Low Rates Of Vitamin D Linked To Cavities

SEATTLE (UPI) — A review of studies of children in several countries linked vitamin D to a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of dental cavities, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Philippe Hujoel of the University of Washington in Seattle, who conducted the review, said vitamin D’s role in supporting bone health has not been disputed, but significant disagreement has historically existed over its role in preventing cavities.

The American Medical Association and the U.S. National Research Council concluded around 1950 that vitamin D was beneficial in managing dental cavities. However, the American Dental Association disagreed based on the same evidence. In 1989, the National Research Council, despite new evidence supporting vitamin D’s cavities-fighting benefits, called the issue “unresolved.”

Hujoel reviewed clinical trials in the United States, Britain, Canada, Austria, New Zealand and Sweden. The trials involving children or young adults ages 2-16 were conducted in institutional settings, schools, medical and dental practices, or hospitals.

Dr. Michael Hollick, professor of medicine at the Boston University Medical Center, said the findings reaffirmed the importance of vitamin D for dental health because children who were vitamin D deficient had poor and delayed teeth eruption that were prone to dental cavities.

Diabetics With Cancer Ignore Blood Sugar

CHICAGO (UPI) — People with type 2 diabetes who are diagnosed with cancer tend to focus on cancer over diabetes, but diabetes is the more serious threat, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. June McKoy, director of geriatric oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, said those with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of cancer.

“People with diabetes hear cancer and they think that it is a death sentence, so who cares about diabetes at this point?” McKoy said in a statement. “But if they’re not careful, it’s the diabetes that will take them out of this world, not the cancer. That’s why this education is so critical when cancer comes on board. Patients must take care of both illnesses.”

The researchers examined five years of health records for 166,000 commercial insurance patients and 56,000 Medicare Advantage patients. They found 65 percent of cancer patients who received diabetes education had their hemoglobin a-1c tested at least twice, and 88 percent had it tested at least once over three years.

People with type 2 diabetes who received diabetes education after a cancer diagnosis were more likely to take care of their blood sugar. As a result, they had fewer visits to the emergency room, fewer hospital admissions, lower healthcare costs, and they tested their blood sugar levels more often than people who didn’t have the education.

Type 2 diabetes dampens the immune system and hampers the body’s ability to fight cancer, McKoy said.

The study was published in the journal Population Health Management.

Behavior Problems Linked To Bad Grades

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (UPI) — Behavior problems — attention issues, delinquency, substance use — not depression, are linked to lower grades of adolescents, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Jane D. McLeod, a sociology professor and an associate dean at Indiana University, and colleagues used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, or Add Health, which tracked thousands of U.S. adolescents from their middle and high school years through their transition to early adulthood.

McLeod’s analysis focuses on students who were in high school when Add Health began in 1994. To determine academic achievement, McLeod considered the high school grade point averages of students after the first wave of Add Health in 1994 and the highest educational degrees they received by 2008/2009.

“Behavior problems including attention issues, delinquency, and substance use are associated with diminished achievement, but depression is not,” McLeod said in a statement. “Certainly, there are depressed youths who have trouble in school, but it’s likely because they are also using substances, engaging in delinquent activities, or have attention issues.”

The study was published online ahead of the print issue of the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Intentional Harm Detected In Split Second

CHICAGO (UPI) — It only takes a split second for a human being to detect if a hurtful action witnessed is intentional or accidental, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Jean Decety and Stephanie Cacioppo, both of the University of Chicago, said the findings help explain how the brain is hard-wired to recognize when another person is being intentionally harmed.

“Our data strongly support the notion that determining intentionality is the first step in moral computations,” Decety said in a statement.

The researchers analyzed adults who watched videos of people who suffered accidental harm such as being hit with a golf club and intentional harm such as being struck with a baseball bat. As the study subjects watched the videos, brain activity was collected with equipment that accurately maps responses in different regions of the brain. The technique is known as high-density, event-related potentials technology.

