Jury Finds Edwards Not Guilty On One Count

GREENSBORO, N.C. (UPI) —  Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards was found not guilty Thursday on one of six counts in his federal campaign finance trial.

The judge declared a mistrial on the other five, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Edwards was found not guilty on the third count, involving a $200,000 check heiress Rachel Mellon gave to Edwards towards the end of his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The court was prepared for a full verdict Thursday afternoon when the foreman announced jury members had reached a unanimous verdict on only one count. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles sent them back into deliberations, reminding them of the time and costs involved in the trial.

Jurors, however, returned about an hour later and the verdict on the one charge was announced. The judge then declared a mistrial on the other charges.

The jury began deliberations on May 18.

The former Democratic U.S. senator from North Carolina was charged with accepting illegal campaign contributions, conspiracy to receive and conceal the contributions and falsifying documents, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

The case revolved around money from two wealthy donors that was used to hide Edwards’ pregnant mistress from the media. The issue was whether Edwards knew about the contributions during his 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and whether he was aware they were illegal.

Private Sector Adds 133,000 Jobs In May

ROSELAND, N.J. (UPI) — Payroll firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. said the U.S. economy added 133,000 private sector jobs in May, which fell short of expectations.

Economists had forecast an additional 148,000 jobs would be created in the month.

On top of falling short of predictions, the payroll firm revised its estimate for April from 119,000 new jobs to 113,000.

The monthly report, delayed a day by the Memorial Day holiday, anticipates Friday’s government report on jobs, which includes private and public sector employment.

ADP said manufacturing businesses lost 2,000 jobs in May, the second consecutive monthly decline. The construction sector, also down in April, lost an additional 1,000 jobs in May the report said.

Firms with fewer than 50 employees added 67,000 jobs in the month, while companies with 51 to 499 employees added 57,000 jobs. Firms with more than 500 workers added 9,000 jobs.

ADP said the financial sector added 8,000 jobs in May, the category adding jobs for the tenth consecutive month.


Commerce Drops GDP Estimate To 1.9 Percent

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. gross domestic product rose by 1.9 percent on an annual basis in the first three months of 2012, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

The figure is a significant drop from the advanced estimate released a month ago that said the GDP rose 2.2 percent in the first quarter.

The new figure puts more distance between the first quarter of 2012 and the final quarter of 2011, when the GDP rose 3 percent.

Thursday’s release is based on more complete information, but it is not the final word on the estimate. A third and final estimate is due at the end of June.

Commerce said motor vehicle output added 1.12 percentage points to the GDP after a 0.47 percentage point contribution in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Consumer spending rose 2.7 percent in the first quarter after rising 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

In its first estimate of first quarter corporate profits, the department said profits among public firms rose by $11.4 billion in the quarter after rising by $16.8 billion October through December.

Jobless Claims Up By 10,000 In Week

WASHINGTON (UPI) — First-time jobless claims rose by 10,000 in the week ended Saturday, the U.S. Labor Department said.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 383,000, climbing above the previous week’s revised estimate of 373,000.

The four-week rolling average, which gives a steadier indication of the direction of jobless claims rose by 3,750 to 374,500.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ending May 19 were in California (up by 2,716), Texas (up by 1,648) and South Carolina (up by 1,029).

The largest decreases were in Wisconsin (off by 1,240), Michigan (off by 716) and Georgia (off by 691).

The U.S. unemployment rate is 8.1 percent, falling 0.1 percentage points from March to April.

The unemployment rate could be revised Friday with the release of the Labor Department’s employment situation report for May.

Long-Term Mortgage Rates At Record Lows

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Average mortgage rates for 30-year, fixed-rate loans fell to record lows for the fifth consecutive week, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said Thursday.

Average rates for 30-year contracts dropped from 3.78 percent to 3.75 percent with 0.8 points, a record low. Thirty-year mortgage rates averaged 4.55 percent the same week of 2011.

Average rates on 15-year contracts hit a record low of 2.97 percent with 0.7 points, down from 3.04 percent a week ago, Freddie Mac said.

A year earlier, rates on 15-year contracts stood at 3.74 percent.

Five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.84 percent in the week with an average 0.6 points, up from the previous week, when average rates were at 2.83 percent. Five-year adjustable rate loans averaged 3.41 percent a year earlier.

Average rates on one-year treasury-indexed adjustable mortgages were unchanged in the week at 2.75 percent with 0.4 points. A year ago, rates for these loans averaged 3.13 percent.

