Dumb And Dumber

“She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her, or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.” — Jeff Daniels as Harry Dunne in the movie Dumb And Dumber

Americans have a right to be upset as we head toward November’s election. It is a two-man race for the Presidency, and both candidates embrace big government and big spending. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney favor military intervention abroad, and both the President and the challenger have interfered with the free market with Obamacare and Romneycare, respectively.

Obama has put on such a dismal one-term performance that he makes Jimmy Carter’s Presidency look Churchillian. Romney is, at best, a moderate candidate along the likes of George H.W. Bush — able to win because the field of Republican nominees was so weak.

If the Nation is looking for a transformative President along the likes of Ronald Reagan, Romney will disappoint.

In 2006, then-Governor Romney said of Massachusetts’ healthcare reform bill, a sweeping effort to provide healthcare coverage: “We’re spending a billion dollars giving health care to people who don’t have insurance, and my question was: Could we take that billion dollars and help the poor purchase insurance? Let them pay what they can afford. We’ll subsidize what they can’t.”

Liberals loved it — so much so that Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) stood beside the Republican Governor when he signed into law the bill mandating universal healthcare coverage.

Members Of The Same Establishment

If you get the chance, pick up the book The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. The authors explain how close the ties are between current and former Presidents and how their ideals never stray far from one another. Past and current Presidents compete against each other in the pages of history; but, foremost, past Presidents are loyal to the man in the Oval Office more than they are to the parties they represent or the ideals upon which the Nation was founded.

The book explains the enduring friendship between Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover after President Dwight Eisenhower was elected. It also tells of the close personal relationship between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush with Bill Clinton. Even arch-Liberal and former President Lyndon Johnson conspired with Conservative GOP President Richard Nixon in selling the Vietnam War to an America that was tired of the blood and expense of that military intervention.

Gibbs and Duffy point to the 1960 book Kennedy or Nixon: Does It Make Any Difference? that was written by Arthur H Schlesinger Jr., an esteemed historian who became a top aide to President John F. Kennedy.

Last week, Daily Maverick also pointed to Schlesinger’s decades-old book:

For many years it has been something of an article of faith with both the hard left and the libertarian right in America that it really doesn’t make any difference – Democrat or Republican. They all come from the same political elite cloth, they are ultimately working in the interests of a ruling class or some super-secret elite cabal, and those interests are ultimately determined by the hard truths of the economic substrata. .. There is always that knowing, cynical French observation, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This truth was evident this month when Romney was interviewed by Time’s Mark Halperin.

Halperin asked:

You have a plan, as you said, over a number of years, to reduce spending dramatically. Why not in the first year, if you’re elected — why not in 2013, go all the way and propose the kind of budget with spending restraints, that you’d like to see after four years in office? Why not do it more quickly?

Romney answered:

Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%.  That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression.  So I’m not going to do that, of course.

If not the first year, then when? By President Romney’s fourth year? Probably not. Romney wants to cut taxes/revenues and increase military spending.

Meanwhile, Obama has proposed reducing the size of the military following the end of the U.S. combat role in Iraq and plans to remove troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

“We have two courses we can follow: One is to follow the pathway of Europe. To shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs,” Romney said a month ago. “The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world.”

The Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress have agreed to cut almost $500 billion dollars in military spending over the next decade. But even with that reduction, the United States would own the world’s most powerful military. The Pentagon’s budget this year exceeds $600 billion, or six times the amount of money that China is spending on its military.

Yet Romney will need more, especially since he has been painting Russia with the same stain as the “Evil Empire” that was the Soviet Union. But Romney needs to check recent history. The Soviets imploded because they could no longer finance their global aspirations. Neither can the United States.

A Warning, Not An Obama Endorsement

The truth is that, if elected, Romney will carry on most of Obama’s spending programs. That means a continuation of massive deficit spending by Washington and the near certainty that the United States will be thrown in the trash heap of history. This is not to say Romney won’t be better than Obama. It is hard to imagine he could be worse. But expect him to be only incrementally better at a time when the United States needs an exceptional President.

One final note: If Romney wins the Presidency, expect him and Obama to be friends once Romney’s tenure in the Oval Office is over. Historians may someday refer to them as dumb and dumber.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers
Editor, Myers’ Energy & Gold Report

Tune Out The ‘Impostures Of Pretended Patriotism’

Independence Day is just a week away, and political language, especially that of the election year back and forth, is awash with patriotic memes.

