Pending Home Sales Jumped In May

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Pending Home Sales Index, a U.S. economic indicator, climbed in May to the highest level in two years, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

The index rose 5.9 percent in May to 101.1, up from 95.5 in April. Annual gains were also strong with monthly and 12-month gains noted in every region of the country.

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years. The latest increase in home contract signings marks 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

“Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10 percent improvement in total sales for 2012,” Yun said.

The pending sales index is termed a “leading” or “forward-looking” economic indicator because it predicts future home sales.”

NAR said the pending home sales index rose 4.8 percent in the Northeast to 82.9 with pending contracts 19.8 percent higher than a year earlier. In the Midwest, pending home sales rose 6.3 percent month-to-month to 98.9, which is 22.1 percent higher than May 2011.

In the South, the index rose 1.1 percent in the month, but at 106.9, the index is 11.9 percent higher than a year earlier. In the West, the index jumped 14.5 percent in May to 108.7, 4.8 percent higher than May 2011.

Poll: Confidence In Banks Hits Record Low

PRINCETON, N.J. (UPI) — Confidence in U.S. banks has dropped to a record low in an annual survey, research firm Gallup said Wednesday.

While confidence in banks fell from 23 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2012, banks actually tied for third from the bottom on a list of 16 U.S. institutions, Gallup said.

At the bottom of the list is Congress with a confidence factor of 13 percent, Gallup said, using data based on a survey of 1,004 adults taken June 7-12.

Close to the bottom, Health Maintenance Organizations posted a confidence level of 19 percent.

Banks tied with big business, television news and organized labor, Gallup said. Confidence in each of those four institutions is at 21 percent.

Confidence was measured by asking respondents if they had “quite a lot,” or “a great deal” of confidence in each institution.

Gallup said it was not hard to understand why confidence in banks is low, given the recent recession, the massive losses at JPMorgan Chase that have been in the news lately and the credit crunch — not to mention the financial crisis in Europe.

Moody’s Investors Service Friday downgraded the credit rating of 15 global banks, also a contributing factor, Gallup said.

Gallup said the results of the survey have a margin of error of plus and minus four percentage points, a statement that can be said with 95 percent confidence.

Researchers Look For Stress/Dementia Link

SOUTHAMPTON, England (UPI) — British researchers said they are beginning a study to determine if stress is a risk factor for dementia.

Clive Holmes, a professor of biological psychiatry at the University of Southampton, said the study will monitoring 140 people age 50 and older with mild cognitive impairment over an 18-month period.

The study participants will be assessed for levels of stress and assessed for any progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

About 60 percent of people with mild cognitive impairment are known to develop Alzheimer’s, Holmes said.

“There is a lot of variability in how quickly that progression happens. One factor increasingly implicated in the process is chronic stress,” Homes said in a statement. “That could be driven by a big change — usually negative — such as a prolonged illness, injury or a major operation.”

The participants will be assessed for levels of stress and assessed for any progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.

More effective coping methods for dealing with stress and a greater understanding of its biological impact may provide the answer.



Sun Damage Can Burn Corneas, Cause Cancer

NEW YORK (UPI) — Sun damage can cause cornea sunburn and skin cancer of the eyelids, and can contribute to cataracts, a U.S. researchers says.

Dr. George Cioffi, chief of ophthalmology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, said everyone should protect their eyes from overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays, but some are at higher risk.

“People with retinal disorders, with light-colored eyes, cataract surgery patients and those taking medications that increase eye sensitivity to light should take extra steps to protect their eyes from the sun all year,” Cioffi said in a statement.

Dr. Christopher Starr, director of refractive surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said there are strong indications chronic exposure to the sun may accelerate aging of eye tissue.

To protect eyes, Cioffi and Starr said:

— Sunglass protection is recommended year-round. Even on cloudy days the UV index can be dangerously high. Sunglasses should provide more than 95 percent UV protection and, ideally, 100 percent — sometimes labeled as UV400 on the glasses.

— Most people believe darker sunglasses provide better protection against the sun, but that is not true. The lens tint should block 80 percent of transmissible light but no more than 90 percent to 92 percent of light. Neutral gray, amber, brown or green are good colors to choose from.

— Choose sunglasses that wrap all the way around the temples, and/or wear a hat with at least a 3-inch brim.

— Wear shades over contact lenses.

