Some Foods Change Mood, Similar To A Drug

PHILADELPHIA (UPI) — Chemicals in chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, teas and certain foods could well be mood-enhancers, U.S. researchers suggest.

“Molecules in chocolate, a variety of berries and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have shown positive effects on mood,” said Karina Martinez-Mayorga, now with the Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, but previously at the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. “In turn, our studies show that some commonly used flavor components are structurally similar to valproic acid.”

The study found the possibility of mood-enhancing effects associated with some flavors, stemming at least in part from natural ingredients bearing a striking chemical similarity to valproic acid — a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing drug.

Valproic acid — sold under brand names including Depakene, Depakote and Stavzor — is used to smooth out the mood swings of people with manic-depressive disorder and related conditions.

The study involved use of techniques of chemoinformatics — the application of informatic methods to solve chemical problems — to screen the chemical structures of more than 1,700 food flavor ingredients for similarities to approved anti-depressants, marketed drugs and agents with reported antidepressant activity.

“It is important to remember that just eating foods that may improve mood is not a substitute for prescribed antidepressive drugs,” Martinez-Mayorga said.

But for those not requiring medication, eating specific foods and living a healthful lifestyle can generally boost mood, she said.

The findings were presented at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.

Summer Weather Hurts Athletes With Asthma

DALLAS (UPI) — Heat, poor air quality and demanding exercises for summer athletes create the threat of increased attacks for asthma sufferers, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, who leads the division of allergy and immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said before fall-sports schedules begin, athletes need to ensure their condition is well-controlled.

Gruchalla recommended:

— Individuals with moderate to severe cases see a pediatrician, internist or asthma specialist to be sure asthma is properly controlled.

— At the appointment, be prepared to answer questions about the frequency of symptoms, use of an albuterol, or short-acting inhaled bronchodilator, and sleep interruptions caused by asthma.

— Have school nurses, trainers and coaches know about and pay close attention to athletes who suffer from asthma.

Gruchalla recommended athletes be allowed to ease into practice to see how well they tolerate exercising in the heat or in demanding conditions.

“Coaches should be alert for the signs and symptoms of asthma, which include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest tightness, coughs and wheezing,” Gruchalla said in a statement. “Everyone should exercise extra caution on extremely hot days and high-pollution days.”

Obese Kids Have Increased Gallstones Risk

PASADENA, N.Y. (UPI) — Children as young as age 10 who are overweight or obese face an increased risk for gallstones, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Corinna Koebnick of Kaiser Permanente Southern California and colleagues used data based on information in the electronic health records of more than 510,000 children ages 10-19, from 2007 through 2009, who were members of Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“Although gallstones are relatively common in obese adults, gallstones in children and adolescents have been historically rare,” Koebnick said in a statement. “These findings add to an alarming trend — youth who are obese or extremely obese are more likely to have diseases we normally think of as adult conditions.”

Gallstone symptoms of gallstones include recurrent abdominal pain and nausea, although many people with gallstones have no symptoms. Gallstones can block the passage of bile into the intestine, which in turn can cause severe damage or infection in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas and, if left untreated, the condition can be fatal, Koebnick said.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, found children and adolescents who were overweight were twice as likely to have gallstone disease, compared to children and adolescents who had a normal body mass index.

Those who were moderately obese were four times as likely to have gallstones and those who were extremely obese were six times as likely to have gallstones, the study said.


Psychological Interventions Help Skin

SHEFFIELD, England (UPI) — Psychological interventions can provide benefits to patients with skin conditions such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, researchers in Britain said.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield, England, conducted a meta-analysis of 22 studies involving more than 900 participants.

The meta-analysis, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, found psychological interventions had a medium-sized effect on skin conditions but that a number of different factors influenced the effectiveness of the interventions, including: The type of intervention, the time interval between the end of the intervention and follow-up and the type of outcome.

“The number of skin conditions represented by the study was small but a medium-sized effect was seen for interventions treating psoriasis and atopic dermatitis,” the researchers said in the review. “The analysis showed that psychological interventions generally had less effect on skin conditions accompanied by pain.”

Four types of intervention were well enough represented for analysis: Habit reversal, cognitive behavioral therapy, arousal reduction and combined techniques.

Habit reversal had the largest effect size, followed by cognitive behavioral therapy and arousal reduction and combined techniques, the study said.

Italians Cut Back On Espresso

ROME (UPI) — A trade association said the economic downturn has forced Italians to cut back on something near and dear to them — a cup of espresso.

ANSA said Saturday that the Federazione dei Pubblici Esercizi trade association is reporting a sharp reduction in consumer consumption of espresso.