The study, scheduled to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology, found the intentional harm sequence produced a response in the brain almost instantly — within 60 milliseconds, the right posterior superior temporal sulcus, located in the back of the brain, was first activated, with different activity depending on whether the harm was intentional or accidental.

This was followed in quick succession by the amygdala, often linked with emotion, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex — which took180 milliseconds — the portion of the brain that plays a critical role in moral decision-making, but there was no response in the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex when the harm was accidental, the study said.

Elite Jobs Go To Fellow Elites

CHICAGO (UPI) — Elite U.S. banks, law firms and consulting firms hire qualified candidates they would like to hang out with or hit on, a researcher says.

Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University, conducted 120 interviews — 40 per industry — from 2006 through 2008 and conducted fieldwork within the recruiting department of an elite professional service company over nine months in 2006 and 2007.

More than half in the study ranked cultural fit — the perceived similarity to a firm’s existing employee base in leisure pursuits, background and self-presentation — as the most important criterion at the job interview stage, Rivera said.

“It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people,” Rivera said. “But, my findings demonstrate that — in many respects — employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers. When you look at the decision to date or marry someone what you think about is commonalities. Do you have a similar level of education? Did you go to a similar caliber school? Do you enjoy similar activities? Are you excited to talk to each other? Do you feel the spark? These types of things are salient at least to the employers I’ve studied.”

The job evaluators were predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper-class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favor extracurricular activities associated with people of their background, Rivera said.

Judge Approves Hostess Bonuses

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (UPI) — Executives at Hostess Brands overseeing the liquidation of the company will get a total of $1.75 million in bonuses, a U.S. bankruptcy judge said Thursday.

Judge Robert Drain approved the liquidation plan, CNN reported. The plan includes bonuses ranging from $7,400 to $130,500 for 19 executives and additional pay for rank-and-file employees involved in closing down the company.

Drain said Greg Rayburn, the new chief executive officer who will oversee the liquidation, has declined a bonus.

Paul Carroll, a former mechanic, drove from Kentucky to testify at the hearing. He said the company should meet its pension obligations to its employees and said it was management that “brought us down further.”

The 88-year-old company created iconic junk food brands such as Hostess Twinkies. It filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and then again in January.

Managers decided to liquidate after the bakers union refused to accept cuts in pay and benefits and went on strike.

Consumer Spending Dipped In October

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. consumer spending — with disposable income flat — fell 0.2 percent in October, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Consumers spent $20.2 billion less than they did in the previous month as incomes rose by $400 million, a gain of less than 0.1 percent, and disposable income increased by $800 million, also less than 0.1 percent.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said Hurricane Sandy disrupted jobs, which caused a dip in payroll figures.

“The October decrease in private wages and salaries reflected work interruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, which reduced wages and salaries by $18.2 billion at an annual rate,” the bureau said.

Payrolls at goods-producing companies fell by $3.6 billion while service-oriented firms experienced a $13.5 billion drop in payroll expenses.

Wages and salaries rose in the public sector by $100 million, a fraction of the $1.7 billion gain in the previous month.

By comparison, incomes rose by 0.4 percent in September, or by $47.8 billion. Consequently, spending in September rose 0.8 percent, or by $84 billion, the bureau said, releasing revised figures.

Retailers Ask Obama To Help End LA Strike

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — The National Retail Federation has asked the White House to force striking clerical workers at Southern California ports to return to the bargaining table.

About 800 members of a unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union went on strike Tuesday at the largest terminal at the Port of Los Angeles and the strike spread Wednesday to 10 of the 14 cargo terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. Union truckers and longshore dock workers are refusing to cross the picket line.

The union says management is shifting work away from its members to workers in other countries who are paid lower ages.

Cargo terminal officials say no jobs are being outsourced and accuse the union of promoting featherbedding — bringing in temporary workers unnecessarily.