At a campaign event on Monday, President Barack Obama provided a familiar narrative about why people are willing to pay more taxes: because they love their country.

Obama said, “[T]here are plenty of patriotic, successful Americans all across the country — I meet them every day — who’d be willing to make this contribution again because they understand there is such a thing as the common good. They understand that we’re in this thing together.”

Many conservatives are appalled by the President’s understanding of patriotism and how it relates to “the common good.” But he isn’t the only one throwing the word around. In a recent article, Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, skewered Republicans who use the word in a different sense.

Reich writes:

Recently I publicly debated a regressive Republican who said Arizona and every other state should use whatever means necessary to keep out illegal immigrants. He also wants English to be spoken in every classroom in the nation, and the pledge of allegiance recited every morning. “We have to preserve and protect America,” he said. “That’s the meaning of patriotism.”

He goes on to assail members of the GOP for substituting “partisanship for patriotism” and for believing that unless it fits into their agenda, no motive can be patriotic.

He concludes:

Their patriotism is not about coming together for the common good. It is about excluding outsiders who they see as our common adversaries.

Former Speaker of the House and failed GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich quipped earlier this month about his view of American’s patriotic duty.

“We want to make it clear in a calm, pleasant but direct way: Barack Obama and the values he represents and the amateurish incompetence he has proven are a direct threat to the survival of America as we know it — and defeating him is a national, patriotic duty,” Gingrich said.

As Americans make plans for fireworks and barbeques next week with all of this talk from the political sphere about what is or isn’t patriotic buzzing in the background, a columnist for Michigan’s The Muskegon Chronicle, Steve Gunn, offers a little perspective in arguing for the Pledge of Allegiance in American schools:

Back in far better days, some things, like patriotism, remained above politics.

Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, union members and management all shared a love and appreciation of the United States of America and the fundamental freedom it stands for.

If patriotism is not what America’s politicians have co-opted the term to mean, and if the citizenry is unable to turn to its leaders for a clear idea of the best ways to express love for one’s country without adhering to political paradigms, perhaps history is a good place to turn for a patriotic self-revival.

Here are some ways you might learn to be more patriotic in the week preceding the celebration of our Nation’s independence.

  1. Read a copy of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. Hillsdale College, a longtime advocate of the American Founders’ vision, offers free printable versions here. Hillsdale has even mounted a “Read the Declaration” campaign to encourage millions of Americans to read and discuss the founding document with friends and family this Fourth of July.

  3. Take some time to better understand the story behind our Nation’s founding. Why did the men who created our Nation fight so passionately? What would have happened had they failed? Are there similarities between what our country has become and the tyranny they fought against? At the website Revolutionary War and Beyond, you can access thousands of historical documents related to our Nation’s founding and learn why revolution was vital, in the words of our Founders.

  5. The United States is currently not in the best shape in history. Modern problems ranging from a poor economy to serious political disagreements on social issues keep many Americans in a state of perpetual political polarization. This benefits no one but the political establishment of both the left and the right. With the help of the Internet, you can find that many of these problems are not new. America has seen crises, social tension and poverty before. Take off your political blinders and do some research about how some of our Nation’s problems were solved in the past.

Whether you call yourself Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or independent or you are defined by other political beliefs, your patriotism likely transcends your political ideology and represents more a feeling of gratitude to reside in a Nation whose citizens have the freedom to agree to disagree. Learning about the blood and sweat that begot that freedom and how that freedom has been used throughout the years to better the Nation is certainly more productive than allowing the President, Gingrich and political commentators to soil the true meaning of patriotism. After all, in a free country what it means to be a patriot is up to you to decide; and George Washington, our Nation’s first President, warned Americans about those who would seek to do it for you in his farewell address:

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

Law Enforcement’s War On American Insurgents

In the small rural town of Mayberry, Sheriff Andy Taylor didn’t even see a reason to carry a gun while he policed the townspeople in the iconic American television program The Andy Griffith Show.

Of course, that was a television show, and it aired during what some people may argue was a simpler time in America’s modern history — a time when a small-town sheriff in a town like Mayberry would not need a gun except in the most extraordinary circumstances. Others have argued that Taylor didn’t carry a gun in the show because its producers were pushing an anti-gun Communist message.

Whatever the reason, reports of how many small-town law enforcement agencies have now become armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry make it certain that an unarmed sheriff like Taylor would not make a believable character today.

