U.S. Stocks Slide Wednesday

NEW YORK, (UPI) — U.S. markets re-opened Wednesday after a nearly unprecedented two-day derailment due to a massive hurricane that swept the East Coast.

Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of equity markets for two days — the first multiple-day weather related closure since 1888.

Concerns arose over emergency systems and why they did not rise to the occasion. But the other debate centered around re-booting the massive financial system of which New York City is the epicenter.

But the big trading boards at the New York Stock Exchange flickered back on at 9:30 a.m., with emergency generator power, and just-try-to-stop-us New York was back on line.

Equity markets were higher across Asia and Europe. In early afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 30.58 points, 0.23 percent, to 13,076.63. The Nasdaq composite index shed 16.18 points, 0.54 percent, to 2.971.77. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 2.71 points, 0.19 percent, to 1,409.23.

The benchmark 10-year treasury gained 7/32 to yield 1.696 percent.

The euro rose to $1.2967 from Tuesday’s $1.2959. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 79.86 yen from 79.62 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index added 0.98 percent,m 86.31, to 8,928.29.

In London, the FTSE 100 index lost 1.15 percent, 67.20, to 5,782.70.

Crude Oil Rises Post Hurricane Sandy

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Crude oil prices topped $86 per barrel in New York Wednesday morning, as traders assessed the impact of a major storm on the East Coast.

Demand and supplies were affected. Power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy and closing of some businesses could slow demand temporarily, while flooding at two refineries, including the second-largest on the East Coast near Philadelphia, were under scrutiny, as well.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for December delivery added 63 cents to reach $86.31 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Reformulated gasoline added 4.16 cents to $2.6571 a gallon. Home heating oil added 0.63 cents to hit $3.076 a gallon.

Natural gas added 0.57 cents to reach $3.748 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $3.521, down from Tuesday’s $3.534, AAA reported.

Americans Eat 20 Million Pounds Of Candy Corn

SANTA MONICA, Calif., (UPI) — At just 3.57 calories a piece, candy corn is a Halloween staple, but it hardly resembles corn and isn’t the least bit healthy, a U.S. food expert says.

“Maybe it’s time for a healthier candy corn,” Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, trend watcher and creator of supermarketguru.com, said in a statement. “Halloween accounts for 75 percent of the annual candy corn production and according to social media analyst NetBase, candy corn is the most talked about Halloween candy this year — both the good and the bad!”

Candy corn was created in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Co., but shortly afterwards the Goelitz Confectionary Co., the firm that ultimately became Jelly Belly, began producing the candy, Lempert said.

The National Confectioners Association estimates 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold each year and the top branded retailer of candy corn today, is Brach’s.

“Today, candy corn is made primarily from sugar, corn syrup, wax, artificial coloring and binders, but recipes vary by manufacturer,” Lempert said. “It’s thought they sell enough candy corn annually, to circle the earth 4.25 times if the kernels were laid end to end. Now that’s scary!”

Utility: What To Do If The Power Is Out

JACKSON, Miss., (UPI) — If a home has lost power due to Hurricane Sandy or any other storm, Consumers Energy in Michigan advises people to closely monitor the media.

Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, which provides natural gas and electricity in Michigan advises to avoid traveling to or through storm-damaged areas if possible because it puts people at risk or hampers restoration efforts.

Consumers Energy also advises storm survivors to:

— Unplug appliances, but keep one light “on” so you’ll know when your electricity has been restored.

— Stay away from fallen power lines and anything a line may be touching. Report downed power lines immediately.

— Don’t attempt to repair or remove limbs from lines.

— Survey your property for any visible damage and possible lingering effects of the storm, such as hanging branches or sagging lines. Report potential hazards and keep others, especially children, away from fallen trees and power lines.

— Offer to help neighbors who may need special assistance: infants, the elderly or people with disabilities.

— Arrange for clean up on your property of any debris. Utility companies will take care of pole or wire replacement and clean up, but tree and other debris can pose a hazard and should be removed promptly by the homeowner.

