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, 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.

Mortgage Activity Down Slightly In Week

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Mortgage Bankers Association said U.S. mortgage activity dropped in the week ending Friday, despite dropping interest rates.

Mortgage activity fell 3.8 percent in the week. The trade group’s Refinancing Index also fell 2.1 percent from the previous week.

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages fell from 4.05 percent to 4.04 percent with average points dropping from 0.45 to 0.4.

Rates for 15-year, fixed-rate contracts fell from 3.33 percent to 3.32 percent. Points for 15-year loans were unchanged at 0.41.

The average interest rates for both the 30-year and 15-year fixed-rate loans are the lowest on record, the MBA said.

Retail Receipts Rise In Week

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. retail sales were up modestly in the week ending Saturday with increased traffic at department stores, a trade group said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers said sales rose 0.8 percent compared to the previous week and 3.6 percent compared to the same week of 2011.

Traffic at department stores, “perk[ed] up nicely relative to the same week of last year,” the report said.

The trade group said unseasonably warm weather returned to the Northeast, the North Central and the West, which stood in contrast last year, when the third week of April was the coldest in 20 years.

With warm weather encouraging trips to stores, gasoline prices headed lower for the third consecutive week.

Gasoline prices averaged $3.87 per gallon on April 23, a drop of 5.2 cents from a week earlier, the Energy Information Administration said.

Fed Expects Low Rates Through 2014

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Federal Reserve Wednesday said the economy was growing “moderately,” but it was still a long way off from changing its monetary policy.

The central bank said its Open Market Committee “expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy … at least through late 2014,” referring to the federal fund rate, which has stood at zero to 0.25 percent since the financial crisis hit.”

The announcement continues two experiments. The first is the “accommodative” stance of making funds available so cheaply, at historically low interest rates, for so long. Secondly, the Fed is continuing its policy of being explicit in describing its intentions so far in advance.

Before the financial crisis — and while under the directorship of Chairman Ben Bernanke — the Fed has reduced its use of coded hints in its communications. Although it can change its stance at any time, it is not like the Fed to commit itself to a particular policy for this long.

The Fed said it would also continue to roll over short-term securities in its portfolio to longer-term notes to convince the business community borrowing would remain cheap for a long time.

The Fed said information “received since March suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately.”

Price inflation picked up the pace recently, but was expected to subside in the coming months. The unemployment rate “has declined, but remains elevated,” the bank said in a statement.

“Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed,” the statement said.

The policy was approved by a 9-1 vote. Committee member Jeffrey Lacker “does not anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014,” the Fed noted.

Bernanke Says QE3 Is Possible

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke asserted Wednesday that a third round of quantitative easing was an option policy makers would use if necessary.

“We remain prepared to do more as needed to make sure that this recovery continues and that inflation stays close to target,” Bernanke said at a news conference following the Fed’s policy decision announcement.

The Fed said it would continue with a federal funds rate of zero to 0.25 percent and a program of rolling over its portfolio to exchange short-term notes to longer-term securities.

However, Bernanke was asked “Some of your critics … think you’re still being too cautious … is the committee now any closer to QE3 than it was at its last meeting?”

Bernanke said the Federal Open Market Committee “certainly has been bold and aggressive in terms of easing monetary policy.”

Regarding a new round of securities purchases, “Those tools remain very much on the table and we will not hesitate to use them, should the economy require that additional support,” he said.

Quantitative easing involves the central bank buying assets, which keeps demand for securities high and interest rates low. The last round was widely criticized by the international community as a side effect of the move is that it weakens the value of the dollar, which can be viewed as manipulating currency rates to favor U.S. exporters.


Marine Booted For Obama Remarks

A Marine Corps sergeant who criticized Dear Leader Barack Obama has earned himself an other-than-honorable discharge.

Gary Stein is the U.S. Marine sergeant whose Facebook group, Armed Forces Tea Party, was in the news last month because remarks on the page were found to be “contemptuous.”

The nine-year Marine veteran said he started the page to encourage fellow service members to exercise their free speech rights. Stein was first cautioned by his superiors at Camp Pendleton in 2010, after he launched the Facebook page and criticized Obama’s healthcare overhaul. He volunteered to take down the page while he reviewed the rules at the request of his superiors. Upon determining that he was not in violation of the rules, Stein re-launched the page.

“I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn’t have gone this way. I’m having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career,” he told The Associated Press.

The Marines say Stein failed to follow Pentagon directives that say military personnel in uniform cannot sponsor a political club; participate in any TV or radio program or group discussion that advocates for or against a political party, candidate or cause; or speak at any event promoting a political movement. Officers also are not allowed to use contemptuous words against senior officials, including the defense secretary or the President.

