Eric Holder Has To Go

The House of Representatives is about to vote on whether to declare Eric Holder, our Attorney General, in contempt of Congress. And by the time you read this, the Supreme Court will have issued its long-awaited ruling on the Constitutionality of Obamacare.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next week to comment on both events. Thanks to publishing deadlines, I have to finish this column before the House takes its vote and the Court renders its verdict.

But I don’t have to wait another minute to predict that it’s just a matter of time before Holder is no longer our Nation’s top law-enforcement officer. While the list of unConstitutional excesses by this Administration is longer than both of my arms, Holder’s bungling mismanagement of the Fast and Furious crisis, followed by his outright defiance of Congress, is reason enough to color him gone.

What’s gotten lost in the whole contrived controversy over Holder’s claim of executive privilege is how this uproar began. In 2009, someone in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved plans to let some 2,000 illegal weapons in the United States get into the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The idea was to track where the guns went, so they could nail some drug kingpins.

A bad idea went terribly awry in 2010, when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a shoot-out with drug traffickers. A firearm found out at the scene was traced to the botched Federal program.

Congress decided to investigate how this whole mess happened. And that’s when Holder’s Justice Department made a huge mistake. It sent a letter to Congress in February 2011 flatly denying that any such program ever existed.

The House Oversight Committee didn’t buy it and demanded to see various reports and communications. One of the items that subsequently came to light was an email in March of last year from then-acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson urging the Justice Department to “back off the letter.” But it took another seven months before Holder’s agency acknowledged the existence of the Fast and Furious program and admitted its previous claims weren’t true.

That would have been a very good time for Holder to abide by the old maxim, “If you mess up, ’fess up.” Instead, he took the opposite tack and dug in his heels. So far, Justice has given Congress only a tiny fraction of the documents it has requested, insisting that all of the others are somehow protected by executive privilege.

Claims of executive privilege can apply when you’re talking about communications between the President and the people who work for him, such as the Attorney General. But not when you’re trying to keep a duly constituted Congressional committee from learning about communications within a Federal department.

In a lead editorial last week, The Wall Street Journal noted the curious contradictions and dangerous implications of what’s happening here:

Did White House officials know and approve Fast and Furious before it went awry, and did they advise the Justice Department on how to respond to Congress’s investigation into the operation’s failure?

How can the President invoke a privilege to protect documents he and the White House are supposed to have had nothing to do with?

And what is so damaging or embarrassing in those documents that Mr. Obama is now willing to invest his own political capital to protect it from disclosure—at least until after the election?

The last three words contain the key to the current unpleasantness. Obama would like nothing better than to put off any resolution until after Nov. 6. And I think it’s safe to assume that Holder would like to keep his cushy job for as long as possible. Who could blame him?

If a majority of House members do vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt, then what happens? It would be up to a U.S. Attorney to prosecute the case — which means he would be prosecuting his own boss. Does anyone see a potential conflict of interest there?

On the other hand, Holder could order the U.S. Attorney not to prosecute. Wouldn’t Republicans have a field day with that one?

Unless Republicans in the House agree to meekly back down (something I don’t see happening), it won’t be long before Holder is gone. Some 115 Republican members of Congress have signed a no confidence resolution against Holder. Dozens already called for his resignation. Several members of the Senate, including two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed that demand.

Holder has been very obliging in the past about doing whatever his boss in the White House wanted. This included refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and declining to prosecute New Black Panther Party members who were caught on tape in November 2008 trying to intimidate voters.

So I have no doubt that when Barack Obama wants to shove him out the door of Justice, Holder will quickly oblige. As I said before, you can color him gone. But don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that justice has been done at Justice. We’ve got a long way to go — at least until January — before that happens.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

TSA Agent Drops Grandpa, Laughs About It

A traveler from Indiana is demanding an apology from the Transportation Security Administration agent who allegedly spilled his grandfather’s ashes on the floor. John Gross claims that while coming home from a trip to Orlando, an agent decided to inspect a jar labeled “human remains.”

According to Gross, the agent laughed off the blunder. “She thought it was funny,” he said. “I wanted to smack her.”