— Please don’t interfere with utility crews while they are working.

— If you are leaving the house, turn the main circuit breaker off.

Peers As Influential Online As In Person

ANN ARBOR, Mich., (UPI) — Peers are influential when it comes to alcohol and drug use, and they are just as influential online as they are in person, U.S. researchers suggest.

Sarah Stoddard and colleagues at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor conducted an online survey of 3,447 of U.S. adults ages 18-24.

The survey found those who thought their parents and peers would be upset if they viewed images of their drinking and drug use online were less likely to drink. In addition, young adults who reported more online peer support were less likely to use alcohol.

Stoddard and colleagues found those who were concerned about negative reactions from others if they were to post images of drinking and drug use online were less likely to report marijuana use.

The study is scheduled to appear in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

No survey details were provided.

Beating Cancer Is Step One For Survivors

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., (UPI) — More than one-third of the 12.6 million U.S. cancer survivors have physical or mental problems that put their overall health in jeopardy, researchers say.

Lead author Kathryn Weaver, assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem, N.C., said 25 percent of cancer survivors reported poor physical health and 10 percent reported poor mental health, versus 10 percent of adults without cancer reporting poor physical health and 6 percent of adults without cancer reporting poor mental health.

“Until now, we didn’t have clear data on quality-of-life issues for the population of U.S. cancer survivors,” Weaver said in a statement. “This information should help doctors and researchers identify groups of survivors who may be at risk for long-term problems after cancer. In addition, it can help us know if some of the national efforts to improve life for cancer survivors are making a difference.”

The researchers analyzed data from a 2010 nationwide health survey, which included data specific to cancer survivors collected by the Centers for Disease and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. The scientists identified 1,822 cancer survivors and compared them with 24,804 adults with no history of cancer.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Single Junk-Food Meal Can Damage Arteries

TORONTO, (UPI) — A single junk-food meal — rich in saturated fat — is detrimental to the health of the arteries, researchers in Canada said.

Dr. Anil Nigam and colleagues at the University of Montreal-affiliated EPIC Center of the Montreal Heart Institute, compared the effects of a junk-food meal and a typical Mediterranean meal on the vascular endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels. Endothelial function is closely linked to the long-term risk of developing coronary artery disease.

The study involved 28 non-smoking men, who underwent an ultrasound of an artery at the elbow crease after fasting for 12 hours to assess their baseline endothelial function. The Mediterranean meal was composed of salmon, almonds and vegetables cooked in olive oil, with 51 percent of total calories mostly from monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats, or “good” fat. One week later, the second meal consisted of a sandwich made of a sausage, an egg, a slice of cheese and three hash browns, with 58 percent of total calories from fat, mostly saturated fatty acids.

Two hours and 4 hours after each meal, participants underwent further ultrasounds to assess how the food had impacted their endothelial function.

The study found after eating the junk-food meal, the arteries dilated 24 percent less than they did when in the fasting state, while the arteries dilated — expanded — normally and maintained good blood flow after the Mediterranean-type meal.

“Poor endothelial function is one of the most significant precursors of atherosclerosis,” Nigam told the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress meeting in Toronto.

Report: Big Banks Back Big Pollution

SAN FRANCISCO, (UPI) — The Rainforest Action Network said major U.S. banks, while embracing a green business model, continue to invest in polluting energy resources.

A report from the advocacy group stated that while major U.S. banks have taken strides to reduce the environmental footprint from branches and corporate offices, they’ve done little to curb investments in conventional energy resources such as coal.

“Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have begun to disrupt the global climate, triggering extreme weather events around the globe,” Ben Collins, a campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement. “To address this growing climate crisis, the global economy must rapidly transition to low-carbon energy sources that can power our future.”

The Rainforest Action Network points to JPMorgan Chase, which has close ties to major emitter Duke Energy while setting a benchmark of cutting its own emissions by 80 percent of their 2005 levels by 2012. JPMorgan, in a 2010 report, said it’s invested more than $380 million in wind energy projects in the United States.