Personal Liberty Digest™ has run a number of stories in recent months that describe increasingly militaristic tactics and armament among local police departments. With the help of organizations like the CATO Institute and its police misconduct website, there have also been stories about law enforcement officers who have fallen short of their promise to “serve and protect” and have abused authority and committed crimes both against individuals and the Constitution.

WIRED’s “Danger Room” blog, in a post yesterday, pointed out that over the past five years through the “Department of Defense Excess Property Program,” small-town law enforcement agencies have increasingly been the biggest beneficiaries of surplus military gear.

Here’s some of what is revealed:

  • A 50-officer police department in Oxford, Ala., a town of 20,000 people, has received about $3 million worth of military equipment including M-16s, helmet-mounted infrared goggles and a tank-like armored vehicle called a Puma.
  • The Nebraska State Patrol has three amphibious eight-wheeled tanks.
  • Police in Lebanon, Tenn., where fewer than 30,000 people live, have acquired $4 million worth of military equipment, including weapons and heavy equipment like bulldozers and truck loaders, as well as an LAV 150 armored car.
  • The Fairmont Police Department in northern Georgia, a department that serves about 7,000 residents, received 17,145 items from the military in the past five years.
  • Police in Issaquah, Wash., a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.

Two concerns have been raised by critics of the military arming of community police departments:

  1. Even though this equipment is bought on the cheap, officers in such small communities — much like Sheriff Taylor — seldom find use for tanks and assault rifles that have to be stored and maintained at a cost to the taxpayer.
  2. Often, the officers who will be operating this equipment once it has been acquired are poorly trained and are sometimes overly eager to use such military weaponry in situations when it could cause more harm than good.

The Defense surplus program was partially suspended in May, when it was revealed that an Arizona police department was caught selling some of the equipment it acquired to non-law enforcement agencies to pad its budget. However, departments still can get grants for military equipment through a Federal anti-terror initiative put in place after the 9/11 attacks. Since its inception, the grant program has racked up nearly $34 billion, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Whether Americans think military equipment in the hands of law enforcement is good or bad, it appears to be here to stay. One increasingly popular military-turned-law-enforcement piece of equipment is the drone. Most of the drones that American law enforcement agencies employ are small and resemble remote control helicopters more than military equipment.

But last year, police in Lakota, N.D., used a Predator drone owned by the Department of Homeland security to conduct the first drone-assisted arrest in the Nation. Rodney Brossart and his family face a number of criminal charges related to a conflict they got into with law enforcement officers after six cows from a neighboring farm wandered onto their 3,000-acre ranch. After refusing to return the cows and a subsequent standoff with police, the drone was launched to watch the movements of Brossart and his family while a SWAT team rushed in to arrest the bunch.

Brossart’s lawyer Bruce Quick argued in court earlier in the month that “the warrantless use of unmanned surveillance aircraft” was unlawful on 4th Amendment grounds. Citing “outrageous governmental conduct, unlawful surveillance, illegal seizures and searches, unconstitutional application of North Dakota law, vindictive prosecution, and other statutory and constitutional injury” the attorney has asked a judge to dismiss charges in the (as far as law enforcement drones are concerned) possibly precedent-setting case. A ruling on whether the charges will be dismissed is expected within the next few days.

Romney Clones Bush Foreign Policy

If you loved George W. Bush’s foreign policy, then Mitt Romney is your man. If this fact wasn’t evident before last weekend, it should now be crystal clear.

During a weekend retreat costing donors $50,000 to $100,000 each for admission, former Bush foreign policy officials — mostly members of the Bilderberg subgroup the Council on Foreign Relations, a sack full of (self-proclaimed) neocons and a couple of hundred banksters — gathered to fete Romney and pontificate about American empire.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush’s former brain Karl Rove gave speeches highlighting what a Romney foreign policy would look like. Attendees included former Secretary of State (under George H.W. Bush) James Baker III, Senators John McCain and John Thune, Representatives Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, Governors Bobby Jindal (La.) and Bob McDonnell (Va.), former Governors Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Tim Pawlenty (Minn.); former Bush staffers Mary Matalin and Michael Chertoff, and “chickenhawk” cheerleader Bill Kristol (a CFR member).