The clerks’ strike affects 600,000 other workers and is causing an estimated economic disruption of $1 billion per day, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“An extended strike this time could have a greater impact considering the fragile state of the U.S. economy,” NRF Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama. “The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached.”

No talks have been held since Monday.

Paul Bingham, an economist with consulting firm CDM Smith, told the newspaper a long strike threatens to cause extensive damage to the economy.

“Retailers will have stock outages, lost sales for products not delivered,” he said. “There will be shutdowns in factories, in manufacturing when they run out of parts.”

Ray Ortiz Jr., a member of the ILWU Coast Committee said the union believes “it’s in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor area to retain these good local jobs.”

Negotiator Stephen Berry, representing port managers, told a news conference the striking clerical workers are “irresponsible” and said management has offered a contract that provides “absolute job security,” and an average annual salary of $195,000.

Ford Earns ‘Green Car of the Year’ Award

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — The Green Car Journal said U.S. automaker Ford’s 2013 Fusion vehicles were the top green cars of the year.

The magazine bestowed its Green Car of the Year prize to the Fusion lineup at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The award was given for high mileage, low carbon dioxide emission and affordability.

The Fusion lineup includes the plug-in hybrid “Energi,” which has been given a fuel efficiency rating of 100 mpg. The gas-powered version is rated at 47 mpg.

Ford’s Fusion beat out the four others nominated for the award — The Dodge Dart Aero, the Mazda CX-5 SKYACTIV, the Toyota Prius and the Ford C-MAX.

Notable panelists choosing the winner included “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno and Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Robot To Survey Deepwater Horizon Site

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) — The U.S. Coast Guard said it approved of a survey of the site of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to investigate a possible source of leakage.

The Coast Guard, BP and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worked to assess sheen observed in the Gulf of Mexico in late September. The Coast Guard said it was able to confirm the sheen was from the well that failed in 2010.

BP in mid-September said it confirmed that residual oil from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was pushed onshore by Hurricane Isaac, which hit the southern U.S. coast in late August.

The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans reports the Coast Guard approved of a plan by BP and rig-owner Transocean to send remotely operated underwater vehicle to the site of the incident to survey reports of sheen observed this month.

Following the September reports of sheen in the Gulf of Mexico, BP said it put a 750-pound cap over an opening in the so-called cofferdam, which was a failed attempt to seal the leak that resulted from an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010.

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned BP from new federal contracts because of the company’s “lack of business integrity.”

Susan Rice Tied To Keystone XL

WASHINGTON (UPI) — An environmental campaigner claims U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has major financial ties to the Canadian oil sector.

OnEarth.org, a website of the Natural Resources Defense Council, published documents that indicate Rice owns at least $300,000 worth of stock in TransCanada, the company planning Keystone XL.

Rice is reportedly being considered to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.  The U.S. State Department is vetting the proposal for the Keystone XL oil pipeline because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.

A domestic leg of the pipeline is under construction in the southern United States.

Bill McKibben, founder of the Tar Sands Action network, was quoted as saying the State Department has been “rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline builders.”

Clinton sparked controversy in 2010 when she said the United States was either going to get “dirty oil” from the Middle East or “dirty oil” from Canada.

OnEarth.org say the Rice family owns more than $1 million in stock in four of Canada’s top oil-producing companies.

NRDC director of international programs Susan Casey-Lefkowitz told Bloomberg News her organization expects Rice to sell her controversial holdings should she be nominated and approved to become secretary of state.

“U.S. law actually requires a pretty rigorous conflict-of-interest check and we would expect that she would be getting rid of holdings that are in conflict with a decision on a project like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” she said.

Senator: Tighter Fuel Standards Needed

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the White House to do more to curb passenger vehicles emissions in a way she said wouldn’t increase gasoline prices.

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on the White House to implement third-tier emission standards for cars and light-duty vehicles.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said a 2010 presidential memorandum called for a review of Tier 3 rules that would establish tighter standards for vehicles “including tailpipe emissions standards for oxides of nitrogen and air toxics and sulfur standards for gasoline.”