But TSA is denying the man’s account of the event. TSA wrote in a statement: “Our initial review concluded that the circumstances as described in some reports are inconsistent with what we believe transpired.”

The statement prompted Gross to become more vocal. “I’m really heated,” he told CNN.

Although TSA claims that Gross’ account contains inconsistencies, the agency seems to have inconsistencies of its own. According to a TSA statement, “under no circumstances should a container holding remains be opened.” And its website states: “Out of respect to the deceased and their family and friends, under no circumstances will an officer open the container even if the passenger requests this be done.”

According to Gross, the container was spilled after the agent opened the jar and sifted through it with her finger.


New Research: Soft Drinks Contain Alcohol

The little buzz a person gets from drinking a soda may not be the caffeine. French researchers have discovered alcohol in Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

The National Institute of Consumption, which is based in Paris, found that more than half of popular sodas contain traces of alcohol.

The study, which appears in the French magazine 60 Million Consumers, states that alcohol levels are about .001 percent in the drinks. The amount is so low that people really won’t feel the effects of it. (Most beers are about 5 percent alcohol.) But it could have implications for some religious groups. Conservative Mormons and Muslims typically abstain from all forms of alcohol.

Neither Coca-Cola nor Pepsi are denying that their products contain trace amounts of the drug. Coca-Cola says the alcohol could “come from the process” of creating the drink. Pepsi stated: “Some soft drinks can contain minute traces of alcohol because of the ingredients used.”

This is not the first time Coca-Cola has come under scrutiny for its ingredients. It is estimated that, early in the beverage’s history, the product contained as much as 9 milligrams of cocaine.

A Sampling Of Obamacare Ruling Fallout

Americans have been hearing about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for years. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, declaring President Barack Obama’s healthcare law Constitutional, expect to hear much more in coming months.

Thursday morning, almost immediately after the Court handed down its decision, the Internet was abuzz on all fronts with news and commentary about what it means in a political context now and how it will change American healthcare in years to come.

Here is a sampling of some of the Web chatter surrounding the Supreme Court’s ruling:

Several news and commentary sites immediately pointed out that the Court’s precedent describing the individual mandate provision of the healthcare bill as a tax contradicted what the Obama Administration has claimed in the past.

Representative Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) joined in in pondering how the individual mandate turned into a tax, “In selling Obamacare, Congressional Democrats and President Obama assured the American people that it was not a tax. Today, the Supreme Court ruled it was, in fact, a tax. This tax was imposed on the American people amidst an extended recession and is one of the many reasons our economy remains stagnant under President Obama’s leadership.”

Not only has the Court ruled the individual mandate a tax, but it is being called one of the largest tax hikes in American history on the middle class.

Also, statements from American lawmakers, politicians and scholars decrying the decision were released en masse on Thursday.

Representative Justin Amash’s (R-Mich.) office released the following:

The Supreme Court missed an historic opportunity to rein in the federal government. For decades, Congress has stretched the Constitution to authorize whatever new mandate it invents. Instead of acting as an impartial referee, the Court has been complicit in allowing Congress and the President to expand their power at the expense of state governments and the people.

The Court’s decision green lights the continued expansion of the size and scope of the federal government. It also underscores the need to have congressmen who resist the impulse to aggrandize power in Washington. Now more than ever, Congress must commit itself to following the Constitution and limiting the federal government. We can begin to fulfill that commitment by repealing the President’s health care law in its entirety.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned through his office:

Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be “constitutional” does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right.

Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our health care system. This now means we fight every hour, every day until November to elect a new President and a new Senate to repeal Obamacare.

Republican Presidential Candidate Ron Paul said:

Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a “mandate.”  The issue is not whether Congress can compel commerce by forcing you to buy insurance, or simply compel you to pay a tax if you don’t. The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse. The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force. In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of “Obamacare” without paying a government tribute.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also offered his opinion:

Let’s make clear that we understand what the court did and did not do. What the court did do today is say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do is to say that Obamacare is good law or that it is good policy. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today. Obamacare was a bad law yesterday. It is bad law today.