As The Nation noted May 2:

Of Romney’s forty identified foreign policy advisers, more than 70 percent worked for Bush. Many hail from the neoconservative wing of the party, were enthusiastic backers of the Iraq War and are proponents of a US or Israeli attack on Iran. Christopher Preble, a foreign policy expert at the Cato Institute, says, “Romney’s likely to be in the mold of George W. Bush when it comes to foreign policy if he were elected.” On some key issues, like Iran, Romney and his team are to the right of Bush. Romney’s embrace of the neoconservative cause–even if done cynically to woo the right–could turn into a policy nightmare if he becomes president.

Romney has called for increasing military funding. He has said he believes he can attack Iran — or anyone else — without first getting Congressional authorization. (Where have we heard that before?) According to a foreign policy white paper from the Romney campaign released last October, Romney has pledged to increase the number of warships the Navy builds per year from nine to 15 (five more than the service requested in its 2012 budget), boost the size of the military by 100,000 troops, place a missile defense system in Europe and station two aircraft carriers near Iran.

And Romney’s team is rife with Bush’s Iraq war chaff. It includes, according to The Nation:

Robert Joseph, the National Security Council official who inserted the infamous “sixteen words” in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union message claiming that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger; Dan Senor, former spokesman for the hapless Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer in Iraq; and Eric Edelman, a top official at the Pentagon under Bush. “I can’t name a single Romney foreign policy adviser who believes the Iraq War was a mistake,” says Cato’s  Preble. “Two-thirds of the American people do believe the Iraq War was a mistake. So he has willingly chosen to align himself with that one-third of the population right out of the gate.”

The United States currently spends more on its military than the next 10 biggest military spenders combined — about 40 percent all money shelled out for military spending globally, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. But for Romney and his CFR/neocon cabal, that’s not enough.

Emperor Obama And His Court Jester

The Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Arizona immigration law has one representative referring to Obama as “an emperor.”

Most parts of the law were struck down, but the Supreme Court upheld the part of the law which allows law enforcement to perform immigration checks if the officer has reasonable suspicion that a person is in the country illegally. Representative Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) wants answers from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“We now confront the spectacle of the president of the United States behaving as an emperor, and the cabinet officer entrusted with the security of the nation as his court jester,” Quayle wrote in a letter to Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Quayle believes the proper response would have been to “arrange open and collegial discussions with Arizona law enforcement.” He continued: “This is the response which would have reflected a sincere desire to serve the public, honor our processes and faithfully discharge the oath she and the president have sworn. Instead, she chose to send forth an arrogant decree which simultaneously insults all Americans and ushers the secretary into history as a petty tyrant.”

Billionaire Buffett Endorses Kerrey

OMAHA, (UPI) — Billionaire investor Warren Buffett plans to hold a fundraiser later this month for Nebraska Democratic Senate candidate Bob Kerrey in Omaha, officials say.

Buffett plans to show his support for Kerrey’s campaign against Republican incumbent Deb Fischer by throwing him a fundraiser, Politico reported.

Buffet has become a polarizing figure recently both for his opposition of super PACs and his criticism of tax cuts for the wealthy

“I am 100 percent behind Kerrey,” Buffet said. “I will not be doing super PACs of any sort. I think allowing unlimited contributions to campaigns is a terrible idea and an important and unfortunate step toward a plutocracy.”

London Tower To Be Renamed For Queen

LONDON, (UPI) — London’s Westminster Clock Tower, which contains the bell known as Big Ben, will be renamed in honor of Queen Elizabeth, the House of Commons announced Tuesday.

A six-member committee of Parliament members gave final approval Monday night to rename the 316-foot tower, symbolic of London and of Britain, “The Elizabeth Tower,” the London Evening Standard reported, noting the proposal had wide support in the House of Commons.

“I am extremely pleased that colleagues from across the House, both front and back bench, have supported this initiative,” said Conservative Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood, who first proposed the name change to honor the queen’s 60 years on the throne.

Big Ben’s name will not be changed, the newspaper said.

U.S. Home Prices Up Month-To-Month

NEW YORK, (UPI) — U.S. home prices rose month-to-month after seven months of declines in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report, the firm said Tuesday.

Home prices rose 1.3 percent March to April in both the 10-city and 20-city indexes, but fell 2.2 percent in the 10-city index and 1.9 percent in the 20-city index from April 2011, the report said.

Economist had expected an annual decline of 2.5 percent for the larger index.

“While still negative, this is an improvement,” the report said. In March, the 10-city composite index dropped 2.9 percent and the 20-city composite fell 2.6 percent on an annual basis.

In a clear break from recent reports, in April, 19 of 20 cities monitored showed month-to-month price increases. Only Detroit posted a decline with prices dropping 3.6 percent.