Gillibrand said technology needed to meet any new requirements would add less than $150 to the price of a new vehicle “and would have practically no effect on the cost of gasoline.”

A March report prepared for the American Petroleum Institute stated that Tier 3 regulations would increase compliance costs for refiners by nearly $10 billion. API this week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging an increase for the biodiesel mandate for 2013. The EPA this year called for a 28 percent increase year-on-year for biodiesel.

Vultures To Resume Consuming Dead In India

MUMBAI (UPI) — The Parsi community in Mumbai says it will build aviaries at one of its most sacred sites so vultures can once again devour human corpses.

The plan comes after years of negotiations between Parsi leaders and the Indian government over restoration of a centuries-old Zoroastrian practice intended to protect the ancient elements — air, earth, fire and water — from being polluted by either burial or cremation, The New York Times reported.

With construction set to start in April, vultures may again consume the Parsi dead by January 2014, a Parsi spokesman said.

“Without the vultures, more and more Parsis are choosing to be cremated,” Dinshaw Rus Mehta said. “I have to bring back the vultures so the system is working again, especially during the monsoon.”

The Parsi community and the Indian government both said they hope the effort will also lead to the revival of two vulture species at risk of extinction.

The government would provide the initial population of birds, the Times reported.

Jenna Bush Hager Named Editor-At-Large For Southern Living Magazine

NEW YORK, (UPI) — Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former U.S. President George W. Bush, has been named editor-at-large at Southern Living magazine.

The University of Texas graduate will write for the publication’s “Paper Napkin Interview,” as well as a blog called “The Daily South,” NBC’s “Today” reported.

Bush Hager is also a contributing correspondent for the New York-based “Today” morning news program.

“I am kind of a homesick Southern person, a Texan living here in New York,” she said on Wednesday’s edition of “Today.” “I love New York. I love the energy of it. I love the fast-paced nature of New York, but I do miss the slow Texas way.”

Southern Living editor-in-chief Lindsay Bierman said he was “instantly charmed by Jenna’s style and charisma.”

“[Jenna’s] Texas roots, passion for the South and proven reporting chops make her a natural fit for the brand,” Bierman told “Today.”

University Receives Apology Toilet Paper

PORTALES, N.M., (UPI) — A graduate of Eastern New Mexico University sent the school a package of toilet paper with a card explaining it was to make up for a college prank.

The school said the student sent the package of toilet paper to ENMU’s purchasing department with a Christmas card bearing a handwritten message, KRQE-TV, Albuquerque, reported Friday.

The anonymous graduate said the 80 rolls of toilet paper are meant to make up for a prank from years ago, Sky News reported.

“Years ago when I was a young immature college student I took toilet paper from your dormitory as a prank,” the card reads. “I apologize for that and offer this case. Jesus Christ has made such a difference in my life and has prompted me to repay for any sins I’ve done even from so long ago. God Bless and Merry Christmas.”

School officials said they have forgiven the graduate and plan to donate the toilet paper to the Christian Children’s Center near Portales.

Belgian ‘Spies’ Reveal Selves Online

BRUSSELS, (UPI) — A Belgian newspaper said its investigation discovered two employees of a state security agencies put personal information on social networking site LinkedIn.

De Standaard said a senior analyst employed by Belgium’s Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis and an employee of state security agency Surete de l’Etat used LinkedIn, where their names and job descriptions could be seen by the public, Sky News reported Friday.

Belgium intelligence officials said they plan to raise the issue at the next meeting of the intelligence committee.

“Russian and Chinese intelligence services employ thousands of people,” one official said. “They have the resources to search for such profiles and exploit the information they provide. Our people could, by their very presence on such sites, become the target of hostilities.”

Original Batmobile To Be Auctioned

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., (UPI) — The original Batmobile from the 1960s “Batman” TV series is to be sold at a Scottsdale, Ariz., auction, its creator said.