Freddie Mac Vice President and Chief Economist Frank Nothaft said “tensions in the eurozone led to a decline in long-term Treasury bond yields, helping to bring fixed mortgage rates to new record lows this week.”

Nothaft noted that compared to a year earlier, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages at current rates save homeowners $1,200 in annual payments based on a $200,000 loan.

Layoff Announcements Jumped In May

CHICAGO (UPI) — U.S. employers announced a reduction of 61,887 jobs in May, the most since September, a private research group said.

Total job cuts announced for the month were up 53 percent from the previous month’s total of 40,559 announced job cuts, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Thursday.

The month’s total is 67 percent higher than May 2011, when job cut announcements came to 37,135.

For the year to date, layoff announcements, at 245,540, are 20 percent higher than they were in the same period in 2011.

A month ago the year-to-date total was 9 percent higher than the first four months of 2011.

The report said job cuts in May were “dominated” by the computer industry, which announced 27,754 layoffs in the month.

The bulk of these cuts came from Hewlett-Packard, which announced 27,000 job cuts, a move that was long anticipated.

For the year to date, the computer sector has announced 32,599 job cuts. More are likely, said Challenger, Gray & Christmas chief executive officer John Challenger.

“We may see more job cuts from the computer sector in the months ahead. While consumers and businesses are spending more on technology, the spending appears to favor a handful of companies. Those that are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing trends and consumer tastes are shuffling workers to new projects or laying them off, altogether,” said Challenger.

Homes Can Be Protected From Tornadoes

WASHINGTON (UPI) — A high-wind safe room can protect families from the most intense tornadoes, a U.S. building trade group says.

The International Code Council Foundation says its Building Safety Month provides guidance to the public about high-wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

“The International Code Council/National Storm Shelter Association Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters is a tool to help communities protect their residents from disasters and consolidates previous references published by National Storm Shelter Association, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross,” Rick Weiland chief executive officer of the International Code Council said in a statement. “A properly built, high-wind, safe room can protect from the most intense tornadoes, hurricanes and similar natural disasters. Safe rooms can be designed to withstand winds up to 250 mph, offering safe refuge for families in the path of high-wind events.”

A closet, bathroom, laundry area or storage room can be enhanced to serve as a safe room, Weiland said.

Building Safety Month Disaster Safety & Awareness co-sponsor, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, urges homeowners to “Give an Ordinary Room an Extraordinary Purpose” by building or retrofitting interior spaces in their homes to safe-room standards. The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes and FEMA are partnering with the International Code Council Foundation to provide resources, tips and videos available online at www.buildingsafetymonth.org.

Strong Families Often Make Dinner At Home

ITHACA, N.Y. (UPI) — U.S. studies show teens who have dinner with their families have fewer depressive symptoms and substance use, but some researchers challenge those conclusions.

Lead author Kelly Musick of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said the family meal is often touted and encouraged for its social and health benefits for children, but the benefit might be more from the strong family that is able to produce frequent family dinners — and not just the action of having the family eat together.

Musick and co-author Ann Meier of the University of Minnesota found the ability to manage a regular family dinner is in part facilitated by family resources such as time and money, and in part a proxy for other family characteristics, including time together, closeness and communication.

Families with both biological parents present, a mother not working outside the home, higher income and better family relationships ate together more frequently, the researchers found.

Controlling for the quality of family relationships explained much of the family dinner’s association with teen depressive symptoms, substance use and delinquency — three factors typically examined in family meal studies. Only some of these associations held up to analyses of adolescent outcomes over time, the researchers said.

“Family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package,” Musick said in a statement.


Brain Injury Can Hurt Medical Decisions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UPI) — People who suffer a traumatic brain injury might not be thinking straight but still might have to make crucial medical decisions, a U.S. researcher said.

Daniel Marson of the University of Alabama at Birmingham tested 86 traumatic brain injury patients’ ability to understand medical options, decide on treatments and appreciate consequences of their choices.

One month after injury, patients with moderate or severe traumatic brain injury — and some with mild traumatic brain injury — still had impaired decision making skills.

“Even patients with mild injuries really depend to some degree on family members assisting them and guiding them, even if the patients still are able to make the decisions themselves,” Marson said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.

High Levels Of Naphthalene Can Hurt Genes

NEW YORK (UPI) — Children exposed to high levels of naphthalene — moth balls, cigarettes, exhaust — are at increased risk for chromosomal aberrations, U.S. researchers say.

First author Dr. Manuela A. Orjuela — assistant professor of clinical environmental health sciences and pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, and a pediatric oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital — and colleagues said naphthalene is found in outdoor and indoor urban air.

