Crop Circles Appear In Washington Wheat Field

WILBUR, Wash. (UPI) — A Washington state couple said crop circles that mysteriously appeared in their wheat field are likely tied to crop circles from previous years.

Greg and Cindy Geib of Lincoln County, north of Wilbur, said they noticed the crop circles in their wheat field Tuesday, KHQ-TV, Spokane, Wash., reported Tuesday.

The farmers said crop circles appear in the area every couple of years and this year must have been their turn. The couple said they do not know who is behind the crop circles, but they joked about them being made as signs from aliens.

Scavenger Hunt Leads To Vow Renewal

ORANGE, Texas (UPI) — A Pennsylvania man said he brought his wife to Texas to conclude a three-year scavenger hunt that ended with a surprise vow renewal ceremony.

Rich Jones, who met his wife, Terri, when they were both working at DuPont in Orange, Texas, said the hunt began with a skeleton key he gave his wife for their 22nd wedding anniversary and concluded when Terri arrived in Orange Saturday to find Rich had re-assembled most of the original wedding party for a surprise vow renewal ceremony, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.

“It’s fun to know he loved me that much, to do all this,” Terri said.

Rich said his wife was worth the effort.

“Our marriage has been great,” he said.

Zombies Drown Out Westboro Baptists

DUPONT, Wash. (UPI) — A demonstration by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Washington state was interrupted by dozens of counter-protesters dressed as zombies.

Melissa Neace, 27, of Spanaway, said she rallied the zombie hoards on Facebook after discovering eight members of the Kansas-based church were planning a demonstration Sunday at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in DuPont, The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash., reported Tuesday.

Westboro’s lawyer sent a fax to DuPont Police Chief Ron Goodpaster about the church’s plans to gather “for a public demonstration/outdoor religious service regarding the judgment of God with respect to the dangers of promoting homosexuality, and the rest of the filthy manner of life and idol worshipping of this nation.”

Neace said her aim was to pull attention away from the protest.

“We wanted to turn something negative around, into something people could laugh at and poke fun at,” she said. “It was the easiest way to divert attention from something so hateful.”

Police Use Chopper In Snake Search

PLYMOUTH, England (UPI) — Authorities in Britain said a police helicopter with a thermal imaging camera attempted to locate a 4-foot snake that eluded capture.

Police in Plymouth, England, said the snake, believed to be a boa constrictor, was spotted slithering on a busy street last week and three locals managed to trap it in a trash bin, but it forced its way out before animal authorities could retrieve it, The Sun reported Tuesday.

“We got it in the bin about three times but even with six hands pushing on the lid it was too powerful. It was getting angry so we backed off,” said resident Bernard Brotherton, 53.

Police said they used a helicopter with a thermal imaging camera in an attempt to locate the reptile, which is believed to have been a pet that was set free by an owner who could not keep it.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged residents to be cautious if they spot the non-venomous snake.

“Snakes of that type are usually docile but we’d encourage people not to handle it,” RSPCA representative Jo Barr said.

Canada Extends Life Of Penny Coins

OTTAWA (UPI) — The Canadian government has given doomed copper pennies six more months to circulate so as not to disrupt the Christmas and holiday shopping season.

In the Conservative government’s March budget, it was announced the coins would be phased out of circulation by this fall and the last pennies were stamped by the Royal Canadian Mint in May.

However, the federal finance ministry announced this week the one-cent coins won’t start being retrieved by banks until February so as not to disrupt the December shopping season, the Toronto Star said.

The copper-coated steel pennies cost 1.6 cents each to produce and many Canadians discard them as trash. UPI has observed homeless people who beg in Toronto throwing pennies down sewers.

The government said there would be an $11 million dollar annual saving by abandoning the lowest-value coin.

Retailers will have to round prices up or down to the nearest 5-cent value when the pennies begin to disappear, while non-cash transactions will still include cents-value, the report said.

Photos Prove Apollo Moon Flags Still Stand

GREENBELT, Md. (UPI) — NASA says new photographs from its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show most of the American flags planted on the moon by Apollo astronauts are still standing.

Each of the six manned Apollo missions that put down on the moon’s surface planted an American flag in the lunar soil. The one flag not still upright is the one planted during the first moon landing by the crew of Apollo 11, NASA officials said.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera images were taken of each Apollo site, they said.