George Barris, 87, who created the car by customizing a 1955 Lincoln Futura, said it will be auctioned Jan. 19 by the Barrett-Jackson auction house, the New York Daily News reported Friday.

“It’s a big part of my life,” Barris said. “But I thought about it and decided it should be shared with people around the world, not sitting in my showroom in North Hollywood.”

Barris said he purchased the car from the Ford Motor Co. for only $1 and spent $15,000 on the customization that turned it into the Batmobile.

The auction house said the car is expected to sell for “multiple millions.”

Biden Makes Visit To Costco

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made a visit Thursday to the first Costco store in the District of Columbia on the day of its grand opening.

The White House said Biden was greeted by Costco Chief Executive Officer Craig Jelinek and co-founder Jim Sinegal when he arrived at the store, and he stopped to chat and pose for photos with customers.

He drew some applause when he flashed a Costco memberships card but then confessed the card belonged to his wife, Jill Biden.

“In all honesty, I didn’t have my own card, Jill wouldn’t let me have one,” he said. “I went to get my wife’s card, and she said, ‘No, No, get your own card.'”

Biden’s cart was filled with items including children’s books for donation to his wife’s charity, fire logs, a 32-inch TV and an apple pie.

“Now you know why my wife doesn’t let me shop alone,” Biden joked while gesturing to his cart.

Biden spoke during his shopping trip about his desire for Congress to extend middle class income tax rate cuts enacted during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

“I think it’s important Congress acts now, I mean right now,” he said. “All it has to do is take a single vote to extend the middle class tax cut.”

Man Charges Romney’s Car At White House

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — A man was arrested after running at the vehicle carrying former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to a White House appointment, the U.S. Secret Service said.

The unnamed man reached into an open window of the vehicle as it stopped at a White House gate Wednesday. He was yelling Romney’s name as he was taken away, CNN reported.

The Secret Service said in a statement the man “became combative with uniformed Secret Service agents and was arrested for assault of a police officer and unlawful entrance.”

Romney was visiting the White House for a lunch with President Barack Obama, and did not appear to have been touched by the suspect, CNN said.

Obama Urges Public Pressure On Tax Rates

HATFIELD, Pa., (UPI) — President Barack Obama, speaking Friday at a toy manufacturer, urged Americans to get involved in his push to keep lower tax rates for middle-class taxpayers.

“The key is, the American people have to be involved,” Obama said at The Rodon Group in Hatfield, Pa., the only U.S. manufacturer of K’NEX building toys. “It’s not enough for me to do this on my own.”

At the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said talks about averting the looming fiscal cliff are at a stalemate and said a White House proposal wasn’t serious.

“There’s a stalemate. Let’s not kid ourselves,” Boehner told a news conference. “Right now we’re almost nowhere.”

If Congress takes no action by the end of the year, the lower income tax rates enacted during the administration of former President George W. Bush will expire and Obama said that would result in a $2,200 increase in the average middle-class family’s tax bill.

The prospect of higher income-tax rates and legislated federal spending cuts across the board have come to be known as the fiscal cliff.

Economists estimate one consequence of the fiscal cliff would be that the middle class will spend about $200 billion less in stores and online.

“That’s not good for our businesses, it’s not good for our economy and it’s not good for employment,” Obama said.

The second option is that Congress could pass legislation that would preserve current income tax rates on the first $250,000 of everyone’s income while allowing lower rates to expire only on the portion of one’s income exceeding that amount.

“The sooner Congress gets this done, the sooner the economy will get a boost,” Obama said.

It also would give Washington time to work on a plan to bring down the deficit through tax reform, looking at entitlement programs and asking the wealthy to pay “a little more,” Obama said.

“I need you to remind members of Congress … to not get bogged down in bunch of partisan bickering … but to focus on the people who sent them to Washington,” Obama said.

He urged Americans to call, email, send comments via Facebook or tweet using #My2K “because it’s about your 2K in your pocket.”