The researchers tracked 113 children, age 5, part of a larger New York City study, and assessed the children’s exposure to naphthalene. A CDC laboratory measured levels of its metabolites — 1- and 2-naphthol — in urine samples. Metabolites are products of the body’s metabolism, and can serve as marker for the presence of a chemical.

Researchers also measured chromosomal aberrations in the children’s white blood cells using a technique called fluorescent in situ hybridization. Chromosomal aberrations were present in 30 children.

Chromosomal aberrations have been associated with increased cancer risk in adults.

“Some accumulated damage will be repaired, but not everyone’s repair capacity is the same,” Orjuela said in a statement. “Previous studies have suggested that chromosomal breaks can double an adult’s lifetime risk for cancer, though implications for children are unknown.”

The findings were published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Study: 'Bloodletting' May Be Beneficial

BERLIN (UPI) — Bloodletting as a medical treatment was abandoned in the 19th century, but German researchers said blood donation is beneficial to the donor.

Professor Andreas Michalsen of the Charite-University Medical Centre in Berlin and colleagues at the University Duisburg-Essen said donating blood can provide medical benefits for obese people with metabolic syndrome — which includes insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, dyslipidemia and hypertension and leads to an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Accumulation of iron in the body is associated with hypertension and diabetes.

Michalsen and colleagues randomly assigned patients with metabolic syndrome into two groups, those undergoing iron reduction by phlebotomy — bloodletting or cutting a vein — and controls.

The iron-reduction patients had 300 milliliters of blood removed at the start of the trial and between 250 ml and 500 ml removed four weeks later. Six weeks later, the patients who gave blood had a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure — from 148 mm Hg to 130 mm Hg — as well as reduction in blood glucose levels and heart rate, and an improvement in cholesterol levels.

“Consecutive reduction in iron stores was able to improve markers of cardiovascular risk and glycemic control. Consequently blood donation may prevent not just diabetes but also cardiovascular disease for the obese,” Michalsen said in a statement. “Obviously this treatment will not be suitable for people with anemia, but for those eligible for treatment blood donation may prevent escalation of their condition.”


Chinese 'Backdoor' In U.S.-Used Chips?

CAMBRIDGE, England (UPI) — A Chinese-made microprocessor used extensively by the U.S. military has a “backdoor” that allows the chip to be reprogrammed, British researchers allege.

The claim by researchers at Cambridge University comes as U.S. lawmakers express concern about the use of Chinese manufactured electronic components in U.S. military hardware.

If the British researchers are accurate in their claim, the Chinese military could potentially exploit the backdoor to reprogram U.S. infrastructure and various weapons systems, TG Daily reported Tuesday.

The chip can’t be patched with a software update to close the backdoor, as the vulnerability is hardware-based, the researchers said.

“Our aim was to perform advanced code breaking and to see if there were any unexpected features on the (U.S. Military) chip. We scanned the silicon chip in an affordable time and found a previously unknown backdoor inserted by the manufacturer. This backdoor has a key, which we were able to extract,” Sergei Skorobogatov of Quo Vadis Labs at Cambridge University said.

“If you use this key you can disable the chip or reprogram it at will, even if locked by the user with their own key. This particular chip is prevalent in many systems from weapons, nuclear power plants to public transport,” he said. “The scale and range of possible attacks has huge implications for National Security and public infrastructure.”

Researchers said hackers would need a physical connection between their equipment and the chip and its system to initiate a reprogramming cycle so a cyberattack from a remote location would not be possible.


Shell Gets Nod For Alaska Drilling Plans

JUNEAU, Alaska (UPI) — A U.S. federal court in Alaska issued an injunction that would keep activists from Greenpeace from Shell operations planned for the state’s coast.

The court issued a ruling that barred Greenpeace activists from attempting to disrupt Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Beaufort Sea during the summer. The injunction covers drilling and support vessels designated by Shell for work in the arctic waters of Alaska.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith was quoted by the Platts news service as saying Shell was pleased with the ruling.

“Greenpeace activists have consistently endangered the safety of the crews aboard Shell-chartered vessels and this ruling could add an additional measure of safety for our personnel and assets during the summer drilling season,” he said.

Greenpeace has protested Shell’s plans for arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. It said it’s received nearly 500,000 letters in opposition to Shell’s planned exploration campaign.

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement has approved Shell’s 450-page, oil-spill response plan for work in the arctic.


BP Must Address Spill Data, Markey Says

WASHINGTON (UPI) — British energy company BP needs to answer questions regarding allegations it misled government officials in the 2010 oil spill, a U.S. lawmaker said.

