The Transportation Security Administration can discontinue its air passenger molestation program. The five dozen or so unmanned drones peeking at us from above can be redeployed somewhere more worthwhile than the skies over Gadsden, Ala.

Because surely Obama isn’t lying about victory in the defining conflict of the new millennium in an effort to rescue his fading electoral hopes, right?

–Ben Crystal

Obama’s Short-Term Memory Loss On Pot Policy

President Barack Obama, despite admitting to inhaling, probably doesn’t have too many stoner friends in the Nation because his promises and his Presidential actions regarding medical marijuana policy have differed.

Despite laws in some States that made legal the use of medical marijuana, Obama’s Department of Justice has continued to use Federal resources to conduct raids on medical marijuana producers in places like Colorado and California.

Obama, promising to end the raids that had begun under President George W. Bush, said on the campaign trail in 2008, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

But that is exactly what his Administration has done, and now he is backpedaling.

“What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana,” Obama said in a recent explanation of his policy. “I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana — and the reason is, because it’s against federal law.”

Rolling Stone magazine calls out the Obama Administration in a recent article:

The administration’s retreat on medical pot is certainly consistent with its broader election-year strategy of seeking to outflank Republicans on everything from free trade to offshore drilling. Obama’s advisers may be betting that a tough-on-pot stance will shore up the president’s support among seniors in November, as well as voters in Southern swing states like Virginia and North Carolina that are less favorable to drug reform. But the president could pay a steep price for his anti-pot crackdown this fall, particularly if it winds up alienating young voters in swing states like Colorado, where two-thirds of residents support medical mari­juana. In November, Colorado voters will likely consider a referendum to legalize all pot use for adults – and undercutting enthusiasm for the issue will only dampen turnout that could benefit the president.

Like so many of President Obama’s other promises, many medical marijuana advocates say his “rethink and decriminalize” rhetoric during the 2008 election went up in smoke when he got in the Oval Office.

The Lessons Of The Secret Service Scandal

Wayne Allyn Root says the Government Services Administration scandal shows why our government is bankrupt: It’s because government employees are spending other people’s money. On the other hand, the Colombian prostitution scandal could serve as a valuable lesson to all government employees because of something more shocking than the sex. The Secret Service agents did two things that government employees usually don’t while on official business: They used their own money and even attempted to get a better deal.

New Pretenses For Revenues And Taxation

Congressional aides call it “Taxmaggedon.” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke calls it “a massive fiscal cliff.” “It” is Jan. 1, the day taxes increase because the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire and Obamacare taxes kick in.

According to The New York Times, it will mean a typical middle-class household making $50,000 will see a tax increase of about $1,750. If not addressed, according to The Times, inflation-adjusted, after-tax income will fall to 1998 levels.

Some people, including President Barack Obama, are playing the class warfare angle, demonizing the rich as a means gaining support for higher taxes. Democrat National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently said the Bush tax cuts will not be continued. But none of the elites in halls of power are talking about making any significant cuts in the growing government Leviathan.

In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine warned that, “Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute.”

Tax increases, even if placed only on the so-called rich, will eventually work their way down to everyone in one form or another. It’s just the way the economy works.

TSA Suspected 4-Year-Old Girl Had A Gun

Isabella Brademeyer, a 4-year-old from Montana, was deemed a high security threat by Transportation Security Administration officers after hugging her grandmother.

Isabella, her sister, her mother and her grandmother were traveling home to Montana after attending a wedding in Kansas.

The family passed through security scanners, but the grandmother triggered an alarm. Isabella ran back and hugged her grandmother. It was at this point that TSA officials thought the grandmother had handed Isabella a gun.

“It was implied, several times, that my mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter,” Isabella’s mother wrote on Facebook.

As any 4-year-old would do, Isabella ran from TSA officials.

One of the officials allegedly said that the airport would have to be shut down if Isabella did not cooperate.

“When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying, ‘The suspect is not cooperating.’ The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist,” posted the mother.