Georgetown University Law Professor Randy Barnett chided the Supreme Court in a brief statement:

Today’s decision validates our claim that a Congressional power to compel that all Americans engage in commerce was a constitutional bridge too far. By rewriting the law to make it a “tax,” the Court has now thrown ObamaCare into the political process where the People will decide whether this so-called “tax” will stand. And the People will also decide whether future Supreme Court nominees will pledge to enforce the Constitution’s restrictions on the power of Congress.

Those who support the healthcare initiative joined the President in describing the decision as “a victory for people all over the country.”

Early Menopause Symptoms Not Heart-Linked

HOUSTON (UPI) — Hot flashes or night sweats early in menopause are not linked to heart risk unless the symptoms persist or start long after menopause began, researchers say.

Lead researcher Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s medical school in Chicago, said the study used retrospective data from nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.

The researchers grouped the women into four categories based on timing of their menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats — only at the start of menopause, or early-onset menopausal symptoms; only years later in menopause, or late-onset menopausal symptoms; both time periods, or persistent menopausal symptoms; and no symptoms at all.

The investigators found no association between early-onset menopausal symptoms and increased levels of any cardiovascular risk markers. However, the study found both persistent and late-onset menopausal symptoms were associated with higher blood pressure and higher white blood cell count.

Persistent menopausal symptoms also correlated with higher levels of glucose and insulin, which are markers for diabetes, Szmuilowicz said.

It is unclear why women who experience menopausal symptoms at different stages of menopause might have differing levels of cardiovascular disease risk. Szmuilowicz speculated “if menopausal symptoms occur long after menopause begins, this may signal a blood vessel abnormality that could also affect cardiovascular health.”

The findings were presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston.

Raisins May Lower Post-Meal Blood Sugar

PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — Eating raisins three times a day may significantly lower post-meal blood sugar levels, compared to other common snacks, U.S. researchers say.

Lead researcher Dr. Harold Bays, medical director and president of Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerosis Center, said the study included 46 men and women who had not previously been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but who had mild elevations in glucose levels.

Participants were randomly assigned to snack on raisins or prepackaged commercial snacks that did not contain raisins or other fruits or vegetables, three times a day for 12 weeks, Bays said.

The study, funded by the California Raisin Marketing Board, found compared to the control snacks, raisins significantly decreased mean post-meal glucose levels by 16 percent, and they reduced mean hemoglobin A1c — three-month average of blood sugar scores — by 0.12 percent, while consumption of the control snacks did not significantly reduce mean post-meal glucose or hemoglobin A1c.

“Compared to the snacking control group, the group consuming raisins had a significant statistical reduction in their after-liquid meal blood sugar levels among study participants who had mean baseline fasting glucose levels between 90 and 100 milligrams per deciliter,” Bays said.

The findings were presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 72nd annual scientific session in Philadelphia.

U.S. Teens May Not Get Sunscreen Message

NEW YORK (UPI) — Although adults may be using sunscreen more often to protect against cancer, teenagers may not be as careful, a U.S. researcher says.

“It only takes one blistering sunburn to increase your risk of skin cancer. Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma,” Dr. Desiree Ratner, director of dermatologic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement. “Although more adults are using sunscreens during outdoor activities, many are unaware of how important it is to make sure that their children are getting the necessary skin protection.”

Teenage girls need to be particularly careful, since melanoma — a potentially fatal skin cancer — is the most common cancer in young women ages 25-29. Much of the damage from the sun in these young women already occurred in their teens, Ratner said.

Ratner recommended teens and tweens:

— Use self-tanning creams instead of tanning beds.

— Be wary of freckles because they are sign of sustained sun damage.

— Apply sunscreen generously. Teens should apply sunscreen of SPF 30 to the entire surface of their body about 30 minutes before going outside; if they swimming, they should reapply once they are out of the water.

— Minimize exposure to the sun. Seek shade, wear hats, sunglasses and use umbrellas when appropriate.

Why Some Have Big Dessert After Big Meal

HOUSTON (UPI) — Ghrelin, a so-called hunger hormone, is the reason why some people have room for a high-calorie dessert after eating a big meal, Canadian researchers say.