— Buy sunglasses for children.

Mild Exercise May Reduce Breast Cancer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (UPI) — Exercise — either mild or intense, before or after menopause — may reduce breast cancer risk, but weight gain may negate the benefit, U.S. researchers say.

The study, published online ahead of the print edition of the journal Cancer, found women could reduce their breast cancer risk by exercising and maintaining their weight.

Lauren McCullough, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, and colleagues said the study included 1,504 women with breast cancer — 233 non-invasive and 1,271 invasive — and 1,555 women without breast cancer who were ages 20-98 and were part of the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, an investigation of possible environmental causes of breast cancer.

Women who exercised either during their reproductive or post-menopausal years had a reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

The study found women who exercised 10 to 19 hours per week experienced the greatest benefit, with an approximate 30 percent reduced risk.

“The observation of a reduced risk of breast cancer for women who engaged in exercise after menopause is particularly encouraging given the late age of onset for breast cancer,” McCullough said.

The researchers looked at the joint effects of physical activity, weight gain and body size, and found that even active women who gained a significant amount of weight — particularly after menopause — had an increased risk of developing breast cancer, the study said.


Low Vitamin D Linked To Type 2 Diabetes

HOUSTON (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they found an inverse relationship between the level of vitamin D in the blood and the presence of risk factors for diabetes 2.

Dr. Joanna Mitri, a research fellow at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said metabolic syndrome is a series of risk factors — increased triglycerides, reduced levels of the “good,” cholesterol, raised blood pressure and raised fasting blood sugar — that increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

People with the highest blood levels of vitamin D had a 48 percent lower risk of having the metabolic syndrome than did those with the lowest vitamin D levels, the study found.

“This association has been documented before, but our study expands the association to people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Mitri said in a statement. “These include minority groups that are already at higher risk of diabetes.”

In this study, all study participants were at risk of developing diabetes because they had prediabetes, abnormally high blood sugar levels that are not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes.

In the study, the group with the highest levels of vitamin D had a median concentration of 30.6 nanograms per milliliter and those in the lowest group had a median vitamin D concentration of 12.1 ng/mL. The risk of having the metabolic syndrome with a high vitamin D level was about one-half the risk with a low vitamin D level, Mitri said.

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

Most Kids Online Worldwide Fear Bullying

REDMOND, Wash. (UPI) — More than half of the children and teens around the world worry about being bullied online, indicated a survey for Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash.

Jacqueline Beauchere, director, Trustworthy Computing for Microsoft, said Microsoft commissioned the survey to look at of a range of online behaviors among youth — from “meanness,” the least severe, to online bullying or cruelty, the most severe.

The survey, conducted in 25 countries Jan. 11 to Feb. 19 among more than 7,600 children ages 8-17, found about 40 percent of children and teens said they experienced what adults might consider online bullying.

Twenty-four percent said they did something parents would consider online bullying and 5 percent said parents engaged with their children’s school about online bullying.

The survey indicated children want to talk to parents about online bullying, but only 29 percent said their parents have talked to them about protecting themselves online and only 17 percent communicated a clear set of rules for negative online behaviors.

“Kids need to know that they can turn to a trusted adult, such as a parent, caregiver or teacher, who will talk to them about all kinds of online safety concerns,” Beauchere said in a statement.

Adults were allowed to help their children answer questions if necessary. Field work and data processing was performed by Synovate. No further survey details were provided.

Research Improves Old Battery Technology

PALO ALTO, Calif. (UPI) — A rechargeable battery technology developed by Thomas Edison more than 100 years ago is gaining new interest with research improvements, U.S. scientists say.

Stanford University scientists report they’ve breathed new life into the nickel-iron battery by dramatically improving the performance of the century-old technology.

Designed in the early 1900s to power electric vehicles, the Edison battery largely went out of favor in the mid-1970s.

“The Edison battery is very durable, but it has a number of drawbacks,” chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai said in a Stanford release Tuesday. “A typical battery can take hours to charge, and the rate of discharge is also very slow.”

The Stanford researchers say they’ve created an ultrafast nickel-iron battery that can be fully charged in about 2 minutes and discharged in less than 30 seconds

“We have increased the charging and discharging rate by nearly 1,000 times,” graduate student Hailiang Wang, lead author of the study, said. “We’ve made it really fast.”