Initially, the family was told by TSA agents that they would have to leave the airport because they would not frisk a 4-year-old. But age hasn’t stopped TSA in recent times. TSA has harassed a 7-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and a 3-year-old in a wheelchair. In the end, Isabella was frisked as well.

Apparently, TSA officials who initially covered the situation passed the news on to other airports. In Denver, an airport employee asked the family to point out Isabella.

TSA responded to the incident: “TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child.”

Grandmother Opens Fire On Robbers

A Georgia grandmother saved her money and her life by firing shots at two men attempting to rob her.

After Lulu Campbell, 57, dropped off her grandson at her daughter’s house, two men approached Campbell’s truck, demanded money and threatened to shoot her.

The robbers wanted Campbell to open the door, but she refused. “I said, ‘Baby, you’re going to kill me anyway, so I don’t have to open it!’” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, one of the men fired a shot and missed. Campbell, who always carries a gun, fired back and hit the man in the chest. A shootout ensued with the second man, and he eventually fled the scene.

Reportedly, Campbell’s truck sustained eight bullet holes in the hood, and both side windows were shot out.

Campbell, who owns convenience stores and gas stations, told The Telegraph: “I’m very nervous. I carry a gun all the time.”

One of the attackers, Brenton Lane Spencer, is hospitalized. The other suspect, Dantre Shivers, has not been apprehended.

Campbell left the scene unharmed.

Dumb America

An Analysis

American citizen, you are grotesquely ignorant.

On the whole, your society exemplifies Webster’s definition of the word “oblivious”: 1) lacking remembrance, memory, or mindful attention 2) lacking active conscious knowledge or awareness.

Perhaps you aren’t completely to blame for your disgusting inability to think for yourself, act in your own self-interest and attain feelings of emotional stability or good health without the guidance of a lifelong Nanny. Your devolution has been engineered by a parasitic State that understands the need to numb and stupefy your most basic human instincts and desires. You have been helped to the point of incompetence and made an idiot by a society of simplicity and convenience.

Your food is not food, and it is served to you through a window while you sit in your automobile.

If you do not attempt to provide for yourself and those who depend on you, it is done for you.

Your friends are not friends, but faces on a screen. You likely have thousands of them but few meaningful relationships.

Sex is exploited to divert your attention. Even political news sites often include more sex stories than news.

Your political views are molded by politicians’ and media’s exploitation of emotionally-charged social issues — abortion, women’s rights, race relations, etc. — so you do not realize that you are losing rights daily.

You idolize idiots for their physical attributes or charm. When given the opportunity to obsess over their lives so you can forget that your own is unfulfilling, you are grateful.

Politicians use phrases like “right wing” or “left wing,” to make you believe in freedom of political choice, democracy and liberty. There is no such thing in this collapsing society. There is only the slavery of consumption. If you are a person who recognizes this and attempts to live a lifestyle that diminishes the State’s involvement in your affairs, you are branded a terrorist, conspiracy nut or simply crazy.

The United States is the Roman Empire, and bread and circus rules the populace. If you think this is untrue, consider how ignorant the man holding the highest political office in the Nation believes you to be. President Barack Obama was elected on a platform of lies: ending war, restoring liberty by undoing the police state and giving average Americans more paths to greatness. He now makes television appearances and insults your intelligence by singing to you about the value of further empowering the increasingly something-for-nothing college scam.

Some of you, realizing how bad things really are and how much worse they will get, have attempted to force changes and reforms. You started the Tea Party; you attended rallies and elected new politicians to change government from within. Others among you joined Occupy Wall Street and began to call for a removal of corporate and special interests in government.

The elites recognized the call for change from both groups and quickly acted — but not in your favor. They mobilized their paid for mainstream media to make you — the idiot — believe that Tea Partiers are all right-wing, racist women-haters and that all OWS activists are baby-killing, anarchist queers. After polarizing both movements with social stigma, members were easily assimilated by the Republican and Democratic establishment as useful idiots for both sides.