The Rainforest Action Network report calls on major banks to “disclose comprehensive financed emissions data and commit to financed emissions reduction targets of at least 3.9 percent per year.”

Google Adds New Compose Features To Gmail

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., (UPI) — Google says a new feature in its Gmail program will allow users to reference the content of other emails without having to close out a message they’re writing.

An email draft a user is writing would remain on top of the main Gmail window similar to a pop-up chat screen but not completely obscure it, allowing the user to access the main window to read and reference previously received messages, Mashable reported Tuesday.

“How many times have you been writing an email and had to reference something in another message?” Google said in a blog post describing its “compose and reply” feature. “Saving a draft, opening the old email, and then reopening your draft wastes valuable minutes. The new compose pops up in a window, just like chats (only larger).”

The new feature gives users the ability to search and monitor new mail as it is received while composing an email at the same time, or work on multiple emails simultaneously, minimizing any of them the user might want to complete later, Google said.

“The new compose is designed to let you focus on what’s important: your message.” Google said. “The controls are still there when you need them but get out of the way when you don’t.”

Thief Targets Traditional Asian Medicines

MONTEREY PARK, Calif., (UPI) — A California man was arrested for allegedly trying to steal traditional oriental herbal remedies, police said.

Man Van Truong, 56, was charged after he was stopped from stealing a barrel of ginseng outside a Chinese medicine store in Monterey Park, Calif. Police already had a car description matching Truong’s black Honda in relation to another foiled attempt to steal dried sea cucumber, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Ginseng and sea cucumber are both thought to have broad healing powers in Asian cultures. They command a high price, too. A pound of ginseng sells for $300; sea cucumber goes for $150 a pound.

Jeep Gets Stuck Atop Border Fence

YUMA, Ariz., (UPI) — U.S. Border Patrol agents found a sport utility vehicle perched atop a 14-foot-high fence on the border between the United States and Mexico near Yuma, Ariz.

The silver Jeep Cherokee was abandoned along with a makeshift ramp by suspected smugglers and discovered early Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said.

When the SUV was driven up the ramp it got stuck when it became “high-centered,” with its chassis stuck atop the fence between the front and rear axles.

Two suspects fled into Mexico.

After pulling the vehicle down, agents seized it and the ramp, the news website Azfamily.com reported.

Axelrod Puts Mustache On The Line

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Obama advisor David Axelrod told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he will shave his mustache if the president loses in Minnesota, Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Axelrod told host Joe Scarborough he will come on the program and shave his “mustache of 40 years” if President Barack Obama loses any of the states, which have trended Democratic in recent elections, to Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Politico reported Wednesday.

Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, responded to the wager by agreeing to grow a mustache if Obama wins North Carolina or Florida in the Nov. 6 election.

Poll: Russians Believe In Supernatural

MOSCOW, (UPI) — A Russian poll indicates nearly 40 percent of the country’s adults believe in supernatural phenomena.

The All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion on Social and Economic Issues said its poll indicates nearly 40 percent of Russians believe in the supernatural, with the figures being the highest among women and those who described themselves as religious, RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.

The center said 22 percent of respondents believe in omens and horoscopes, 6 percent believe in visitors from other planets and 2 percent said they consider zombies to be a real threat.

The pollster said 7 percent of those who described themselves as non-religious believers said they trust horoscopes.

Some 57 percent of those polled said they do not believe in any of the listed supernatural phenomena.

RIA Novosti did not reveal the methodology of the poll or a margin of error.

41 Million Trick-Or-Treaters Expected

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The U.S. Census Bureau said an estimated 41 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are expected to go trick-or-treating Wednesday night for Halloween.

The bureau said the children — as well as others younger and older — will have 115 million occupied housing units to choose from, although not everyone will be home and participating in the candy distribution tradition.

Officials said there are 1,155 chocolate and cocoa-producing companies in the United States and 409 non-chocolate candy makers likely to benefit from the Halloween holiday and revelers are likely to rent costumes or formal wear from one of the 1,634 businesses offering such services.