A high-performance, low-cost nickel-iron battery could some day be used to help power electric vehicles, much as Edison originally intended, Dai said.

“Hopefully we can give the nickel-iron battery a new life,” he said.

Most electric cars now run on lithium-ion batteries, which can store a lot of energy but typically take hours to charge.

“Our battery probably won’t be able to power an electric car by itself, because the energy density is not ideal,” Wang said. “But it could assist lithium-ion batteries by giving them a real power boost for faster acceleration and regenerative braking.”


U.S. Judge Bans Samsung Tablet

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — A California judge has issued an injunction banning sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet at the request of Apple Inc., which says Samsung violated its patents.

The preliminary injunction bars Samsung from making or selling their Tab 10.1 tablet, which Apple claims violates its design patent for the front, back and sides of the iPad, in the United States.

The ruling is the latest action in an ongoing legal battle between Apple and the South Korean technology giant, which has grown to 30 legal cases between the companies over design and technology patents in 10 different countries.

The ruling is unlikely to significantly impact Samsung’s earnings, analysts said.

“Tablets are not Samsung’s key product anyway so the latest ruling won’t likely have any significant impact on Samsung’s earnings,” Lee Seung-woo, an analyst at IBK Securities, told the Los Angeles Times.

Apple has been granted similar injunctions in other countries, including Australia and Germany, forcing Samsung to redesign its device for those markets.

Samsung expressed disappointment at the injunction.

“We will continue to take all available measures, including legal action, to ensure continued consumer access to our innovative products,” the company said in a statement.



Roman, Celtic Coin Hoard Worth $15 Million

JERSEY, England (UPI) — Archaeologists in Britain say a hoard of Roman and Celtic coins worth $15 million has been unearthed on the island of Jersey.

Two metal detector enthusiasts found the hoard, dated to the 1st century B.C. and described by experts as “extremely exciting and very significant.”

The hoard weighed about three-quarters of a ton and could contain about 50,000 coins.

Each individual coin is worth between $150 and $300, Philip de Jersey, a former Celtic coin expert at Oxford University, told the BBC.

Metal detector hobbyists Reg Mead and Richard Miles said they had been searching for more than 30 years after hearing rumors a farmer had discovered silver coins while working on his land in the east of Jersey.

A large mound of clay containing the coins has been taken to a safe location to be studied, researchers said.

Authorities have not revealed the exact location of the hoard.

“Sites like these do need protection because there is speculation there might even be more,” Environment Minister Deputy Rob Duhamel said.

The hoard of coins is the first to be found on Jersey for more than 60 years, officials said.



High Levels Of Lead Found In Indian Ocean

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they have discovered high concentrations of lead in the Indian Ocean despite leaded gasoline having been slowly phased out worldwide.

While leaded gasoline usage has decreased drastically in the last few decades, lead is still pervasive in the environment, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported.

MIT ocean geochemist Ed Boyle has been tracking lead and other trace elements in Earth’s oceans for the past 30 years and recently has analyzed water and coral samples from the Indian Ocean, using the coral to trace the history of anthropogenic lead over the last 50 years.

Lead concentrations in the Indian Ocean are now higher than in the northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans, Boyle and students from MIT’s Trace Metal Group said.

One reason, Boyle said, could be that Asian and African countries were behind North America and Europe both in industrialization and then in phasing out leaded gasoline.

The Indian Ocean has had less time than the Atlantic and Pacific to dissipate lead pollution as a result, he said.

Reconstructing a history of lead in the Indian Ocean over the last 50 years, the researchers found lead levels began to increase in the mid-1970s, consistent with the region’s pattern of industrialization and leaded gasoline use.

“It is an indication of the human footprint on the planet that essentially all the lead in the oceans now is from human activities,” Boyle said in an MIT release. “It’s very hard to find a trace of the lead that’s there naturally.”

Today, 185 countries have stopped using leaded gasoline.

Studies have shown lead can cause neurological and cardiovascular damage.

Wales Records DNA Of All Native Plants

CARMARTHENSHIRE, Wales (UPI) — Wales says it has recorded the DNA of all its native flowering plants, which may help conservation and lead to new drugs to fight illnesses.

It is the first country in the world to create such a database, the National Botanic Garden of Wales said.

Wales has about 75 percent of the flowering plants found in Britain, and the database contains 1,143 plants and conifers, officials said.