Lead investigator Veronique St-Onge, a Ph.D. candidate and principal investigator Alfonso Abizaid of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, said rats lacking ghrelin receptor gene ate less of a sweet treat after a full meal than did rodents whose ghrelin receptor gene was intact.

“Combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, over-consumption of reward-driven foods may be partly responsible for the current obesity epidemic,” St-Onge said in a statement. “Ghrelin receptors may represent an important target for obesity treatments.”

The researchers used a rat strain in which ghrelin signaling was genetically disrupted by “knockout” of the receptor gene. Specifically, the researchers compared the knockout rats’ tendency to eat cookie dough after a meal, compared with that of the control rat strain — wild-type rats — which possessed an intact ghrelin receptor gene.

Each group consisted of 10 rats that were allowed free access to their regular rat chow for 4 hours a day until they ate most of their usual daily intake. On the final day of the study, each rat was offered just over 1 ounce of cookie dough during the last hour of feeding.

There was no difference between groups in the amounts of rat chow that they consumed, but knockout rats ate slightly less cookie dough.

“This result supports the idea that ghrelin is involved in reward-based feeding and delays the termination of a meal,” St-Onge told The Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston.

U.S. Loves Hot Dogs, But What's In Them?

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (UPI) — An estimated 150 million wieners are eaten on July 4th but 77 percent of U.S. adults say they are concerned about what’s in them, a survey indicated.

The survey, sponsored by Applegate, a producer of organic and natural meats, found despite consumers’ hunger for hot dogs, 74 percent said most are of “low quality.”

Eighty-one percent of those who consume hot dogs said they would rather purchase franks with a short ingredient statement that listed beef, water, sea salt and spices versus one with items like sodium phosphate and sodium nitrite.

Additionally, 73 percent of respondents said they thought it was important for hot dogs to be made from animals that were not administered antibiotics or hormones.

Mustard was the top topping, followed by ketchup, onions and relish. The topping used least was tomatoes.

The survey revealed some regional favorites for dressing a dog.

For Southerners, chili edged out relish and onions, and came in just behind mustard and ketchup.

Midwesterners like pickles on their hot dogs more than any other region of the country, but in the West they like cheese, and in the Northeast they like sauerkraut.

Ninety-five percent said grilled hot dogs were delicious while only 9 percent said they never buy hot dogs.

The survey of 1,045 U.S. adults, conducted by Toluna Omnibus June 8-12 had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.


Treasury Department Puts Out A Call For Apps

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Treasury Department sent out a call for fresh ideas Wednesday with cash prizes awaiting the most popular entries.

The department said it was looking for ideas that would help the public become “smarter financial consumers.”

The contest, dubbed the “MyMoneyAppUp Challenge” has two categories for entries.

The first category is for ideas laid out in 140 characters or less for “app-based solutions from the general public.”

This category is open to one and all and calls for quick, concise, ideas for new, financial apps, which is short for digital applications.

“Mobile technology has become an increasingly important part of many Americans’ lives, creating new opportunities to help consumers make smart financial decisions in user-friendly ways,” Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin said in a statement.

Prizes for fresh ideas range from $250 to $1,000. The public will be able to vote on the ideas with a panel of judges taking it from there, awarding prizes to the 10 most popular ideas.

The second challenge includes awards of $2,500 to $10,000.

That category is for application design outlined in detail.

“Contestants must complete an online submission form detailing their design and how it will improve financial capability and/or access,” the department said.

As an added twist, the Treasury said it was encouraging app designers to use ideas submitted to the IdeaBank for their projects.

Ideas and apps designs can be submitted online at, the department said.

Details for the contests, sponsored with help from the D2D Fund and the Center for Financial Services, are available online.


EU Economic Sentiment Index Stable In June

BRUSSELS (UPI) — The European Commission said Thursday economic sentiment remained virtually unchanged in the European Union in June.

After dropping sharply in May, the Economic Sentiment Indicator for the European Union was unchanged at 90.4 in the 27-member EU, although it fell by 0.6 points to 89.9 in the 17-member eurozone, the countries that share the euro as currency, the commission said.