His plan to let the Bush tax rate for the wealthiest taxpayers expire “was a central question in the election — we talked about this a lot,” Obama said.

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. At the end of the day, a clear majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — agreed with a balanced approach to deficit reduction,” the president said.

“We say we don’t want middle-class taxes to go up. Let’s get that done,” Obama said, noting that both sides have disagreements on taxes for the wealthy.

The Senate already has passed such a bill and Democrats in the House are “ready to go,” the president said.

Obama’s plan would raise roughly $1 trillion over 10 years by allowing tax rates on income over $250,000 to expire. It would raise another $600 billion over 10 years by changing the tax code, including tax-break limits for those households.

Boehner said raising taxes on small businesses without cutting spending “is wrong.”

“Republicans are not seeking to impose our will on the president,” Boehner said “We’re seeking a bipartisan solution that can pass both chambers of Congress” and be signed into law.

He noted he said the day after Election Day Republicans were willing to put revenue on the table in the forms of tax code reform, closing loopholes and eliminating special-interest deductions while the White House took three weeks before releasing its alternative to averting the fiscal cliff, the confluence of expiring tax cuts, credits and deductions and across the board spending cuts.

Then, what the White House proposed “wasn’t a serious one,” the Ohio Republican said, noting it called for $1.6 trillion in new taxes and less than half that in spending cuts.

“Still I’m willing to move forward in good faith,” he said, adding later, “The American people expect us to find common ground … frankly, sooner better than later.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner briefed congressional leaders Thursday.

Obama’s plan also calls for a one-year postponement of planned spending cuts in defense and domestic programs in exchange for increasing tax rates on those with income of more than $250,000 and some $400 billion in savings over 10 years from Medicare and other programs, GOP aides told The Wall Street Journal.

Clinton Unveils Plan To Combat AIDS

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled what she called a “blueprint” to reduce AIDS transmissions and increase treatment for those who have the virus.

Clinton announced the plan — titled the “President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR] Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation” — Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C., two days before World AIDS Day.

“We can reach a point where virtually no children are born with the virus,” she said about the plan’s effort to “get ahead of the pandemic.”

She said the blueprint would also address gender inequities that put women at a higher risk of contracting the disease, CNN reported.

Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, said AIDS-related deaths have dropped by more than 25 percent.

“The pace of progress is quickening — what used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months,” he said. “We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before. It is the proof that with political will and follow-through, we can reach our shared goals by 2015.”

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said more than 12,000 new cases of HIV — the virus that leads to AIDS — were reported in people 13 to 24 years of age in 2010.

About 1.1 million people in the United States live with HIV and about 50,000 contract the virus each year, CNN reported.

Report: Gitmo Could Be Closed Safely

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — A report released by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein suggests it is possible to move Guantanamo detainees to U.S. facilities “without imperiling” national security.

Feinstein, D-Calif., interpreted the findings by the Government Accountability Office as supporting the contention Guantanamo can be closed, CNN reported.

“This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security,” Feinstein said Wednesday.

The GAO, however, suggested closing the facility would be complicated.

Most of the Defense Department facilities identified as possible prisons for the Guantanamo detainees are on busy military bases and could be accessible to people wanting to harm the detainees or their keepers.

Fox News said it obtained a leaked copy of the report and Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, only released it after Fox published information on it. Feinstein requested the GAO report in 2008.

Since then, Congress has barred detainees being transferred to civilian U.S. prisons.

Guantanamo now holds 166 prisoners.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Fox News Wednesday he has “great objections” to the GAO report.

He said such a move “would be in violation of legislation that the Congress passed” and would be “basically an assertion of the executive authority that clearly would be violating existing laws.”

“I think it would be very hotly contested,” he said. “And by the way, an example of the deterioration in Iraq, a guy … who was responsible for a very sophisticated operation that executed five American soldiers was in prison in Baghdad, he was just released. He went back to Lebanon where he’s one of the Hezbollah leaders.”