The sharpest gains were posted by San Francisco (prices up 3.4 percent, Washington (up 2.8 percent), Phoenix (up 2.5 percent), Atlanta (up 2.3 percent) and Portland, Ore., (up 2 percent).

“It has been a long time since we enjoyed such broad-based gains. While one month does not make a trend, particularly during seasonally strong buying months, the combination of rising positive monthly index levels and improving annual returns is a good sign,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.

Markets Open Flat

NEW YORK, (UPI) — U.S. markets opened flat Tuesday after a closely watched index on U.S. home prices showed April prices declined, but not as much as expected.

Home prices in the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index showed an annual decline in April of 1.9 percent. Economists had expected a 2.5 percent drop.

Investors also remain wary of developments in Europe. On Monday, Cyprus followed Spain with a request for international assistance.

In midmorning trading Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 18.42 points or 0.15 percent to 12,484.42. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 4.96 points or 0.17 percent to 2,841.12. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 0.87 points or 0.07 percent to 1,314.59.

The benchmark 10-year treasury note fell 8/32 to yield 1.634 percent.

The euro fell to $1.2476 from Monday’s $1.2504. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 79.46 yen from Monday’s 79.67 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 0.81 percent, 70.63, to 8,663.99.

Crude Oil In Holding Pattern

NEW YORK, (UPI) — West Texas Intermediate crude oil held to less than $80 per barrel Tuesday ahead of a European summit that could alter the economic landscape of the eurozone.

Regardless of the odds of a radical policy shift, which is not widely expected, traders are hunkering down, likely to avoid big moves until the Thursday and Friday summit is complete.

Crude oil for August delivery hit a trading session added 33 cents to $79.54 per barrel. Home heating oil added 2.68 cents to reach $2.5616 per gallon.

Reformulated blendstock gasoline gained 2.16 cents to $2.5198 per gallon.

Natural gas for July delivery shed 1.6 cents to $2.678 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline fell to $3.397 Tuesday from Monday’s $3.411, AAA said.

ITT Exelis Tests Coastal Radar System

VAN NUYS, Calif., (UPI) — U.S. company ITT Exelis reports the successful preliminary acceptance testing of the first radar system supplied to Sweden to enhance coastal surveillance.

“This is a critical milestone for Exelis and the Swedish armed forces as it marks the official start of enhancing Sweden’s ability to defend its entire coastline,” said Chris Bernhardt, Exelis executive vice president and president of Exelis Electronic Systems.

“The Exelis LCR-2020 radar provides effective mission operations in all weather conditions, at all times, against all key threats.

“It is ideally suited to achieve the operational mission requirements of the Swedish military even in a hostile environment.”

ITT Exelis, which installed its first radar system at an undisclosed location in Sweden, didn’t provide details on what the testing involved.

The LCR-2020 radar is based on the company’s integrated, turnkey coastal surveillance system, the SABER-2020. Verification of interfaces between it and Sweden’s current command-and-control system for coastal surveillance were conducted by the Swedish Defense Material Administration and Saab.

Design Of F-15SE Weapons Bay Tested

ST. LOUIS, (UPI) — The aerodynamics of the conformal weapons bay design by Boeing of the United States and Korean Aerospace Industries has been validated in wind tunnel tests.

Boeing conducted the test as part of the Silent Eagle project — the upgrade to the F-15E, which is being offered to South Korea as the country pursues a future fighter program.

“Boeing and its partners have advanced to the next phase in the development of the Silent Eagle, an evolved derivative of the combat-proven F-15 family of aircraft,” said Roger Besancenez, F-15 Program vice president for Boeing.

“We are now testing production-representative hardware as we continue to validate our affordable and low-risk design.”

The F-15SE will feature stealth technology, including the carrying of weapons within the fuselage.

Boeing said that for the conformal weapons bay test it used a scale model of the Silent Eagle to determine the effect of various air speeds and flight angles. Future testing will focus on the “aerodynamic effects of multiple weapons loads, as well as opening and closing the upper and lower CWB doors.”

Vitamin D Lack Linked To Weight Gain

PORTLAND, Ore., (UPI) — Older U.S. women with insufficient levels of vitamin D gained more weight than those with sufficient levels of the “sunshine” vitamin, researchers say.

Study author Dr. Erin LeBlanc, an endocrinologist at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said the study involved more than 4,600 women age 65 over nearly five years.