The commission said confidence fell in industry, services and among consumers. However, that was offset by increased economic confidence in retail trade and construction.

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

The index fell sharpest in France (down 1.5 points), Germany (down 1.4 points) and Poland (down 1.3 points) — countries where the index was relatively stable in May.

The Economic Sentiment Indicator rose in Britain (up 1.9 points), Spain (up 1 point) and Italy (up 0.9 points).

Confirmed: Economic Growth Modest

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. economy expanded by a modest 1.9 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter of the year, the Commerce Department confirmed Thursday.

The advance, which follows 3 percent growth of the fourth quarter of 2011, was confirmed in the final estimate out of three released by the department.

Economists had not predicted any changes in the third estimate. However, economists expected a 2.1 percent rise from the fourth quarter in personal consumer expenditures. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 2.3 percent quarter to quarter.

The price index also beat expectations with prices jumping 2.6 percent in the quarter after rising 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter. Excluding the volatile categories of food and energy, the price index for gross domestic purchases rose 2.4 percent in the quarter, up from 1.2 percent October through December.

The report said corporate profits grew to $1.645 trillion on an annualized basis, a downward revision from the previous report, which set profits at $1.669 trillion.

Jobless Claims Drop By 6,000

WASHINGTON (UPI) — First-time jobless claims fell by 6,000 in the week ended Saturday, the U.S. Labor Department said.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 386,000 from the previous week’s revised estimate of 392,000.

The four-week rolling average, which gives a steadier indication of the direction of jobless claims, was little changed, dropping by 750 to 386,750.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week ended June 16 were in Pennsylvania (up by 4,656), New Jersey (up by 3,907) and Maryland ( up by 2,624). The largest decreases were in California (down by 8,016), New York (down by 3,018) and Georgia (down by 2,160).

The U.S. unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, having risen 0.1 of a percentage point from April to May.

Long-Term Mortgage Rates Hit Lows

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Average mortgage interest rates for long-term, fixed-rate loans matched record lows in the week ended Thursday, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said.

Average rates for 30-year contracts held at 3.66 percent with 0.7 points, maintaining a record low. Thirty-year mortgage rates averaged 4.51 percent the same week of 2011.

Average rates on 15-year contracts dropped from 2.95 percent to a record 2.94 percent with 0.7 points. A year earlier, rates on 15-year contracts stood at 3.69 percent.

Five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 2.79 percent in the week with an average 0.6 points, up from an average of 2.77 percent in the previous week.

Five-year adjustable rate loans averaged 3.22 percent a year earlier.

Average rates on one-year treasury-indexed adjustable mortgages were unchanged at 2.74 percent with an average 0.4 points during the week.

Interest rates for one-year loans averaged 2.97 percent in the same week of 2011.

Tsunami Risk To Northern California Assessed

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (UPI) — Researchers in California say they’ve compiled the first study of the potential for destructive tsunamis on the northwest coast of the state.

Using studies spanning the last three decades, scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have compiled an evidence-based comprehensive study of the possibility of tsunamis in the region, the university said in a release Wednesday.

The region has long been known to experience large earthquakes caused by seismic activity in the southern end of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches northward from the area of Mendocino, Calif.

The researchers studied sedimentation patterns in salt marshes, floodplains and estuaries in the northwestern corner of California for signs of historic seismic events that could have led to tsunami activity.

The study showed the region has experienced three major earthquakes over the last 2,000 years, and accompanying local sea-level changes at roughly 300- to 400-year intervals, with the last one occurring 500 to 600 years ago.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” UCSB researcher Edward Keller said of the potential for the next major earthquake/tsunami event in the region.

Such a great earthquake would impact not only the Northwest, but also send waves to Japan and Hawaii, the researchers said.

The evidence, Keller said, should lead to far more foresight and planning along the impact areas in the region to avoid catastrophes on a level with the Japan earthquake of 2011 or the Indian Ocean quake of 2004.

Man-Made Pollutants Threaten Sea Turtles

CHARLESTON, S.C. (UPI) — Industrial pollutants could pose a threat to the health of five endangered sea turtle species, researchers at a South Carolina marine laboratory say.