U.N. Votes To Upgrade Palestine Status

UNITED NATIONS, (UPI) — The United Nations Thursday voted to upgrade Palestine to non-member observer status, with 138 countries voting in favor, nine against and 41 abstaining.

The upgrade will help the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas challenge Israel in international judicial forums, but its effect on achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not immediately clear, The New York Times said.

The vote came despite intense lobbying by the United States and Israel to reject upgraded status for Palestine.

During a speech prior to the vote, Abbas called on the General Assembly to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine.”

He accused Israel of short-changing the peace process and said Palestinians instead “have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement Abbas’ speech was “defamatory and venomous” and was “full of mendacious propaganda.”

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the body, saying “the Palestinians are turning their back on peace.”

“Don’t let history record that today the U.N. helped them along on their march of folly,” Prosor said.

Netanyahu said before the vote the Palestinians’ move to upgrade their status will distance them from statehood.

Speaking in Jerusalem Thursday, Netanyahu said, “Israel’s hand is always extended in peace, but a Palestinian state will not be established without recognition of the state of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, without an end-of-conflict declaration and without true security arrangements that will protect Israel and its citizens,” The Jerusalem Post said.

“It does not matter how many will vote against us, there is no force in the world that will cause me to compromise on Israeli security, and there is no force in the world able to sever the thousands year connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday Washington had taken one last try at getting Abbas to reconsider.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the General Assembly vote to give the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip the same rank as the Vatican won’t produce “a lasting solution” in the Middle East.

“The path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York,” she said.

Clinton called for direct negotiations between the two sides.

The vote had been expected to be supported by at least 11 of the European Union’s 27 members — Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

The General Assembly is the only U.N. body in which all members have equal representation.

The vote took place on the 65th anniversary of the General Assembly’s 1947 approval of a plan to partition British-administered Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states, with a special international regime for Jerusalem.

The Jewish leadership embraced the decision at the time, The Wall Street Journal said, but Arab governments rejected it, leading to an Arab-Israeli war that left Palestinians without a state.

The Palestine Liberation Organization endorsed the two-state solution and accepted the partition resolution in 1988, contingent on terms such as making East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital and giving Palestinians a “right of return” to land they occupied before 1948.

Thursday’s U.N. resolution gives Palestinians an option of asserting legal rights over territorial waters and airspace in U.N. bodies, as well as bringing war-crimes charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court.

Not all Palestinians support the move.

The vote won’t change anything on the ground, Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s political department, said from Tunisia.

“The armed struggle against Israel has proved more effective than peace negotiations,” the Post quoted him saying.

“This will not benefit the Palestinians because it won’t change the reality of occupation and Judaization that exists on the ground,” he said. “What we really need is change on the ground. … Resistance has a better impact on Israel. Therefore, there is no need for negotiations.”

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah, said the statehood bid will pave the way for freedom and independence for the Palestinian people. The U.N. decision means “our lands are not disputed territories, but Palestinian lands,” the Post quoted her saying this week.

Israel described the vote’s passage as merely technical and procedural, creating a symbolic Palestinian victory devoid of diplomatic significance.

“It may give them some procedural advantages, such as access within the United Nations system to some things, but that’s it,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The New York Times.

“It does not change the status of the territory.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who engaged more than any other Israeli in direct negotiations with Abbas, told The Daily Beast he saw the Palestinian request as “congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution.”

“Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it,” he said. “Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines and resolve the other issues.

“It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen [an Abbas alias] and [Palestinian Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad need our help. It’s time to give it.”

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority planned celebrations in the central West Bank city of Ramallah — the authority’s administrative capital, 6 miles north of Jerusalem — after the vote.

But the U.N. decision wasn’t expected to change Palestinian life any time soon.

“This evening there will be a celebration in Ramallah but on Friday morning there will be no change on the ground,” a senior Israeli official said.