It is amusing that both the Tea Party and OWS agree that Federal bailouts for corporations are an abomination, and both agree that these corporate bailouts were handed out because of corporate special interests paying off and offering support to lawmakers. Members in both groups that have not been brainwashed by the establishment decry the growing police state, the corrupt medical establishment and special interest meddling in government to control every aspect of American life. Support for the establishment-hated Presidential candidate Ron Paul and his mission to destroy the Federal Reserve can also be seen by the same members of both groups.

Adbusters, the anti-establishment publication credited with sparking OWS, recently recognized the Democratic takeover of the movement, writing: “First they silenced our uprising with a media blackout… then they smashed our encampments with midnight paramilitary raids… and now they’re threatening to neutralize our insurgency with an insidious campaign of donor money and co-optation. This counter-strategy worked to kill off the Tea Party’s outrage and turn it into a puppet of the Republican Party. Will the same happen with Occupy Wall Street? Will our insurgency turn into the Democrats’ Tea Party pet?”

What if you weren’t dumb and realized that by building on common ground rather than fighting over ideological differences put forth by the media, the two groups might actually have a chance to topple the political establishment and its false left-right paradigm? That would be bad news for the powerful elite who control your money and your life and who have worked so very hard to make you stupid. If people who think they are on opposing sides of the political argument were to ever wake up en masse and realize their propagandized realities, they would rise up together and kill their masters.

The “us versus them,” you see, has nothing to do with contention between average Americans no matter what political ideologies they follow. “Us” is me, you — the idiots — and “them” is the group of elite power brokers that push and prod us through the media and fiat money that they control. They are the ones with the shiny objects; Americans love shiny objects.

Violence May Change Child’s DNA

DURHAM, N.C. (UPI) — Children who experienced violence or bullying may incur DNA damage that leads to premature aging, U.S. researchers said.

Lead author Idan Shalev, a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy in Durham, N.C., and colleagues measured cellular aging by studying the ends of children’s chromosomes — telomeres — which act like the plastic tips on shoelaces and prevent the DNA in chromosomes from unraveling, USA Today reported.

Previous research has shown several factors could shorten telomeres — including smoking, radiation and taking care of a chronically ill person.

The researchers interviewed the mothers of 236 children at ages 5, 7 and 10. The women indicated whether the children had been exposed to domestic violence between the mother and her partner, physical maltreatment by an adult, or bullying. The researchers measured the children’s telomeres at ages 5 and 10.

The study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry found the telomeres shortened at a faster rate in children exposed to two or more types of violence, putting them at risk of heart disease 7-10 years earlier than their peers.

Melanoma In Women Up Eight-Fold

ROCHESTER, Minn. (UPI) — U.S. women age 40 and under have been diagnosed with melanoma eight times more frequently than in the previous four decades, researchers say.

Dr. Jerry Brewer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said men were diagnosed with melanoma four times as often as the previous 40 years.

The reason the rate of skin cancer for woman has spiked at twice the pace as that of men, Brewer said, is because women have been spending more time in the sun getting tanned and using tanning beds.

Brewer said melanoma is treatable and survivable “if you find it early enough.”

“Treatment has improved as cases have gone up,” Brewer said in a statement. “Early detection is key. See a dermatologist. That could save your life.”

The study was published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Gum Disease Doesn’t Cause Heart Disease

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UPI) — An expert U.S. committee of cardiologists, dentists and infectious disease specialists found no conclusive evidence gum disease causes cardiovascular disease.

Dentist Peter Lockhart — a co-chair of the statement-writing group and professor and chair of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. — said observational studies have noted associations between gum disease and cardiovascular disease.

However, the 500 journal articles and studies reviewed by the committee didn’t confirm a causative link, Lockhart said.

“There’s a lot of confusion out there,” Lockhart said in a statement. “The message sent out by some in healthcare professions that heart attack and stroke are directly linked to gum disease, can distort the facts, alarm patients and perhaps shift the focus on prevention away from well known risk factors for these diseases.”

Gum disease and cardiovascular disease both produce markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and share other common risk factors — cigarette smoking, age and diabetes.