Scientists at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston measured for concentrations of 13 perfluoroalkyl compounds in five different species of sea turtles.

PFCs, which have become widespread pollutants, are man-made compounds used in stain-resistant coatings, fire-fighting foams and emulsifiers in plastics manufacturing.

Animal studies have shown PFC to be toxic to the liver, the thyroid, neurobehavioral function and the immune system, a release from the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported Thursday.

The five sea turtle species studied were the green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead and Kemp’s ridley.

“We wanted to get the first accurate measurements of the plasma blood concentrations of PFCs in five sea turtle species across different trophic [food chain] levels, and then compare those concentrations to ones known to cause toxic effects in laboratory animals,” NIST research biologist and study lead Jennifer Keller said.

“That way, we could estimate the potential health risks from PFC exposure for all five turtles.”

Understanding the threat to sea turtles could help develop strategies to deal with potential health problems, Keller said.

“Our study provides the first baseline data in this area but more research is needed,” she said.

Tortoise Lonesome George To Be Embalmed

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, Ecuador (UPI) — Lonesome George, the giant Galapagos tortoise who died on Sunday as the last of his species, will be embalmed and put on display, officials in Ecuador say.

The Pinta Island tortoise will be on display on Santa Cruz Island for future generations to see, Environment Minister Marcela Aguinaga said.

A necropsy determined Lonesome George, estimated at 100 years old, died of old age, she said.

As the only known living example of his subspecies, Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni, Lonesome George was considered the rarest creature in the world.

Efforts to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands all met with failure, the BBC reported.

Lonesome George had become a symbol of the Galapagos. An estimated 180,000 people annually visit the islands where Charles Darwin began to formulate his theories on evolution.

Ancient Text May Solve Cosmic Mystery

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (UPI) — An ancient text about a “red crucifix” seen in British evening skies more than 1,200 years ago could explain a mysterious radiation spike, U.S. scientists say.

The phenomenon in 774 A.D. may have been a previously unrecognized supernova explosion and could explain a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in that year’s growth rings in Japanese cedar trees, Nature reported Wednesday.

Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, heard about research in Japan that found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings, probably caused by a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere and increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed.

However, the only known causes of such bursts are supernova explosions or gigantic solar flares, and there was no historical record of any such events in the dates indicated by the tree rings.

Allen, intrigued, went on the Internet. “I just did a quick Google search,” he said.

“I knew that going that far back, there’s very limited written history,” he said. “The only things I’d ever seen or heard of were religious texts and ‘chronicles’ that listed kings and queens, wars and things of that nature.”

His Internet search led to eighth-century entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in an online library of historical and legal documents hosted by Yale University, where he found a reference to a “red crucifix” that appeared in the heavens “after sunset.”

“It made me think it’s some sort of stellar event,” Allen said.

Astronomers say they are impressed by Allen’s find.

“The wording suggests that the object was seen in the western skies shortly after sunset,” Geza Gyuk, an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, said. “That would mean that it would have moved behind the Sun [where it could not be seen] as Earth orbited the Sun. That, along with the dimness of the ‘new star’ due to dust would go a long way to explaining why no one else would have seen or recorded the event.”

Numbers of supernovae now known to astronomers “are simply missing” in the historical record, Gyuk said. “The sky is a large place and the historical record is not very good.”


Holder Contempt Resolution Passes In House

During a House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to full cooperate in an investigation regarding the fatally flawed Fast and Furious “gun-walking” operation, several Democratic lawmakers walked out.

Despite many Democrats’ unwillingness to participate, by a vote of 255-67 the House passed the resolution to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress.

The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following statement explaining why its members walked out:

We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people.  We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice. We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation’s most significant priority—creating jobs.  At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.

The White House also released a statement echoing similar sentiments.

Currently, heated debate about the veracity of this unprecedented contempt vote is under way on the House floor. Republican lawmakers are making appeals for the power to move further with legal actions that would allow them to obtain the Fast and Furious documents that have been requested.