The Barcode Wales project has been led by Natasha de Vere, head of conservation and research from the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthenshire, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Barcodes are short DNA sequences allowing plants to be identified from pollen grains, seed pieces, or roots and wood.

“Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species from materials which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible,” de Vere said.

“Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research from biodiversity conservation to human health.”

In the next phase of a three-year project, non-native plants introduced by humans will have their DNA recorded, officials said.

Oreo 'Rainbow' Picture Sparks Protest

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Oreo set off an online brouhaha when it posted a picture of an Oreo with a six-layer, rainbow-colored filling, with one U.S. commenter calling it “disgusting.”

Oreo, part of Kraft Foods, posted the picture Monday evening, accompanied by the words “June 25″ and “Pride” and a caption that read, “Proudly support love!” It wasn’t clear what the ad was referring to, Adweek said, while noting June 24 was the first anniversary of New York’s Marriage Equality Act, and also the date on which the San Francisco gay pride was held.

With 26.9 million fans on Facebook, Oreo is one of the most successful brands on the social media site, Adweek said. The Oreo with the rainbow motif touched off a split reaction among fans, the trade magazine said, with several saying they won’t buy Oreo cookies anymore and one commenting: “I’m never eating Oreos again. This is just disgusting.”

Another decided the picture called for “Unliking page and the rest of the ‘kraft’ family products… i will not support a company with these views.”

A poster who appreciated the picture wrote, “I didn’t think it was possible for me to love oreo’s more than I already did!!”

Scandal Tour A Hit For D.C. Company

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — A Washington tour operator said the American Scandal tour has been his company’s most successful service since it started early in the summer.

Sean Williams, founder of DC Walkabout, said the scandal tour became a quick crowd favorite after he began taking tourists to sites associated with some of the capital’s most famous scandals and the involved parties, including Marion Barry, Richard Nixon, Monica Lewinsky and Eliot Spitzer, Politico reported Tuesday.

“We really want to kind of humanize some of the figures of the past and bring more awareness as it truly was as opposed to the way it is idealized in the present,” Williams said.

“I think maybe it’s human nature to get the more sensational aspects of people’s lives. It’s pretty apparent with the semi-tabloid culture that we have. I think people are just drawn to it because it’s a little more exciting than the regular history overview that you normally get,” he said.

The company’s Web site says the tour is “recommended for adults” and “rated R (for ridiculous).”

Williams said he had so many scandals to choose from that it was difficult to pick the destinations for the tour.

“Easily 90 of the highlights of American history scandals didn’t even make it to the tour,” he said.

Dog Rescues Toddler From Pool

MARCELLUS, Mich., (UPI) — A Michigan woman said her 4-year-old black Labrador retriever leaped to the rescue when her 14-month-old son fell into a swimming pool.

Patricia Drauch of Marcellus Township said she was doing yard work Sunday when her son, Stanley, plunged into the pool, ABC News reported Tuesday.

“Stanley usually follows us around and I went into the garage to put away some stuff and came back out,” Drauch told WBND-TV, South Bend, Ind. “Just in a moment he wasn’t behind me.”

Drauch said her family dog, Bear, was on the scene and jumped into action when he saw the toddler in distress.

“Bear put his back underneath Stanley’s back to keep him from going under any farther,” she said. “I don’t know where I’d be if Bear didn’t go in for him and keep him up out of the water before I could get to him.”

Drauch said Stanley wasn’t breathing when she pulled him from the pool and she drove him to the Marcellus Fire Department when she couldn’t get cell reception to call 911.

Drauch said the boy was taken to the hospital and released later in the day. She said doctors determined he had not suffered any ill effects from the incident.

The mother said she credits Bear with saving Stanley’s life.

“He’s my hero,” Drauch said.

Chinese Women Protest Internet Subway Post

SHANGHAI, (UPI) — Two women protested a Chinese subway operator’s Internet post by carrying signs reading, “Just because I’m slutty doesn’t mean you can be dirty.”

The Wednesday post by Shanghai No.2 Metro Operation, which operates Lines 2, 11 and 13, angered many women and activists in the country by posting a picture of a woman in a transparent dress on the subway with a caption reading, “It’s no wonder that some people get harassed if they dress like this,” the Global Times reported Tuesday.