The price has also bumped up against a psychological barrier, Ansa reported.

The average price for a cup is one euro. The price hikes for espresso have not kept up with the 3.3 percent inflation rate recently, but prices have risen modestly and sellers are reluctant to cross the one euro barrier, the trade association said.

Theaters Going Digital Or Die

MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — U.S. movie theaters with antiquated projection equipment must convert to costly digital technology or face extinction, an industry official says.

Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Saturday that by the end of the coming year the six major movie studios will only release new titles in digital format. The old 35-millimeter film format won’t be an option.

That means theaters with mechanical projectors face spending $70,000 to $85,000 apiece to upgrade to digital versions.

The National Association of Theatre Owners estimates 20 percent of the nation’s cinemas, about 10,000 screens, will go dark. Simply put, association President John Fithian, says, movie theaters must “convert or die.”

For Steven Mann, who owns 10 theaters in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, the cost of staying alive was $4 million.

For Joe Minjares, who owns Parkway Theater in Minneapolis, says getting financing can be a problem.

“Maybe we can get vault prints from the studios and show old movies, but I’m not sure what the market is for that,” he said.

Tom Letness, owner of the 86-year-old Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights, said while studios are offering financing to help defray the cost of makeovers, “they really don’t care if single-screen theaters go away.”

The economic benefits of digital production are clear for the studios, which, by one estimate, spent $850 million a year making film prints and $450 million shipping the the bulky canisters to theaters, the Star Tribune said.

“It’s always been about the studio. For the typical film, digital is neither necessary nor desirable,” said Ted Mundorff, president of Landmark Theatres, the nation’s largest independent chain.

Navistar CEO Steps Down

LISLE, Ill. (UPI) — U.S. truck and bus maker Navistar International Corp. said Monday  Chief Executive Officer Daniel Ustian is retiring, effective immediately.

The company’s board appointed Lewis Campbell, former chairman, president and CEO of Textron Inc. to serve as Navistar’s executive chairman of the board and interim CEO.

Campbell is currently on the board of directors at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sensata Technologies Holding N.V. And Noblis Inc., a not-for-profit science, technology and strategy organization.

After 37 years with the company, Ustian is also quitting the company’s board of directors, the company said.

The changes include a promotion for Troy Clarke, currently president of truck and engine operations. He will serve as president and chief operating officer for the company.

Hertz To Buy Dollar Thrifty For $2.3 Billion

PARK RIDGE, N.J. (UPI) — Hertz Global Holdings has reached an agreement to purchase  Dollar Thrifty Automotive for $2.3 billion, officials of the car-rental companies said.

Hertz, formerly owned by Ford Motor Co., said it would pay $87.50 per share for Dollar Thrifty, which was formerly owned by Chrysler.

The deal took more than three years of negotiations and outlasted a rival bid from Avis Budget Group, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In a statement released late Sunday, Hertz and Dollar Thrifty said the deal included an agreement for Hertz to unload its discount rental business, Advantage, at the behest of regulators.

Hertz said Advantage would be sold to Franchise Services of North America and Macquarie Capital.

That deal depends on a successful completion of the agreement with Dollar Thrifty, officials said.

Best Buy Opens Door To Founder's Bids

MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — The board of U.S. retail giant Best Buy said it had agreed to give founder Richard Schulze permission to pursue a bid to take control of the company.

The board and Schulze had agreed on an orderly process for the former chairman to have access to company information and bid on the company along with “private equity sponsors,” Best Buy said in a statement.

Schulze was forced to resign in May after it was learned he did not inform the board of an inappropriate relationship between former Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn and a female employee.

The company, however, is struggling to stay afloat due to changes in the market that put the store in a position to be an expensive pseudo showroom for Internet firms.

While Best Buy pays high rents, electric bills and labor costs, customers with more and more frequency are walking into its stores to view merchandise up close. Then they use the Internet, accessible through smart phones, to find better prices at and other Internet firms that have much lower overhead costs.

Schulze’s deal is a step-by-step agreement on a possible takeover. He is to be granted immediate due diligence access to private company information with an opportunity to present a bid within 60 days.

If the board turns down the offer, Schulze has agreed not to present another offer until January 2013.

The board has agreed to respond to a second offer within 30 days before Schulze has an opportunity to take an offer directly to shareholders in either a special meeting or the company’s annual shareholder gathering.

If the second bid fails, Schulze has agreed wait a year before presenting a third offer to the board.

Canada To Search For Historic Lost Ships

OTTAWA (UPI) — The Canadian government says it has begun its largest search ever for the lost ships of a doomed 1845 quest for the Northwest Passage.