The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found those with insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood gained about 2 pounds more than those with adequate levels of the vitamin.

“This is one of the first studies to show that women with low levels of vitamin D gain more weight, and although it was only 2 pounds, over time that can add up,” LeBlanc said in a statement. “Nearly 80 percent of women in our study had insufficient levels of vitamin D. A primary source of this important vitamin is sunlight, and as modern societies move indoors, continuous vitamin D insufficiency may be contributing to chronic weight gain.”

Seventy-eight percent of the women had less than 30 nanograms per millimeter of vitamin D in their blood — the level defined as sufficient by The Endocrine Society panel of experts who set clinical guidelines on vitamin D deficiency.

In the group of 571 women who gained weight, those with insufficient vitamin D levels gained more — 18.5 pounds over five years — than women who had sufficient vitamin D,” LeBlanc said. “The latter group gained 16.4 pounds over the same period.”

Lung Cancer Increasing In Southern Women

ATLANTA, (UPI) — Lung cancer death rates for women are relatively high in some Southern states that lack “effective policies” to limit smoking, a U.S. researcher says.

Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society analyzed lung cancer death rates from 1973 through 2007 by age among white women for 23 states for which there were adequate data, using the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results mortality database.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found lung cancer death rates declined continuously by birth year for women born after the 1950s in California, but rates in other states declined less quickly or even increased.

California has been aggressive in using public policy to reduce cigarette smoking. It was the first state to establish a comprehensive statewide tobacco control program through increased excise taxes in 1988 and pioneered local government ordinances for smoke-free work places as early as the mid-1970s. The trend in New York followed California, except the decreases were less steep.

In contrast, public policies against tobacco use have been weaker in many Southern and Midwestern states, particularly among tobacco-growing states in the South, Jemal said.

“The dramatic rise in lung cancer death rates in young and middle-aged white women in several Southern states points to a lack of effective policies or interventions, like excise taxes and comprehensive smoking bans, that deter initiation of smoking among teenagers and promote smoking cessation among adults,” Jemal said in a statement.

Ozone Linked To Heart Attacks

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., (UPI) — Young, healthy adults exposed to ozone for 2 hours developed changes in their cardiovascular system, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Robert B. Devlin of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the study involved 23 healthy volunteers, ages 19-33, exposed to 0.3 parts per million of ozone — higher than the federal government’s 8-hour ozone standard of 0.076 ppm.

Study participants underwent two controlled exposures — one to clean air and one to ozone-polluted air — at least two weeks apart. During each exposure, participants alternated 15-minute periods of stationary cycling and rest.

None of the participants reported complaints or physical symptoms after inhaling clean air or ozone, but immediately following and the morning after ozone inhalation, tests showed significant ozone-induced vascular changes compared to clear-air exposure.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, found an increase in blood levels of interleukin 1beta, a signature marker of inflammation that appears to play a key role in heart disease; a decrease in plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 and plasminogen, components that play an important role in dissolving blood clots that may form along arterial walls; and a change in heart rhythm, indicating altered autonomic nervous system control of heart rate.

“This study provides a plausible explanation for the link between acute ozone — air pollution and sunlight — exposure and death,” Devlin said in a statement.

An estimated 40,000-50,000 U.S. deaths occur each year because of acute exposure to air pollution.

Middle-Age Drinkers Higher Quality-Of-Life

BOSTON, (UPI) — Moderate drinkers appear to have better quality-of-life than those who abstain or drink too much, U.S. researchers say.

Harvey Finkel of the Boston University Medical Center and colleagues tracked about 5,400 Canadians at age 50.

The study found those who drank in moderation — no more than 14 drinks a week and no more than three a day for women and four a day for men — have better overall scores than those who abstained completely from alcohol, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Quality-of-life was measured using the Health Utilities index, which looks at factors including dexterity, emotion, cognition and mobility.

The researchers said regular moderate drinkers scored highest in each of the health indices.

Better Weather Boosts U.S. Exercise

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — More U.S. adults reported exercising in May than in any month since the recession began in 2008, a Gallup Poll indicates.

The Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index survey, conducted by telephone May 1-31, of 30,252 U.S. adults, found 55.2 percent said they exercised for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week in May — up from 53.9 percent in April, and the highest month since the survey on exercise began in 2008.

Exercise generally changes seasonally — down in fall and winter and more in the spring and summer. However, from October 2008 — the start of the U.S. economic crisis — through December 2009, monthly exercise levels were lower than Gallup recorded during the same months before or after that period.