These common factors may help explain why diseases of the blood vessels and mouth occur in tandem. Although several studies appeared to show a stronger relationship between these diseases, in those studies researchers didn’t account for the risk factors common to both diseases.

“Much of the literature is conflicting,” Lockhart said, “but if there was a strong causative link, we would likely know that by now.”

Family Dinners Healthier For Kids

SAN DIEGO (UPI) — More than 40 percent of the typical U.S. food budget is spent on eating out but family meals at home are linked to healthier eating, U.S. researchers said.

Study co-authors Jennifer Martin-Biggers, Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein, John Worobey and Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, all from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, said aside from negative effects on the family budget, eating out has been shown to be generally associated with poor food choices and bad health.

The researchers evaluated results from 68 previously published scientific reports considering the association between family mealtime and children’s health.

The review found numerous benefits to children associated with having frequent family meals, including increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins. In addition, the more a family ate together the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health such as soda.

The researchers found a weak link between family meals and obesity risk, but children in families with frequent family meals tended to have lower body mass index than those who enjoyed fewer family meals.

The findings were presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s scientific sessions in San Diego.



Some U.S. Women Living Shorter Lives

SEATTLE, Calif. (UPI) — Women in hundreds of U.S. counties are living shorter lives than their mothers did, a county-by-county analysis of life expectancy found.

Dr. Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle and colleagues analyzed new mortality data by age, sex and county from 1989 to 2009.

Across U.S. counties, life expectancy in 2009 ranged from 66.1 to 81.6 years for men and 73.5 to 86.0 years for women. From 1989 to 2009, life expectancy for men improved by 4.6 years on average but the increase for women 2.7 years.

Throughout the country, women were more likely than men to have no progress in life expectancy or to have their lifespan get shorter over time, Mokdad said.

“It’s tragic that in a country as wealthy as the United States and with all the medical expertise we have that so many girls will live shorter lives than their mothers,” Mokdad said in a statement.

Women were living longest in Collier, Fla., 85.8 years on average, and shortest in McDowell, W.Va., 74.1 — an 11.7-year gap. In 1989, the gap was 8.7 years.

The overall gap was larger for men — 15.5 years — but it has grown by less than a year since 1989.

Men live the longest in Marin, Calif., to age 81.6. Men lived the shortest, on average, in Quitman and Tunica, Miss., to age 66.1.


Minivan-Sized Meteor Made California Fireball

PASADENA, Calif. (UPI) — U.S. researchers estimate the size of the meteor that caused a giant fireball over California and Nevada was about the size of your average minivan.

The bright ball of light traveling east to west was seen over central and northern California Sunday morning, as the 150,000-pound space rock entered Earth’s atmosphere about 11 a.m. EDT.

Reports of the fireball came from as far north as Sacramento and as far east as North Las Vegas, Nev., a release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Tuesday.

As it disintegrated it released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion, researchers estimate.

“Most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two,” Don Yeomans of JPL’s Near-Earth Object Program Office said.

“Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size — anywhere from a baseball-sized object to something as big as a minivan.”

The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called “Spaceguard,” scans for asteroids and comets passing close to Earth and establishes their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Objects as big as the one that exploded over California are rare, Yeomans said.

“An event of this size might happen about once a year,” he said. “But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, so getting to see one is something special.

Boston To Offer Smartphone Train Tickets

BOSTON (UPI) — Boston officials say the city is set to become the first in the United States to get a paperless smartphone ticketing service for commuters.

The ability to pay and have tickets scanned using smartphones has been common in Europe, but Americans who ride trains to work still have to buy paper tickets in most instances.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which serves 1.3 million people daily, will inaugurate the first smartphone-based rail ticketing system in the country this fall, Slash Gear reported Tuesday.

Smartphone users will download an app available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices that will allow them to purchase a ticket; the app then displays the bar code on the device’s screen that can be scanned by ticket takers on the train.

The smartphone-based ticketing program is being conducted in partnership with a London firm called Masabi that has introduced similar systems in Britain.