Man Arrested In Beating Of Matthew Owens

Terry Rawls, 44, has been arrested in the mob beating of Matthew Owens in Mobile, Ala.

Owens was beaten viciously and is in critical care. After the assault, one of the attackers reportedly said, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.”

After being contacted by police, Rawls turned himself in.

This is not Rawls’ first run-in with the law. In 2000, he pleaded guilty to criminal assault. In 2004, he was arrested on two third-degree burglary charges.

Police believe that a large number of the 20 or so blacks involved in the attack on Owens only watched the assault take place. So far, no other warrants have been issued, but police say two or three more arrests may take place.

According to police, Rawls and Owens have a history of confrontation.

N. Korea Says Weapons Could Defeat U.S.

PYONGYANG, North Korea, (UPI) — North Korea said Wednesday it had weapons that could defeat the United States in a single blow and renewed its threat against South Korea.

The comments from Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean military’s chief of general staff, came as the country marked the 80th anniversary of the founding of its army, Voice of America reported.

Ri said the country had “powerful, modern weapons” that could defeat the United States in a single blow but did not elaborate on the weapons.

White House spokesman Jay Carney urged the North to avoid hostile or provocative acts, saying they would do nothing to advance peace on the Korean peninsula or in northeast Asia.

In a televised speech from Pyongyang’s House of Culture, Ri said the North would not tolerate violation of its territory by South Korea or the United States, Yonhap reported.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, was in the audience but did not speak.

Ri also again threatened a “sacred war” over what it called South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s insulting the North’s Kim.

Lee has urged Kim to abandon the collective farm system and devote more attention to human rights and defector issues.

The South Korean president also said the North had wasted about $850 million on its failed rocket launch April 13 and said the country could have spent that money for food for its 24 million people.

Rubio Gets Police Protection After Threat

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Police protection has been provided to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., after officials determined a threat against him was credible, the senator’s office said.

The protective detail was provided the freshmen senator for when he is in Washington and at his home in West Miami, The Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

Rubio has been in the spotlight for weeks after speculation surfaced that he was on a short list of potential running mates for presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Rubio’s office said no further information about the threat, such as when it was made or its nature, would be released.

The U.S. Capitol Police and the West Miami Police Department were providing security and investigating the threat, the Herald said.

Obama Cracks Wise After Yogurt Spill

BOULDER, Colo., (UPI) — President Barack Obama told a woman she has “a story to tell” after she spilled yogurt on him Tuesday at a bar and restaurant in Boulder, Colo.

The president was in Boulder as part of a tour of college campuses intended to pressure Congress to take action to prevent an automatic increase in higher education loan rates this summer.

During an unannounced stop at The Sink at about 6:25 MDT, Obama shook hands, posed for pictures, ordered a large pizza and bought a stack of T-shirts. As the president greeted a cluster of people outside the restaurant, a young woman spilled yogurt on him.

Obama wiped up the spill with a towel and told the woman, “Getting yogurt on the president, you’ve got a story to tell.”

“I’m very embarrassed,” the young woman said.

Web Site: 6A The Perfect Plane Seat

EDINBURGH, Scotland, (UPI) — Scotland-based flight comparison site Skyscanner said its poll indicates airline passengers consider 6A to be the best seat on a standard aircraft.

The Web site said its poll of more than 1,000 airline passengers found many riders valued being able to sit near the front of the plane while others preferred the middle of the aircraft, making Row 6 the perfect compromise. The site said passengers also liked having window seats, making 6A the most sought-after location on the aircraft.

“Frequent flyers have also reported that the left-hand side of the plane is best as the windows are off center, allowing for wall space to lean on,” said Sam Baldwin, travel editor for Skyscanner. “I just hope that the low-cost carriers don’t find out that there is such demand for seat 6A and start charging a premium for it!”

Troopers Suspended Over High-Speed Caravan

TRENTON, N.J., (UPI) — A pair of New Jersey state troopers have been suspended after allegedly providing escort to a caravan of 30 exotic cars traveling in excess of 110 mph.

Officials said Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry, 47, of Phillipsburg, and Trooper Joseph Ventrella, 28, of Bloomingdale, have been suspended. They are alleged to have been involved in escorting former New York Giant Brandon Jacobs and 29 other drivers of exotic vehicles, including at least two Lamborghinis, on three major expressways en route to Atlantic City, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Tuesday.

Witnesses said the March 30 convoy traveled at speeds of more than 110 mph and some of the vehicles weaved dangerously around other cars traveling at normal speeds on the roads.

“We will not tolerate any conduct by a member of the State Police that puts the public in jeopardy, as this unauthorized caravan had the potential to do,” New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement. He said those responsible “will face serious discipline.”