However, U.S. exercise habits rebounded in early 2010 and have been generally at four-year highs in 2012, Gallup officials said.

U.S. adults exercise rates have been up since last December — a trend that coincided with the unusually warm weather since winter. This winter was the fourth-warmest on record, Gallup said.

The survey has a margin of 0.7 percentage points.

BP Sells $1.2 Billion In Assets

LONDON, (UPI) — British energy company BP announced it was selling oil and natural gas assets in the United States and the North Sea worth at least $1.2 billion.

BP said it was selling its minority stake in the Alba and Britannia fields in the British waters of the North Sea to Mitsui and Co. for $280 million in cash.

The company said both fields had an average production rate of around 7,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. BP’s production in the North Sea stands at roughly 200,000 boepd.

In the United States, BP said it was selling its upstream operations in Wyoming to LINN Energy for $1.02 billion in cash.

BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley said the Wyoming sale would help BP reinvest in parts of North America.

“BP has invested $52 billion in the U.S. over the past five years, more than any other oil and gas company,” he said in a statement.

BP secured the rights to explore for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico during a U.S. lease sale last week.

BP faces a multitude of fines and penalties from the 2010 oil spill in the gulf, one of the worst such accidents in the history of the oil industry.

Human-Powered Copter Set Duration Record

COLLEGE PARK, Md., (UPI) — A University of Maryland team, one of three building human-powered helicopters, says it set an unofficial record of 50 seconds airborne in its Gamera II design.

The student team from Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering said its record would become official once verified by the National Aeronautic Association.

The Maryland team currently holds the record of 11.4 seconds set last July, and is one of three teams competing in the American Helicopter Society Igor I. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition for a $250,000 prize, TG Daily reported Monday.

To win the prize, a human-powered helicopter must lift off and hover for 60 seconds and must attain an altitude of at least 3 meters, almost 10 feet, at some point during the 60-second flight.

The Gamera II helicopter is pedal-powered, with four 42-foot rotors at each end of a 60-foot central X-shaped frame. Made with balsa, foam, mylar, and carbon fiber, the vehicle weighs 101 pounds.

High-Speed Data Ride On Beams Of Light

LOS ANGELES, (UPI) — A research team led by U.S. scientists says it’s developed a system of transmitting as much as 2.56 terabits of data per second using twisted beams of light.

Broadband cable can move about 30 megabits per second, so the twisted-light system transmits more than 85,000 times more data per second, scientists at the University of Southern California, which led the research, reported Monday.

The technology has potential applications for high-speed satellite communication links, short free-space terrestrial links or could be adapted for use in the fiber optic cables used by some Internet service providers, researchers said.

“You’re able to do things with light that you can’t do with electricity,” Alan Willner, a USC electrical engineering professor, said. “That’s the beauty of light; it’s a bunch of photons that can be manipulated in many different ways at very high speed.”

The researchers used beam-twisting “phase holograms” to manipulate eight beams of light so each one twisted in a helical shape as it traveled. Each beam had its own individual twist and was encoded with “1” and “0” data bits, making each an independent data stream.

The researchers used the beams to transit data over open space in a laboratory, simulating the kind of communications that might occur between satellites in space.

The work extended research conducted at several European universities.

“We didn’t invent the twisting of light, but we took the concept and ramped it up to a terabit-per-second,” Willner said.

Oldest Orangutan In North America Dies

PHOENIX, (UPI) — North America’s oldest Bornean orangutan has died of lymphatic cancer at the age of 52, officials at the Phoenix Zoo said.

The orangutan named Duchess was euthanized Sunday morning to prevent further suffering from the aggressive cancer, they said.

“She hadn’t been doing well the last few days,” zoo spokeswoman Linda Hardwick told The Arizona Republic.

Duchess was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma about two weeks ago after her keepers noticed a loss of appetite and lethargy and zoo vets said she had but a few weeks left to live.

Hardwick said a desire to give her some peace and preserve her dignity in her final days led to the decision to euthanize the orangutan matriarch.

Duchess has 14 descendants currently living at various zoos.

She lived roughly 22 years longer than the typical orangutan in the wild and about 12 years longer than those living in captivity, officials said.

“Although we are deeply saddened by Duchess’ passing, she long surpassed the number of years that orangutans live in zoos and preserves, as well as in the wild,” Bert Castro, the zoo’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.