“There are plenty of gropers on the subway. Please pay attention to how you dress, ladies,” the post read.

Two women responded to the post Sunday by riding the subway with signs reading, “Just because I’m slutty doesn’t mean you can be dirty.”

“We will stage the same protest on the subway every weekend until the subway operator apologizes for its inappropriate comment against women,” said one of the protesters, who gave her surname as Fu.

Hidden Cameras Catch Litterbugs

JUNEAU, Alaska, (UPI) — Authorities in the Alaskan capital said they have used hidden cameras to catch litterbugs at popular dumping sites around the city.

Juneau police said since the start of spring, they have issued tickets to five people who were caught on camera abandoning trash at the sites along remote country roads, the Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

“As far as I know we were able to identify everybody who dumped anything in that area,” said George Schaaf, parks and landscape superintendent for the city and borough.

Police said ticketing the litterbugs used to be difficult due to officers being unable to identify the culprits.

“We get tired of digging through piles hoping to find a scrap of paper with somebody’s name on it,” said Bob Dilley, lead community services officer for the Juneau Police Department.

Police: Zimmerman Could Have Warned Teen

SANFORD, Fla., (UPI) — Police said George Zimmerman, charged with murdering a Florida teen, passed up two chances to tell the victim he was a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Had Zimmerman alerted Trayvon Martin to this fact, Sanford police said the confrontation that resulted in Martin’s death might have been defused, newly released court documents said.

The documents indicated police did not believe everything Zimmerman told them about what happened the February night he shot Martin, but didn’t have any evidence to disprove his statements, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Tuesday. Zimmerman told police he shot Martin in self-defense when the teen allegedly attacked him.

“Investigative findings show the physical injuries displayed by George Michael Zimmerman were marginally consistent with a life-threatening episode as described by him,” wrote police Investigator Chris Serino.

The documents and a video clip released Tuesday by prosecutor Angela Corey include a statement by the defendant’s family practice doctor detailing a list of the injuries Zimmerman sustained in the incident, the Sentinel reported. The doctor, whose name was not reported, said Zimmerman had an open scalp wound, a closed nasal fracture and “assault by other specified means.”

Obama Touts Vision For Next 4 Years

ATLANTA, (UPI) — President Obama took his re-election campaign to Atlanta Tuesday, outlining his vision for what he would try to accomplish with another four years in office.

Speaking at a campaign event at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, the president criticized the economic views of his likely opponent in the fall election, Mitt Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor’s “basic vision is one in which if wealthy investors like him and folks at the very top are freed up from any kind of regulations, if they are maximizing their profits even if it means polluting more, or off-shoring jobs, or avoiding taxes, or busting unions — whatever the strategies — if they’re doing well then everybody else is automatically doing well.

“That’s their view,” the Democratic president said. “I’m not making this up. It’s on Mr. Romney’s Web site. Members of Congress have put forward this plan. They voted for this plan. Their basic idea is we’re going to eliminate regulations on everything; we are going to provide a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and we’re just going to let the market take care of the rest. And the presumption is that everybody here, everybody around the country, will share in this newfound prosperity.”

But, Obama said, “That kind of top-down economics has never worked.”

Obama said his vision is to bring manufacturing back to the United States, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and made education affordable for young people

He said his vision includes making the United States energy self-sufficient, saying “we’ve got to double down on clean energy — wind power and solar power” — and to lighten the national debt by requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay “a little bit more.”

“It’s the basic idea that everybody gets a fair share, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules,” Obama said. “That’s my vision for America.”

Later in the day, speaking at a campaign event in Miami, the president congratulated the Miami Heat on winning the NBA championship and repeated the theme that he was running on what he called “the basic bargain that built this country, the essence of America, what created the largest middle class and the most prosperous economy on Earth.”

“Now, the good news is the American people are tougher than tough times,” the president said. “And over the last three and half years we’ve fought back.”

Acknowledging the U.S. economy has “a long way to go,” Obama said “the debate in this election is not whether we need to do better.”

“Everybody understands the economy is not where it needs to be,” he said. “A lot of folks are still struggling — we’ve got to do better. The debate in this election, though, is about how do we do better — how do we grow our economy faster?”

He said progress on the economy and deficits is being held back by “a stalemate in Washington.”

“And you know who’s going to break that stalemate? You,” he told the crowd. “This election is your chance to move this country forward and make sure it does not go backwards.”