The ships of Sir John Franklin’s expedition, Erebus and Terror, disappeared almost 170 years ago in the Arctic waters off what is now Nunavut. Both ships became trapped in ice off King William Island, and Franklin and his entire crew of 129 men took to the ice where they all eventually perished.

The search for Franklin’s ships has another significance beyond the history, as Canadian officials have often cited the importance of this search in terms of asserting Canada’s northern sovereignty, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News reported Thursday.

John Geiger, co-author of a 2004 book that probed the fate of the Franklin’s failed 19th-century polar mission, agrees the Franklin search suggest more than simply an interest in finding two old ships.

“There’s absolutely an agenda,” Geiger, now the editorial board editor of the Globe and Mail newspaper, said. “I can’t imagine a government investing the kind of resources, scarce resources, in pursuit of historical knowledge.

The government wants “to assert Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic islands and also the waterways,” Geiger says.

“A Franklin ship located in the Northwest Passage is a relatively minor piece of legal ammunition,” says Adriana Craicun, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who has studied and written about the Canadian Arctic, but it is also “probably the most valuable cultural, historical, international-scale material” that a Canadian government can point to in asserting a claim for greater control over the Northwest Passage.


China Wrestles With Acid Rain Threat

SHAOGUAN, China (UPI) — An increase in automobile emissions exposed China’s Guangdong province to damage from acid rain in the first half of this year, a report found.

The report by the provincial environmental protection department found more than half of the province’s 21 cities were polluted by acid rain during that period, China Daily reported Monday.

Most acid rain in the province results from high concentrations of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in the air, experts said.

Nitrogen oxide in particular has become a problem, a result partly of the greater number of automobiles on the province’s roads, the report said.

Industry is also to blame, experts said.

Some cities in Guangdong are burning more coal to produce power because of a decline in power transmission from western China.

All of these factors combine to create a higher level of acid rain, said Zhou Yongzhang, director of the Center for Earth Environment and Resources at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

The most effort should be put into reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides, Zhou said, since regulations are already in place to control the sulfur dioxide released by coal-burning power plants in the province, the manufacturing center of China.

Tropical Storm Isaac Delays Space Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (UPI) — NASA says tropical storm Isaac forced the cancellation of the launch of a mission to study Earth’s radiation belts, with an attempt now set for Thursday.

With the approach of the storm to Florida during the weekend the Saturday launch was called off and the leadership team for the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission decided to roll the Atlas V rocket off the launch pad and wait for better conditions, the space agency said.

The launch vehicle and the twin probes were moved back to the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 4 to protect them from inclement weather.

Pending approval from the U.S. Air Force’s Eastern Range, the unmanned launch was reset for Thursday at 4:05 a.m. EDT.

The RBST probes are designed to help in understanding the sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the Earth’s radiation belts.

Russian Software Firm Denies Spying Link

MOSCOW (UPI) — A Russian IT company has denied reports it was involved in developing software to monitor social networks for the country’s intelligence services.

The daily newspaper Kommersant reported Monday the company Iteranet had a contract with the Foreign Intelligence Service of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

Iteranet issued a denial later Monday.

“We are not in the business of developing systems to monitor blogs and plant information in the blogosphere,” Iteranet CEO Igor Matskevich told RIA Novosti.

“There have been no contracts of the type Kommersant claims. We do not engage in such activity.”

Kommersant had said Iteranet’s contract included systems to monitor and control the blogs and shape public opinion by spreading “special information” in social networks.

Beliefs Seen As Hurricane Response Worry

COLUMBIA, S.C. (UPI) — The attitudes and misinformed mindsets of U.S. coastal residents facing oncoming hurricanes might pose an obstacle to safe evacuations, a study has found.

A range of beliefs and attitudes that could hamper emergency planning and lead to lives being threatened were found in a survey conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina at the start of the 2012 hurricane season.

Chief among them is a widespread unwillingness to evacuate in advance of a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane, with nearly two-thirds of coastal South Carolina residents saying they wouldn’t do so, a university release said.

“That really surprised us,” said Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at USC said.

“We have experience in lots of places along the hurricane coasts where Category 1 and 2 storms have had historically strong impacts — obviously not as great as a larger magnitude storm, but nevertheless, it’s a hurricane.”

Even people living in designated storm surge zones said they would be reluctant to evacuate, the survey found.

“People say, ‘Oh Category 1, no big deal.’ But any hurricane is a big deal, and people need to recognize that and take precautions. Being in a storm surge zone during any hurricane is very dangerous,” Cutter said.