A report by The Wall Street Journal states the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into whether BP misled officials regarding the amount of oil leaking from its failed Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, accused BP of “hiding the trust size of the spill.”

A timeline provided by Markey states BP reported April 24, 2010, two days after the disaster, that around 1,000 barrels of oil per day was leaking from the well. One month later, internal documents provided by BP to Markey confirmed the rate was closer to 60,000 bpd.

“BP must be held to account for their actions and for the amount of oil they spilled into the Gulf (of Mexico),” Markey said in a statement.

In April, former BP engineer Kurt Mix was accused by the FBI of deleting electronic records related to the amount of oil was leaking from the Macondo well under the Deepwater Horizon rig after it exploded in April 2010.

'Supervolcanoes' Said To Have Short Fuses

NASHVILLE (UPI) – “Supervolcano” eruptions with potential to cause widespread extinctions of life may have surprisingly short fuses, U.S. earth scientists say.

Such super-eruptions are more than 100 times larger than ordinary volcanic eruptions like Mount St. Helens and emit tremendous flows of super-heated gas, ash and rock capable of blanketing entire continents and plunging the global climate into decade-long volcanic winters, they said.

Geologists have generally held that a super-eruption is produced by a giant pool of magma that forms a couple of miles below the surface and then simmers for 100,000 to 200,000 years before erupting.

However, a new study led by researchers at Vanderbilt University suggests otherwise, a university release reported Thursday.

“Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting,” said Guilherme Gualda, a professor of earth and environmental sciences.

They may only exist for a few thousand years, or even just a few hundred years, before erupting, he said.

These giant magma pools tend to be shaped like pancakes and are 10 to 25 miles in diameter and one half to three miles deep.

While no such giant magma body currently exists capable of producing a super-eruption, the researchers say they believe this may be because these magma bodies exist for a relatively short time rather than persisting for hundreds of thousands of years as previously thought.

“The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem,” Gualda said.

Instead of concluding that there is virtually no risk of another super-eruption for the foreseeable future because there are no suitable magma bodies, geologists need to regularly monitor areas where super-eruptions are likely, such as Yellowstone, to provide advanced warning if such a magma body begins to form, he said.

Missing NASA Equipment Found

DALLAS (UPI) — NASA says millions of dollars of science equipment missing for four days during shipment from Minneapolis to Texas has been located in Dallas.

The equipment, part of a NASA-funded experiment, left the University of Minnesota’s School of Physics and Astronomy Friday by truck but never made it to its destination of Palestine, Texas, WFAA-TV, Dallas-Fort Worth, reported.

The university hired Copeland Trucking to haul the experiment to launch a balloon telescope to study the origins of the universe to NASA’s balloon operations headquarters in East Texas.

The truck’s trailer, with a protective seal still intact, was found Wednesday evening at a truck stop on Interstate 20 in Dallas.

The truck’s cab, with the driver inside, was found at another truck stop a few miles away.

Dallas police said they were investigating.

University researchers expressed relief the trailer had been found.

“It can’t fly without this,” one said of the intended experiment. “These are the detectors. This is the telescope that’s taking pictures of the sky. You don’t have a telescope, you’re not taking pictures of the sky.”

Patrons Give Waiter $5,000 For New Car

HOUSTON, (UPI) — A Houston waiter said a couple he has been serving for eight years left him a $5,000 tip after his car was ruined by high water.

Greg Rubar, who has worked as a waiter at D’Amicos Italian Cafe for the past 16 years, said he had previously mentioned his car problem to the couple and they came into the restaurant while he was working Saturday and handed him an envelope containing $5,000, KTRK-TV, Houston, reported Wednesday.

“They just came in and gave me money to buy a car, told me to go buy a car with it,” Rubar said.

“I didn’t even look at it. I was hesitant about it, but he said, ‘No you take it and buy you a car!'” Rubar said. “People can be generous, you know? They told me they felt like I deserved this.”

Rubar said he has not seen the customers, who wished to remain anonymous, since they gave him the gift, but he has a message for them.

“Thank you very, very much. I mean I did need it and I’m gonna buy a car with it; that’s what that money’s gonna go to — every cent,” he said.

Fish Swims Off With Prosthetic Hand

BOCA GRANDE, Fla., (UPI) — A wounded veteran fishing in a Florida tournament lost his prosthetic hand in a fight with a fish but it was found later when another fisherman caught the fish.

Jack Wiseman, one of eight wounded veterans given spots on boats in the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series in Boca Grande said he was engaged in a tug-of-war with a fish Sunday when his prosthetic hand came loose, ABC News reported Wednesday.