Obama noted that the Romney campaign has tried to draw a distinction between outsourcing and offshoring of jobs, following a Washington Post report on Romney’s business practices at Bain Capital.

“Now, if you’re a worker whose job just went overseas, you really aren’t looking for somebody to explain to you the difference between offshoring and outsourcing,” he said. “What you need is somebody who’s going to wake up every single day fighting for your job, fighting for American jobs.”

Dole: Romney 'Looks Like A President'

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., said he endorsed Mitt Romney for president because the presumptive Republican nominee “looks like a president.”

The former Senate majority leader — and 1996 GOP presidential nominee — told GQ magazine he was turned off by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., because Gingrich was difficult to work with when he was speaker.

“So it looked to me like it would be either Romney or Newt for the nomination, but just on its own, I thought … well, I’ll say this: Romney looks like a president,” Dole said.

Dole endorsed Romney before the Iowa caucuses when Gingrich was still in the race and rising in public opinion polls, USA Today reported Tuesday. Gingrich ended up finishing fourth in the state.

Dole told GQ he thinks President Barack Obama is a “nice person” but “totally out of step.”

Rice: No Interest In Being Romney VP

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday “there is no way” she would become Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Asked on “CBS This Morning” whether she would turn down Romney if asked, Rice said: “I’m saying there is no way that I will do this, because it’s really not me. I know my strengths, and Governor Romney needs to find someone who wants to run with him.”

Rice said she’s not even that into politics.

“I love policy. I’m not particularly fond of politics,” she said.

Rice, who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said of the No. 2 spot on the Romney ticket, “There are many people who will do it very, very well, and I’ll support the ticket.”

On foreign policy, Rice said, the United States cannot “lead from behind.”

“The United States has to have a view, it has to gather people around that view, and frankly, I think we need to do more of that, and the last several years I think we’ve been lacking on that front,” she said.

On Syria, she said: “Let’s make alliance with those who understand that Syria will never be stable with [President] Bashar Assad in place. Let’s help the opposition to organize. And Syria will be better off [without] Bashar Assad and so will the Middle East.”

World Trade Center Building Tops Out

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Construction workers said 4 World Trade Center has been topped out at 72 stories, the newest addition to the New York skyline.

At the ceremony Monday, workers unfurled an American flag as a crane lifted the final steel beam 977 feet in the air and set it in place. Onlookers cheered along with about 1,000 construction workers.

“It felt good, a lot of satisfaction, a lot of pride rebuilding what was destroyed,” construction worker Larry Miller told the Wall Street Journal.

Four World Trade Center is slated to be the first skyscraper to be completed in the 16-acre World Trade Center site, which will open in the fall of next year.

Developer Larry Silverstein thanked the workers, or as he called them, “the people who built this place with their own hands.”

“You work every day, rain or shine, to reclaim the skyline, to give New Yorkers back the city that the terrorists tried to take away,” he said.

The New York Times reported the building, to be the sixth-tallest skyscraper in New York upon its completion, was designed to be understated.

“This is a special place with sacred meaning, and we felt we had to be respectful,” project architect Osamu Sassa said.

Tokyo firm Maki and Associates are behind the monolithic design, orchestrated to nearly vanish from the skyline from certain angles when the light is right.

“We like the idea of the building dematerializing,” Sassa said.

The twin towers of the World Trade center were destroyed Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four passenger jets and rammed two of them into the iconic skyscrapers. A third hit the Pentagon and the fourth was forced to crash in a Pennsylvania field after passengers attacked the hijackers.

In Bid For Re-Election, Obamas Talk About Their First Date

Amid one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history, one would expect the President’s campaign trail to consist of speeches dealing with the tough issues Americans are facing. But the Obamas are using valuable time and energy to talk about something else: their first date.

The couple has released a video reminiscing about their first outing. The first lady recounts their day together, while the President smugly offers dating advice for men. The video of the Obamas is being used to promote Dinner with Barack.

The couple remembers how they went to look at art and then saw a film directed by Spike Lee, the director who put an elderly couple in jeopardy when he tweeted that their address was that of George Zimmerman.

It’s part of a strategy to improve the likability of the President, who has an abysmal track record. The video brings to mind highlights of the Presidents’ tenure: his appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” his singing of “Let’s Stay Together” and the time he killed a fly.