Book: Bush’s Bloopers Done On Purpose

ANN ARBOR, Mich., (UPI) — U.S. presidential campaigns provide a unique window into society and characterizes the culture’s obsession with celebrities, a U.S. anthropologist says.

Michael Lempert, a linguistic anthropologist at the University of Michigan, and anthropologist Michael Silverstein of the University of Chicago, authors of the book “Creatures of Politics: Media, Message and the American Presidency,” said the book dissects the construction and presentation of a presidential candidate’s “message” — revealed via a carefully choreographed persona composed of appearance, style of speech, gesture and publicly packaged biography.

“Basically, we’ve come to rely on the characterizations of candidates that this system has invented to help us make sense of which candidates we should support,” Lempert said in a statement. “We not only have debates, but endless debates about the debates.”

Rather than just being a chance to talk about the issues, the debates are also a form of theater to take the measure of the candidates their appearance, their pronunciation, their use of gestures, even their gaffes, the researchers said.

This explains why George W. Bush — famous for his trouble with language — could be perceived to have done well in the 2004 presidential debate with John Kerry, the researchers explained.

“Kerry was, ironically, viewed as being the more patrician — his extended family was wealthy, but his parents were upper-middle class — based on his grammar and elocution,” Silverstein said.

“And so he seemed like somebody who wasn’t real. When you look at W’s bloopers, they weren’t really bloopers at all. They were deliberate efforts to seem real, like a regular person. Bush deployed this tool to great effect and other politicians used this technique as well, by referring to Obama as Osama and then repudiating this as a simple mistake.”

Flyer: Bill Would Let Communists Teach

LONG BEACH, Calif., (UPI) — A Republican congressional candidate in California says his Democratic opponent authored a bill that would have allowed communists to teach at state colleges.

Gary DeLong made the accusations in a Vietnamese-language flyer mailed in the 47th Congressional District, which has a large population of Vietnamese-Americans who endured communism in their native country, The Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

His opponent, Alan Lowenthal, authored a bill while serving in the California Legislature in 2008 that removed a provision in the state Education Code making membership in the Communist Party by community college employees a firing offense.

The bill was approved by the Legislature but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In his flyer, DeLong charged the bill would have allowed communists to teach without a formal check of their family history.

Lowenthal, who has strong name recognition and an 11 percent advantage in party voter registration, responded that his bill retained a ban on openly advocating communism in school.

Al-Qaida Mounting A Comeback In Iraq

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Nearly a year after U.S. forces left the country there are signs al-Qaida is mounting a comeback in Iraq, a U.S. inspector general found.

U.S. combat forces left Iraq in December 2011 according to the terms outlined in a status of forces agreement. A quarterly report by U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen said the number of violent attacks in Iraq is up to levels not seen in more than two years.

The report said the civil war in neighboring Syria was contributing to regional instability.

“Domestic security also has declined amid regular reports of a reviving al-Qaida in Iraq,” the report stated. “Overall in Iraq, violence this quarter was the worst in two years.”

A report from Bloomberg News cites U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, who said there were fewer than 800 fighters loyal to al-Qaida when U.S. forces left at the end of 2011.

Bowen said Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister of Interior Adnan al-Asadi said groups like al-Qaida in Iraq were gaining strength, however, because the country lacked the intelligence capabilities to detect and prevent attacks organized by militant groups.

It’s been “a troubled year” in Iraq, the inspector general said in the report.

U.S. Senate Races Tighten In Key States

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Surges by U.S. Senate candidates in at least two races thought to have been pretty much decided have turned the races into nail-biters, political observers say.

Weakened support for President Obama in Ohio and Pennsylvania could be cutting into leads enjoyed by Democratic Senate candidates and give Republicans Josh Mandel in Ohio and Tom Smith in Pennsylvania a chance to pull ahead in the final days of campaigning, The Hill reported Wednesday.