Holder has released a statement regarding the vote:

Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided – and politically motivated – investigation during an election year.  By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.  Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers, like Agent Brian Terry, who keep us safe – they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome.

…When concerns about Operation Fast and Furious first came to light, I took action – and ordered an independent investigation into what happened.  We learned that the flawed tactics used in this operation began in the previous administration – but I made sure that they ended under this one.  I also made sure that agents and prosecutors around the country knew that such tactics must never be used again.  I put in place new policies, new safeguards, and new leadership to make certain of this – and took extraordinary steps to facilitate robust congressional oversight.  Let me be very clear – that was my response to Operation Fast and Furious.  Any suggestion to the contrary simply ignores the facts.


The House also voted 258-95 to hold Holder in civil contempt, giving lawmakers the ability to seek counsel and appeal to a Federal court for a subpoena for the documents that have not yet been turned over to the House Oversight Committee.

Republicans Vow To Repeal Healthcare Law

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Republicans pledged Thursday to press for repeal of U.S. President Obama’s landmark healthcare law after the Supreme Court upheld it.

“The Supreme Court made clear today that the American people will be the ultimate judge of Obamacare. As Republicans, we will redouble our efforts to repeal this job-killing law,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement.

“We must replace it with reforms that expand access and enhance care without adding trillions of dollars to the national debt and inserting Washington bureaucrats between Americans and their doctors.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the healthcare law is hurting the economy and raising healthcare costs, making it more difficult for small businesses to hire.

“Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,” Boehner said in a statement.

“What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to healthcare reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country Obamacare.”

U.S. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the healthcare law has been “highly unpopular” with the American people for more than two years, particularly the mandate to purchase health insurance and other “tax hikes.”

“Because the Supreme Court did not strike down the most onerous provisions, it appears that the American people themselves will have to overturn the law by the choices they make in November’s election,” Kyl said in a statement. “We need to listen to the people to see what they would like; then, Congress can replace the flawed law with reforms that ensure Americans have healthcare that is affordable with a doctor of their choice and without increased taxes, mandates and rationing.”

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement the decision “sets the stakes for the November election.”

“Now, the only way to save the country from Obamacare’s budget-busting government takeover of healthcare is to elect a new president,” Priebus said.

With the law, he said “unelected bureaucrats” now have “the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors.”

Suspect's Head Pinned Under Garage Door

BROCKTON, Mass., (UPI) — Police in Massachusetts said an alleged burglar was foiled when his head became stuck under a garage door for several hours.

Brockton police said an employee at the local Rent-A-Center showed up for work around 9 a.m. Tuesday and discovered Manuel Hernandez, 54, with his head stuck between the garage door and the ground, WHDH-TV, Boston, reported Thursday.

“Obviously the employee was surprised and certain that opening up in the morning was the last thing that he expected to see and he immediately called police,” Detective Lt. Paul Bonanca said.

Investigators said Hernandez, who unsuccessfully tried to convince the employee he was at the business for a legitimate purpose, used a metal bed post to try to pry the back garage door open and managed to lift it about 7 or 8 inches before trying to shimmy under. Police said the door fell as Hernandez was trying to pass underneath and his head was pinned to the ground.

Hernandez, who was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for a bruise on his head, will face charges of breaking and entering and malicious damage to property, police said.

Hundreds Seek Gold In Alaska

NOME, Alaska, (UPI) — Locals in Nome, Alaska, said the city might be experiencing a second gold rush, with hundreds of people coming from all over to search for the precious metal.

Mitch Erickson of Nome Gold Alaska said he started preparing for an influx of out-of-towners by setting up campsites when the recession hit in 2008, due to its similarity to the economic conditions leading to the gold rush of the 1890s, KTUU-TV, Anchorage, reported Thursday.

“I’m up here to have some fun, and If I find some gold, that will make it more pleasurable,” said Ken Scott, who is visiting Nome from Thibodaux, La.

However, not all locals are happy with the newcomers.

“They don’t seem to respect the knowledge of the old-timers,” said Bob Hafner, who has been dredging in Nome for 20 years. “These new people come up here, they look at our dredges, they copy our dredges, and they think, ‘Oh, this is really easy to do.'”