Oldest Living Person Turns 116

WALTON, Ga., (UPI) —  A Georgia county celebrated the 116th birthday of the world’s oldest living person — the eighth person to reach the age — by dedicating a bridge to the woman.

Besse Cooper, who turned 116 Sunday, was honored at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for a new bridge on New Hope Church Road in Walton County when officials dedicated the bridge to her, the Walton (Ga.) Tribune reported Monday.

“The older she has gotten the more wittier she has gotten,” said Cooper’s son, Sidney, in relaying a message from his mother for the ceremony.

“I’m glad I gave them a reason to name it,” he quoted Besse Cooper as saying.

Cooper, who was born in Tennessee on Aug. 26, 1896, is only the eighth person confirmed to have reached the age of 116.

DUI Suspect Blames 'Being A Bridesmaid'

HOLMES BEACH, Fla.,  (UPI) —  Police in Florida said a woman arrested for driving under the influence told a deputy the arrest is what she gets “for being a bridesmaid.”

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said a Holmes Beach police officer Friday pulled over Lesley Falcone, 27, for driving 18 mph over the speed limit and drifting into oncoming traffic, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Monday.

The officer called a deputy to administer a sobriety test and Falcone was allegedly “unable to stand in the starting position” for the walk and turn test.

“I’m done and I don’t want to look like a fool,” the woman allegedly told the deputy after attempting the test.

The deputy said Falcone admitted to having several drinks before driving.

“This is what I get for being a bridesmaid,” the report quotes her as saying.

Strippers See Slow Start To GOP Convention

TAMPA, Fla., (UPI) —  Tampa, Fla., strip club workers said they are hopeful the Republican convention will bring in business despite small turn-outs the weekend before the event.

Workers at clubs including 2001 Odyssey said they have made special preparations for this week’s convention, but turnout Saturday night was slower than expected in the lead-up to the Republican event, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.

“We’re hopeful,” a dancer with the stage name Brandy said Saturday night. “I think it’s the quiet before the storm.”

Jim Kleinhans, owner of 2001 Odyssey, said special preparations for the convention include adding two extra ATMs and putting up a drive-up tent for arriving VIPs. However, only one vehicle took advantage of the tent Saturday.

Meanwhile, Thee Dollhouse employed adult film actress Lisa Ann, who has played Sarah Palin parody Serra Paylin in pornographic films, to portray the character as she strips during the convention while other dancers at the club donned patriotic outfits resembling the costume of DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman.

Vicki Baham, manager at the Mons Venus strip club, blamed Tropical Storm Isaac for the slow weekend.

“I’m sure it’s the hurricane,” she said. “People are freaking out about it.”

Texas Reconsiders Felony Prostitution Laws

AUSTIN, Texas,  (UPI) —  Texas’ felony prostitution law has contributed to overcrowded prisons and the Legislature’s rethinking of the incarceration process, officials say.

Because of the 2001 law allowing prosecutors to charge prostitutes with a felony after three misdemeanor prostitution convictions, more than 350 prostitutes are serving time in the state prison system, with many more imprisoned for drug and theft crimes associated with the sex trade, the Austin American-Statesman reported Monday.

For a quarter of the cost, these non-violent, low-level criminals could be rehabilitated in community-based treatment programs instead of prison, the newspaper said.

It costs $18,538 to house a convict in a state prison for a year, compared with about $4,300 for a community-based program, the Texas Legislative Budget Board calculated.

“If it’s done right, it can save lives, save money and cut crime. The cost-per-day of low-level offenders in the community, rather than in a prison, is significant,” said District Judge Larry Gist of Beaumont.

Treatment programs are expected to be on the agenda when the state legislature meets again in January, the newspaper said.

Tampa Rally Swan Song For Ron Paul?

TAMPA, Fla.,  (UPI) —  Several thousand supporters gave Ron Paul possibly his last hurrah as Republicans gathered in Florida to select Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.

The 77-year-old Republican Texas congressman noted for his libertarian philosophy declined to endorse his rival in the GOP presidential race.

Paul was the main attraction at a 6-hour rally at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa. In a 77-minute speech, the lame duck congressman called on those in attendance to continue to grow the movement, Politico reported.

“We’ll get in the tent, believe me, because we will become the tent eventually,” he said. “It seems to me that they [Republicans] would be begging and pleading for us to come into the party.”

This was Paul’s second attempt at the GOP presidential nomination — he also ran in 2008 — in addition to a 1988 bid as the Libertarian Party’s candidate. In the 2012 primary campaign he received nearly 2 million votes.