“The hand snapped off the prosthetic device, still hooked to the rod, and the rod and the reel and the hand went down into the water,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman said the captain of the boat attempted to stop the fish’s escape with another hook, but it managed to get away.

However, Wiseman said the story had a happy ending later in the day, WTSP-TV, Tampa, Fla., reported Wednesday.

“Somebody else hooked that same fish and our rod, with my hand, was still attached and they brought it back to us. So that’s my fishing story,” Wiseman said.

Romney's iPhone App Misspells 'America'

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — A typo misspelling “America” in presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s iPhone app has gone viral online.

Romney’s iPhone app, “I’m with Mitt,” allows users to post photos of themselves with 14 pre-made banners, including one reading “A Better Amercia,” USA Today reported Wednesday.

The typo became a trending topic on Twitter, with users of the social media site mocking the mistake and speculating on the meaning of “Amercia.”

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told MSNBC the campaign has submitted a corrected version of the app to Apple, but it needs to be approved by the company before it can be downloaded by users.

“Mistakes happen,” Saul said.

Astrologers Predict Obama Win

NEW ORLEANS, (UPI) — A panel of astrologers at a conference in New Orleans unanimously predicted U.S. President Barack Obama will win his re-election bid in November.

David Railey, an Atlanta astrologer and spokesman for the United Astrology Conference, said a group of six panelists used various methods to predict Obama will win over presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Railey said a panel successfully predicted Obama’s 2008 win over U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

The spokesman said this year’s conference was the first to include representatives from China, where astrology is gaining in popularity.

“Everybody sees astrology a little differently,” said Ingrid Zhang, 50, a Beijing astrologer. “It’s important to have astrologers from around the world in the same place.”

Accused Poacher Says He Bought The Trout

KUFSTEIN, Austria, (UPI) — A German man facing a poaching charge in Austria says he was just pretending to catch fish to impress his children.

Alexander Donninger, who was charged with poaching in a Kufstein court, said the fish a passerby reported him for poaching from the lake in the Kufstein district were actually frozen trout he had purchased from a local supermarket and allowed to thaw in order to impress his children with his fishing skills, The Local.de reported Wednesday.

The case is set to be heard when the witness returns from a vacation, the Die Welt newspaper reported.

Donninger could face a fine or up to six months in prison if convicted on the poaching charge.

NYC Proposes Ban On Large Soft Drinks

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Super-sized sugary soft drinks would be virtually banned in New York City under a proposal to go before the Board of Health, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg told The New York Times the ban would limit the size of sweetened soft drinks that can sold in delis, fast-food restaurants and sports arenas to 16 fluid ounces.

The measure, which will go before the New York City Board of Health in June, could take effect as soon as next March.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Bloomberg said Wednesday in an interview. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.”

Diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks and alcoholic beverages would be exempt. The ban would also not apply to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

The New York City Beverage Association says soda is being unfairly singled out.

“The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top,” spokesman Stefan Friedman said. “It’s time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity.”

Walker Win Is 'Lights Out' For Obama

MADISON, Wis., (UPI) — A win for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in next week’s recall election would mean “lights out” for President Obama, the National Republican Committee head said.

“Certainly [if] Wisconsin goes red, I think it’s lights out for Barack Obama,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday, speaking about the recall effort against the conservative Republican governor.

The recall effort against Walker began soon after he pushed through the Republican-led Wisconsin Legislature a law last year that effectively stripped collective bargaining rights from most state workers.

A Marquette University Law School poll indicated Walker leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 7 points, 52 percent to 45 percent. The survey also showed Obama ahead of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 51 percent to 43 percent.

The RNC said “over two million voter contacts” have been made and “nearly every Wisconsin voter” has been identified ahead of Tuesday’s vote, ABC News reported Wednesday.

RNC aides say 20 field offices will be used through Tuesday to try to retain Walker as governor, then will shift focus on Romney.

“One thing is really clear here, if Walker wins here next Tuesday, which we are very confident he will, Obama is going to have a much tougher road ahead in Wisconsin this fall,” Priebus, who is from Wisconsin, said.

Democratic National Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz visited Wisconsin to campaign with Barrett Wednesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said.

She said the party was “putting all of our effort into this fight.”

“Scott Walker has worked hard to make sure that people think that he’s the rock star of the right-wing Tea Party extremism that the Republican Party has allowed to take them over,” Wasserman Schultz said. “And that is not what voters in Wisconsin want to see happen.”