“From the LROC images it is now certain that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all of the sites, except Apollo 11,” LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson wrote in a blog post. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and it looks like he was correct!”

Researchers examining photos taken of the same spots at Apollo site at various times in the day observed shadows circling the point where the flags were thought to be.

“Intuitively, experts mostly think it highly unlikely the Apollo flags could have endured the 42 years of exposure to vacuum, about 500 temperature swings from 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light, some thinking the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault of the environment,” James Fincannon, of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, wrote in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

Robinson, however, called the photos “convincing.”

“Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did,” Robinson wrote. “What they look like is another question (badly faded?).”

Shoppers' Visual Focus Drives Purchases

MONTREAL (UPI) — The position of products on store shelves can influence consumers’ ultimate choice because a shopper’s eye has a very central focus, Canadian researchers say.

“Consumers are more likely to purchase products placed in the middle of a display — without even being aware of it,” Onur Bodur, a business professor at Concordia University in Montreal said.

Because of that, long lines of horizontally arranged products at eye level are the norm when it comes to the shopping experience, researchers said.

Bodur and his colleagues used eye-tracking devices to record how location influences choices for products as varied as vitamins, meal replacement bars and energy drinks, a Concordia release said Tuesday.

Their findings suggest consumers narrow their visual focus to the central option in a product display area in the final five seconds of the decision-making process, the point at which they determined which option to choose.

The process is a subconscious one, the researchers said, with participants in the study saying they were not aware of any conscious visual focus on one area of the display over another.

A fuller awareness of buying behaviors could lead to more informed choices, Bodur said.

“By using this newfound knowledge that visual attention is naturally drawn to the center of a display, consumers can consciously train themselves to make a more thorough visual scan of what’s on offer.”

Women Make More Money As PA Than MD

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (UPI) — If women’s primary motivation is money, they should forget becoming a primary care physician and become a physician’s assistant instead, U.S. researchers say.

Study authors M. Keith Chen and Judith Chevalier of the Yale School of Management used data from thousands of doctors and physician’s assistants — wages and hours worked for males and females in both professions — collected by the Robert Wood Johnson Community Tracking Physician Survey and the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

The study, published in the Journal of Human Capital, found a wage gap; female doctors earned a lower hourly wage than male doctors, but also most women doctors didn’t work enough hours to make their expensive training pay off compared with working as a physician’s assistant.

Early in their careers, male and female doctors work similar hours, but once women reach ages 31-35, they have children and their hours drop from 50 hours a week to 40 hours a week through age 55, the researchers said.

The net present value of becoming a doctor for the median man was about $2.3 million, while the value of becoming a physician’s assistant was about $1.9 million. However, for the median woman, becoming a doctor offered no such advantage. The net present value for women of becoming a doctor was about $1.67 million, while the net present value of becoming physician’s assistant was $1.68 million, the study said.

Net present value is a calculation used to determine if the gains from a long-term venture are worth the costs.

Consumer Spending Flat In June

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Consumer spending was essentially flat for the second consecutive month in June, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Adjusted for inflation, spending was down 0.1 percent, after rising 0.1 percent in May and 0.2 percent in April.

Incomes rose 0.5 percent, or $61.8 billion, after rising 0.3 percent in May.

Economists expected incomes to rise 0.4 percent, while spending was expected to rise 0.1 percent.

Private wages and salary disbursements rose by $31.9 billion in June after rising $9.7 billion in May.

The department said the closely watched core consumer prices, which excludes food and energy items, rose 0.2 percent in June after rising 0.1 percent in May.

With incomes rising faster than spending, savings rose from $472.4 billion in May to $529.5 billion in June. The personal saving rate rose to 4.4 percent in the month from 4 percent in May.

Home Prices Up In May From April

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. home prices rose April to May, the second consecutive month of gains, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report said Tuesday.

Home prices rose 2.2 percent in both the 10-city and 20-city indexes after rising 1.3 percent in both indexes in April, which was the first rise in seven months.

On an annual basis, prices are still off, showing a 1 percent decline in the 10-city index and a 0.7 percent decline in the 20-city index. In April, the annual decline for the larger index stood at 1.5 percent.

Atlanta is the only city with double-digit annual declines with its pricing index off 14.5 percent. “However, this is an improvement over the minus 17 percent annual decline in April,” the report said.

“With May’s data, we saw a continuing trend of rising home prices for the spring,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.