In Nebraska, attack ads that have aired for months may be helping Democrat Bob Kerrey while forcing Republicans to spend funds for their candidate, Deb Fischer, a strong favorite from the start, political observers said.

While Republicans said they expect Fischer to win next week, GOP operative Karl Rove’s American Crossroads just bought $420,000 of advertising time and billionaire Joe Ricketts invested $400,000 in the race, The Hill said.

In Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. led Republican challenger Smith in every poll, but the margin has grown smaller in the last month, the Washington publication said. GOP groups Restore Our Future and Americans for Job Prosperity pumped more than $3.2 million into the Keystone State in recent days.

In Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown has seen his edge over Mandel shrink in recent days, The Hill said. Republican ad spending has topped $15.8 million.

Poll: Ohio Working Class Election Key?

COLUMBUS, Ohio, (UPI) — Working-class voters in Ohio may offer a key to President Obama’s re-election bid, a poll by Quinnipiac University, The New York Times and CBS News indicated.

In Ohio, with 18 electoral votes up for grabs, Obama runs nearly even with Republican rival Mitt Romney among white voters who don’t have college degrees, results released Wednesday indicated.

That slice of information may explain why Obama could be slightly better positioned in Ohio than in Florida and Virginia, where the polls indicate Romney has a 30 percentage point advantage among white voters without college degrees, the Times said.

Obama, who has a 50 percent-to-45 percent edge in Ohio over Romney, also may be benefiting from an improved economy in the Buckeye State, results indicated.

In terms of demographics, the poll indicated nearly half of all white voters without college degrees in Ohio say the economy is improving, and most give the president some credit. By comparison, only about 25 percent of voters in Virginia and Florida said their economy was improving.

In Florida, Obama holds a negligible 48 percent-to-47 percent lead over Romney. In Virginia, Obama has 49 percent support while Romney has 47 percent

The latest polls included 3,682 telephone interviews conducted Oct. 23-28 with adult residents of Florida, Ohio and Virginia, of which 3,394 said they were registered to vote. Results are based on 1,073 likely voters in Florida, 1,110 likely voters in Ohio and 1,074 likely voters in Virginia. The results in each state have a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.

U.S. Drops Visa Requirement For Taiwan

LOS ANGELES, (UPI) — Taiwanese travelers will no longer have to obtain a $164 visa to visit the United States, the U.S. government has decided.

Beginning Thursday Taiwan joins 37 countries in a visa waiver program the United States reserves for nationalities it deems pose little security threat and are not major sources of illegal immigration, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The decision to end the cumbersome visa requirement is expected to boost tourism.

“I’m really very happy for Taiwanese citizens,” said Chung-Chen Kung, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles. “This is really a step forward.”

The Taiwanese government projects the number of visitors from the island may increase from 400,000 to as many as 600,000 a year.

A spokesman for China, which normally opposes any granting of diplomatic benefits to Taiwan, said the change will not have much of an effect on cross-strait relations.

Survey: All U.S. age groups growing fatter

WASHINGTON — U.S. adults in all age groups have grown fatter during the past four years, a survey indicated.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index — conducted from Jan. 2 to Dec. 31, 2008, and from Jan. 2 to Sept. 30, 2012 — included interviews with 579,210 U.S. adults age 18 and older. Gallup calculated the survey respondents’ body mass indices using the standard formula based on their self-reported height and weight.

The overall adult obesity rate was 26.1 percent in 2012 versus 25.5 in 2008, the survey said.

Obesity increases as Americans at both genders get older before declining when they reach their early 70s.

The youngest of adults ages 18-to-23 and 24-to-27 had minimal increased in obesity. However, most U.S. adults age 35 and older are more likely to be obese than those who were at the same age four years ago.

The age group with the most obesity was 56-59 in 2012 at 31.7 percent, and the age group with the least obesity was age 88 and older. In 2008, those ages 64-69 were the most obese at 30.8 percent and the least obese were those age 88 and older at 9.4 percent.

For the overall survey, the margin of error was 1 percentage point, but the margin of error was 1.5 percentage points for each age group.