A small test pilot program will be conduced this summer before the full launch in the fall, Boston officials said.

City Heat Could Be Beneficial For Trees

NEW YORK (UPI) — Urban “heat islands,” chronically elevated city heat levels, are driving some city trees to grow far better than their country cousins, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute said they found common native red oak seedlings grow as much as eight times faster in New York’s Central Park than in more rural, cooler settings in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.

Since red oaks and their close relatives dominate areas ranging from northern Virginia to southern New England, the finding may have implications for changing climate and forest composition over a wide region, a Columbia release said Tuesday.

Urban “heat islands” are the result of solar energy being absorbed by pavement, buildings and other infrastructure, then radiated back into the air.

While the phenomenon is generally viewed as a threat to public health and a cause for concern, trees actually benefit, researchers say.

“Some organisms may thrive on urban conditions,” Columbia tree physiologist Kevin Griffin said.

While a city’s hot summer nights can be a trial for humans, they are a boon to trees, he said, allowing them to perform more of the chemical reactions needed for photosynthesis when the sun comes back up.

“Some things about the city are bad for trees. This shows there are at least certain attributes that are beneficial,” said lead author Stephanie Y. Searle, a Washington environmental researcher who was a Columbia undergraduate when she participated in the research.


Rare Leopard Photographed In China

NEW YORK (UPI) — The first camera trap photos of a rare Amur leopard in a Chinese nature reserve suggest the leopards may be returning to the country, U.S. conservationists say.

The leopard was photographed in the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society reported Wednesday.

Provincial officials recently announced the results of a survey showing an estimated 8 to 11 leopards are living in the province.

Most of the world’s remaining Amur leopards live across the border in Russia where camera traps photographed 29 leopards last winter in a portion of the newly created Land of the Leopard National Park.

A number of the cameras were donated by the WCS in support of Russian-Chinese transboundary conservation of Amur leopards and tigers.

Estimates of the total number of surviving Amur leopards have hovered around 30 since the mid-1970s, but the combined Russian and Chinese photo evidence and surveys suggest leopard numbers may be rising to 40 or more, the WCS said.

Ancient Remains Stolen In Mexico

TULUM, Mexico (UPI) — The skeleton of one of the first humans to inhabit the Americas has been stolen in Mexico, authorities say, and archaeologists want it back.

The 10,000-year-old skeleton disappeared from a cenote, or underground water reservoir, in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City has placed “wanted” posters in stores, cafes and dive shops in and around the nearby town of Tulum, and authorities said they are also considering legal action to recover the remains.

The missing bones belong to a skeleton dubbed Young Hol Chan II, discovered in 2010 in a cenote that in 2006 had previously yielded another 10,000-year-old skeleton, the Young Man of Chan Hol.

The earlier find showed anatomical features suggesting shared heritage with Indonesians and south Asians, researchers said, dealing a blow to the idea that the earliest people to colonize the Americas crossed an ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska.

Researchers said they’ve been aware of a rash of thefts of specimens from cenotes but lack the resources to guard the hundreds of sites that dot the Yucatan peninsula.

Durable Goods Orders Dropped In March

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. durable goods orders dropped 4.1 percent in March, falling farther than the consensus forecast, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

New orders dropped, while February’s estimate of 2.2 percent growth was revised to a 1.9 percent increase.

In March, new orders rose by $8.8 billion to $202.6 billion.

Transportation orders in March had the largest decrease, falling by $7.1 billion or 12.5 percent to $49.7 billion.

Excluding transportation, orders were down 1.1 percent, which shows the volatile category of transportation dragged down the rest of the manufacturing sector.

Orders for commercial airplane parts, down $7.7 billion, provided the bulk of the decline in the transportation sector.

Orders for new capital goods not related to defense fell by $8.6 billion or 10.5 percent to $73 billion, while inventories of durable goods, up 27 consecutive months, rose by 0.4 percent to $375.1 billion.

Although orders were down, shipments rose by $2 billion or 1 percent to $208.8 billion.