During the campaign, Paul noted, he spoke at 33 college campuses and addressed nearly 150,000 people.

Paul urged his followers to continue to push the ideals of libertarianism.

“We have to aim high. We have to be very idealistic. We have to use reason, and we have to have passion. This will convert people rather than grabbing them by the collar and saying, ‘Listen to me…,” he said.

School Shooting Reported In Baltimore

BALTIMORE, (UPI) —  A student at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore, Md., was shot Monday morning, the first day of school, Baltimore County police said.

A suspect was arrested.

The victim was hospitalized and some students were escorted to a nearby shopping mall to await their parents while others were locked down in rooms such as the library, police said.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, who lives next door to the school, said he has been telephoned by dozens of worried parents, and has heard “a lot of helicopters,” The Baltimore Sun reported.

Parent Doris Puskoski told the Sun her son had texted her, saying a gunman had started shooting in the lunchroom.

The Sun said the school wing near the cafeteria had been shut down.

Man's Hole-In-One Insurance Called Bogus

SEATTLE, (UPI) —  The Washington state insurance commissioner filed charges against a businessman who allegedly reneged on hole-in-one insurance he provided for golf tournaments.

Kevin Kolenda, 54, of Connecticut was charged this week with five counts of transacting insurance without a license after allegedly failing to pay up when golfers sank a hole in one.

Big cash prizes for aces are commonplace at corporate and charity golf tournaments, and organizers generally take out an insurance policy that will pay off if someone actually makes a hole in one rather than have to pony up out of their own pockets.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a written statement that in three cases since 2004, Kolenda allegedly failed to pay between $10,000 and $50,000 for a hole in one that was made.

Kolenda, who operated at Golf Marketing, also allegedly ignored a previous cease-and-desist order from Kreidler’s office, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

“We’ve been warning the public about Mr. Kolenda’s scam for years,” said Kreidler. “He has a long history of selling illegal insurance, refusing to pay prize winners and thumbing his nose at regulators.”

Snake Smuggler Foiled At Orlando Airport

ORLANDO, Fla., (UPI) —  A man attempting to smuggle 27 snakes from Florida to Brazil in stereo speakers was caught at the airport, U.S. officials said.

Mateus Dal Maso bought the snakes at the Daytona Beach, Fla., National Reptile Breeders Expo allegedly with the intent to illegally export them to Brazil, U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities said.

He was detained at Orlando International Airport after the snakes showed up in X-ray scans of stereo speakers he had in his luggage.

Dal Maso admitted to federal agents he was concealing the snakes, valued at $10,000, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Friday. Dal Maso was found guilty of exporting illegal merchandise and fined $6,000 after spending two days in Orange County, Fla., jail.

The status of the snakes wasn’t reported.

Romney Vows To Be Hands-On President

WASHINGTON,  (UPI) —  A 100-day scorecard, corporate discipline and a hands-on management style are three things Mitt Romney promised to institute if he’s elected U.S. president.

Romney, who will be formally nominated as the GOP presidential candidate this week during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., also said he would treat his Cabinet as a board of directors and it would be dominated by people from the private sector, Politico reported.

What people see is what people will get, Romney told Politico during a 30-minute interview.

He vowed to keep his focus on a relentlessly goal-driven, business-oriented approach to national government that helped mold his life.

“I know there are some people who do a very good job acting and pretending they’re something they’re not,” Romney said. “You get what you see. I am who I am.”

Saying he doesn’t think “everybody likes me,” Romney said he does believe “people of this country are looking for someone who can get the country growing again with more jobs and more take-home pay, and I think they realize this president had four years to do that. … He got every piece of legislation he wanted passed, and it didn’t work. I think they want someone who has a different record, and I do.”

Romney also indicated he was tiring of the criticism that he is wooden or wasn’t connecting with voters, Politico said. He said he was able to unite people of divergent views to rescue the Olympics, initiate profit-making ideas at Bain Capital and lead Massachusetts, a Democratic state.

While acknowledging opposition ads have had some impact, Romney said people would have a chance to get to know him better during the the ensuing weeks and debates “when people are actually paying a lot of attention to the candidates.”

Romney said he would take a hands-on approach and consider varying viewpoints on an issue before reaching a decision, Politico said.

But Romney said his one bugaboo is organization.

“I think one of the things I don’t do terribly well is to be highly organized and follow a calendar precisely,” he said.

Even though he would take the hands-on approach, Romney said he would delegate responsibilities.

“Having people who have actually run things in the private sector or who have been actively involved in the private sector will be of real interest to me,” he said.